EFF ONE

We are supposed to live in compassionate times and to look kindly on the failings and foibles of our fellow man (and woman). However hard I try to apply this rule in life it seems that I always fail when it comes to photographers. On Thursday afternoon at the Nurburgring word spread like wildfire through the Formula 1 paddock that the people from Sony were giving away Playstation 2 consoles and the company's latest Formula One game to members of the F1 media. Those who had turned up to the Sony event and were entitled to this generous freebie were quickly overwhelmed by a howling mob of Italian snappers and TV technicians, who simply grabbed the boxes and ran, leaving the polite media men open-mouthed and empty-handed. I do not remember having seen such scenes since the last American helicopter took off from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon when the Vietnam War came to a close.

Certainly there was less of a rush when Mark Webber announced that this winter he is going to undertake a gruelling 10-day trek around Tasmania and challenged other F1 drivers to take him on. Webber intends to walk, cycle and canoe the 1000km route, raising money for two Australian

children`s charities. It seems however that for other Formula 1 drivers charity begins at home.

Michael Schumacher is a charitable soul from time to time (although rarely when he has a steering wheel in his hands) but he has agreed to donate one day of his time in the autumn to help the Nurburgring raise money to pay for work which was done altering the chicane. They say this will raise around $200,000. The new chicane featured some curious wibbly-wobbly plastic bollards designed to stop the drivers cutting the corners and these caused quite a lot of problems for the drivers who insisted on driving over them rather than around them. This resulted in a pile of broken front wings being left behind. And would you believe that some of the drivers actually had the cheek to complain about the bollards.

I know that F1 drivers do not often go to the supermarket but perhaps they should go more often because one learns that when someone puts an obstacle in the road it is always wise to drive around it. This simple concept was evidently too difficult for many of the world's best drivers to grasp.

There were also a lot of (quiet) complaints about the performance of Bridgestone rubber during the weekend.

"At least Bridgestone don't make condoms," said one unpleasant soul.

It is sad to report that the Nurburgring also marked the return of the murky spectre of cheating in Formula 1 circles. In fact the tampering in question was going on during a kart tournament organized by Julia (wife of Alexander) Wurz on Saturday evening. Several teams were suspected of having fiddled with their machinery but the only evidence to back this up was the fact that while most of the karts were lapping in the 1m10s bracket in qualifying, a quartet of Jordan mechanics wiped the floor with the rest of the pack, consistently (and bafflingly) being able to circulate in the 1m06s.

Practice for this festival of speed was disrupted when several karts were punted off by rival teams. The result was that everyone was cautioned by the organizers and told to behave. This was fine until halfway through the race when the German marshals decided that they had had enough of the mayhem and muttered the local equivalent of "Bugger this for a game of soldiers!" and ran for cover.

Those who went karting may have felt a little sore the next day and so there were a lot of people queuing up outside the BAR motorhome as the team had brought along a professional masseuse to relieve the stresses and strains of working at the Nurburgring.

None of the Jordan crew needed to visit the BAR massage parlour as, like most teams, they have their own physiotherapist at all the races. On Saturday Giancarlo Fisichella was due for a photo-shoot for a magazine and was running late. When the editor of this publication rang the Jordan press officer to hurry things along, she heard herself utter the immortal line: "He's having a massage now, but he's been at it for half an hour so he'll be coming soon!"

Such gems of wisdom are rare in Formula 1 circles these days but that has not stopped the Dublin Institute of Technology conferring upon Eddie Jordan an honorary doctorate in philosophy. On Sunday afternoon Eddie proved that he can be extremely philosophical.

"It was positive to have two reliable cars get to the finish," he said after Ralph Firman and Fisichella finished 11th and 12th.

It may not have been a great performance but the two Jordans were still ahead of the two Minardis. The most exciting thing about the Minardi performance, in fact, was that the team's latest sponsor is a bathroom-fitting company from Holland which promises "Bathroom Pleasure." My mind boggled at what this company might actually produce and I was thinking of going down to the Minardi pit to see if they had a device that prevents your girlfriend hurting her back against the taps, but I concluded that, being a Minardi sponsor, they probably specialize in making things that stay afloat.

The British media went to dinner at Minardi on Thursday evening (rubbing their bruises after the Battle of Playstation) and learned from Paul Stoddart that he is considering drafting a new Concorde Agreement. Some years ago the British government sold its fleet of seven Concorde supersonic jet planes to British Airways for 1 ($1.5) and now that BA has decided to stop flying them, because of running costs, rival airlines including Stoddart's European Aviation are considering buying them.

No doubt Stoddy's new partner Mr. Ecclestone would find a use for such a plane if he has to pop over to New York.

Not a bad idea for 1...

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