EFF ONE

It was a case of Them and Us in the Formula 1 paddock in Malaysia: "Them" were the tanned Lotus Eaters who had been on their holidays after the Australian Grand Prix and "Us" were the white-skinned pale-faces who had headed home between races to beat our lonely keyboards.

Michael Schumacher was one F1 person keen to show off his newly-acquired tan. The Welt Champion might be a dab hand behind the wheel of a Ferrari, but he evidently doesn't use his mirrors when he's getting dressed in the morning. Prior to departing from the Pan Pacific Hotel at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (where the important people stay) The Schu had horned himself into a most unusual get-up. His plan was to ride the short distance to the circuit on a huge Hog. No, not Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Hog, but rather one of them there Harley Davidson motorsickles. More the Action Man type than a hairy biker, Michael had plumped for an absurdly long pair of black shorts, topped off with a skin-tight black singlet. The whole look was completed with some pimp-style sunnies. No doubt, Mike the Bike thought he looked cool and tough, but the overall impression was more Village People than Village Pillager.

Michael did not bother with any protective clothing but fortunately arrived in the paddock without leaving any chunks of highly expensive flesh lying on the road. In fact he was one of the few people in the paddock who was not limping or hobbling as the result of having taken part in "extreme sport" during their holidays rather than lying around on the beach. I think this is a completely pointless exercise. My idea of an "extreme sport" is risking a few lumps of ice in my Martini while hanging out in Latin America.

The men with the best tans in the paddock were the fellows from Dutch TV, who always look rather more Hog-like than Mike the Bike. These gentlemen are all rather larger than life (in all directions) although their new producer is the first human being I've ever seen who really is the same shape as Barney Rubble from the Flintstones. However the gang seemed convinced that with their tans and their celebrity status would assist them in their pursuit of the KLM stewardesses who were staying in their hotel.

Rather "extreme sport" for the girls, I thought.

The black and white motif in the paddock seemed to have been picked up on by Eddie Jordan whose cars bore a logo featuring a black hand clasping a white one.

It turned out that this was the latest Bahrain peace initiative. From the sound of things peace initiatives are much in demand up in the Gulf. There was much talk over the weekend about a rather unfortunate incident which took place in Bahrain in the week prior to the Malaysian GP. It was most alarming for the contingent of French F1 journalists who were horrified to read reports that a large group of Bahraini Islamic fundamentalists had stormed a French restaurant because it was serving wine. Shouting "God is greatest!", they threatened diners with knives and then burned the place to the ground.

The French all looked very worried about this, not because of the risk of injury I should hasten to add, but rather because one of their number is known to be completely unable to function without the aid of a little fermented grape juice.

"It will be terre-eeble," exclaimed one of his mates. "'e we-eel go crayzee and keel everybodee if 'e cannot 'ave a dreenk!"

Desperate to find a solution to this problem I decided to check out the options and discovered that Bahrain boasts an Anglican cathedral which describes itself as "a haven of peace and tranquillity on an island where pilgrims and travellers from around the world may pause for a while". If all else fails we will send him there for a quick top-up at communion!

One Frenchman who was in the news in Malaysia was Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier. Everyone complains there are no characters in the sport these days, but I don't see how that remark stacks up as long as we have Pierre, a man famed for his impressive imagination. Even by his lofty standards, he excelled himself in Malaysia. The fact that the Williams team had done around 25 laps of the new Bahrain circuit was causing some controversy, as other teams felt it gave Sir Frank's boys an unfair advantage, especially with the limited track time at races caused by the one engine rule. The Williams was driven by tester Marc Gene and apparently used two sets of tyres during the run.

Dupasquier denied this would give Michelin an advantage over Bridgestone when it came to tyre choice at this virgin track. His argument might have been plausible until he claimed that it was actually a disadvantage as the demonstration run might have confused his engineers!

We also had an interesting statement from Ron Dennis during the weekend in Kuala Lumpur. The McLaren boss was being quizzed about rumours of his retirement and insisted that he had no plans to quit while his team was losing. One hopes that McLaren starts winning soon because it is going to be rather worrying if in 2085 a cryogenically-cool Ron is still about extolling the virtues of his latest robot driver. McLaren had another poor race in Malaysia but there were some (with German accents) who were keen to point out that Kimi's retirement was down to a transmission problem and not another engine failure.

Fair enough, but I don't understand how a transmission built to cope with in excess of 800 horsepower can snap under the strain of 600, or whatever the Mercedes engine is putting out these days...

Another throwback to the old days was the new Jordan Media Kit for 2004, which comes in the form of old-fashioned album cover (for the younger readers this is the sleeve in which vinyl things called LPs used to come to give us music in the days before MP3s were invented). These things used to be an art form in their own right and Eddie Jordan's marketing people had obviously been keen to create that feeling with a collage of photos of EJ with various rock stars, including one of Eddie with Ozzy Osbourne

Amazing really. There he is, well past his best, shambling around in a daze, shouting at his wife and kids, not really knowing what's going on and yet earning a tidy sum at the same time.

Next to him in the photo was Ozzy Osbourne.

Hey, I'm only joking. Eddie wouldn't shout at his wife and kids...

Anyway, the Jordan record sleeve proved to be very useful. I left my hat in the Media Centre by accident at one point and found that you could open up the kit and turn it into a very passable hat.

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