EFF ONE

It's hard to write anything entertaining when one has a hot water bottle rammed down the back of one's trousers in an effort to relieve muscle spasms.

I'd only been back home from the Japanese Grand Prix a matter of hours before Mrs Eff presented me with a list of do-it-yourself jobs required to prevent the crumbling pile that is Eff Towers from collapsing around our ears.

Travelling the globe for nine months of the year means that the off-season sees one transformed into a domestic repair man. I was fixing a dodgy light switch in the bathroom - electricity plus water equals massive insurance payout for the spouse - when I put my back out.

One advantage of living out in the back of beyond is that, if the doctor is busy, you simply go and see the man referred to as "the vitenry", which is why I've been swallowing pain killers strong enough to send a Kentucky Derby winner to La-La-Land and big enough to be mistaken for a saucer. I promise the drugs will have no effect on my writing. Wow! Look at all the pretty patterns on my screen saver. Awesome!

Over the years, I've noticed that freelance hacks like myself rarely fall ill during the season. We cannot afford to get sick. In fact we cannot afford much at all. But once the last race is out of the way, our feeble bodies give out, rebelling against the injustice of a year on the road.

Not so for the Grand Prix drivers themselves, as team press releases issued during the season frequently inform us that the precious little dears are always suffering from Delhi Belly, stiff necks or hang-nails. Mind you, these days some of the F1 stars are so young that they are still prone to kiddie ailments such as measles, mumps, whooping cough or croup.

The most common F1 driver ailment appears to be "the flu". Michael Schumacher is terrified of catching it and whenever he comes into the Media Centre for a press conference, he insists that the air-conditioning be switched off, in case the nasty bugs lurking in the air vents jump out and get him.

Flu? These guys don't know the meaning of the word! What they usually have is the common cold. Flu is a condition where not even Old Sparky the Electric Chair can keep you warm and you cannot brush your teeth, because your teeth hurt and in any case, you haven't got the strength to lift the brush.

Flu means taking half an hour to cover the four metre walk to your bathroom, stopping occasionally for a nice little lie-down on the carpet and not giving a damn when your kid is trying to cook himself an egg with the blowtorch you should be using for all those DIY jobs.

Since returning from Japan (when I am not DIY-ing) I've been working on a book about this year's motorcycle Grands Prix and the riders seem a much tougher bunch than the luvvies in F1. Half of them seem to be riding with broken wrists, ankles and collar bones and I get the impression their tight leather race suits are there not just to prevent their skin coming off as in a crash, but also to keep all their broken bones from popping out.

I remember going to the Isle of Man a few years back for the TT races - average race distance, six laps of 37 of the bumpiest most dangerous miles in the world. One of the riders had to be lifted onto his machine at the start. Given bikers love of booze, I assumed he had partied too hard the night before. But no, apparently he was racing with a broken pelvis (perhaps he had partied too much the night before!).

Maybe the time has come to toughen up our F1 fops. Instead of allowing them to languish on tropical beaches, whiling away the winter studying their bank balances, perhaps it is time to turn them into lean, mean, fighting machines and have Bernie Ecclestone send them off to Boot Camp in Siberia. The plan has the added advantage that no driver manager is going to risk getting his Gucci loafers soiled by the great outdoors, so the drivers would have to think for themselves when it came to difficult decisions like what to eat or when to go to the toilet.

Imagine them all sharing a wooden POW-style dormitory. Obviously, as World Champion, Michael Schumacher would get the prize bunk near the stove in the middle of the hut. Used to spending their life in the s**t, the Minardi boys could be down at one end near the smelly latrines. Indoctrinated in the ways of cleanliness fetishist Ron Dennis, the McLaren drivers would of course be in charge of doing the dusting.

Honda and Toyota engineers could run the punishment squads, burying drivers up to their necks in snow and making them listen to taped Kimi Raikkonen interviews. And as a neutral Swiss, Peter Sauber could arbitrate on any legal issues, although Herr Sauber would no doubt have to ask Jean Todt's permission first.

The Jordan drivers would be in charge of scrounging extra food and bedding and forging any necessary pass-out documents. After all, this should be the work of a moment for a group of people who managed to pass themselves off as a Grand Prix team this year.

Finally, in our quest to turn these softie illness-prone drivers into a fighting fit unit, we must exercise their brains, because as my good mate George Bernard Shaw once said: "All sorts of bodily diseases are produced by half-used minds". Ten points in next year's championship to the best driver essay on "Why next year's race weekend timetable is a step forward."

There's nothing like an impossible task to get the grey matter working.

Which brings me neatly back to the wiring in my bathroom. Now if I can just step over the bath to join this red wire to that brown one.

Fizzzzzz.

Aaaargh!

Thud.

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