EFF ONE

The British Grand Prix is very much my home race. I live near enough to Silverstone to be able to sleep in my own bed every night and there is something pleasantly familiar about the place: one such tradition is the annual Silverstone-kicking assault from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Silverstone boss Sir Jackie Stewart is never one to miss the opportunity to put out a press release and so came charging to Silverstone's defence like a knight in shining tartan and there developed a pretty silly war of words: neither man being able to grasp the concept that everyone else is bored rigid by their squabbling, although one has to say that the idea of Bernard wrapping JYS's kilt around the Scotsman's head was an amusing thought.

There are some in the F1 paddock who find JYS's taste in tartans (or lack of it perhaps) rather unbecoming but thank goodness we had a group of politicians turn up on race day to lower the tone. Comedian Rory Bremner was on the grid and bemoaned the fact that John Prescott, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, was slopping around looking more like a bus driver than a politician.

But if sartorial splendour is all there is left to worry about there is not much wrong with Silverstone these days, thanks to the sorting-out of traffic problems, the improvement in sign posting and the general sprucing up of the place. They even had refreshments in the Media Centre. OK, it wasn't bottles of red and snacky bits but it was a lot better than the bad old days when for sustenance we chewed on team press releases, which have never been very meaty.

The one downside of all this is that I have to spend more time at home and less time avoiding the real world in the F1 paddock. Once I get home I always end up with a list of jobs that "she who must be obeyed" wants me to do around the house. And so while the world of F1 was off at the Grand Prix Ball, watching Beyonce Knowles "shakin' her thang", I was at home refitting a wobbly toilet seat. For some reason the phrase "But don't you know who I am?" has little effect when I am at home.

Of course, I am not the only one who had to face the realities of life last weekend. Jordan's press officer babe, Helen Temple, offered to help out at the "Jordan Experience", a hospitality village erected in the car park over at the Jordan factory so that the team's fans could party the night away and EJ could profit from it. Helen was given the onerous task of trawling the area with a big bin bag, picking up rubbish, beer cans and glasses.

"Back to college on Monday then?" remarked one guest, assuming Temple to be one of the hordes of students trying to earn a crust at the GP to compensate for the fact that the British government isn't actually prepared to pay to educate its own people.

"Actually, I'm head of Press and PR for the team," she replied.

The punter wandered off, laughing to himself, assuming Temple was part of some Care in the Community programme for the seriously deluded.

Helen's boss EJ generously donated his drumsticks to a charity auction in the paddock on Thursday, on behalf of a hospital for children. The sticks fetched a great deal of money: not because people really wanted them but simply because anything that deprived the great Irish percussionist of the ability to make an awful racket at the post-race party had to be a good thing.

Some of the items on offer at the auction were of rather dubious taste, to say the least. Who, apart from a dog looking for something to chew on, would want to own a pair of worn slippers that once belonged to Flavio Briatore? These were monogrammed, so they might suit someone who had delusions of being a "Flash Bastard".

Having nothing of any value to be auctioned (and no-one asking me for my old slippers) I donated my time and wit to help to conduct this auction. I do a lot of charity work although never intentionally. A quick look at my bank statements would reveal that this is the fate of the freelance F1 journalist.

The tough world of Formula 1 has been highlighted in recent days by the former ITV "talent" Beverley Turner, who got a great deal of mileage in the British newspapers about a newly-published book in which she claims that F1 is the last bastion of appalling sexism, where women are treated as objects and playthings for we lusty masters of the universe. The point that Turner missed is that Formula 1 discriminates against everyone and everything until they have proven themselves. The chief aerodynamicist of one of the top teams is a woman, the Paddock Club is run by a woman, and the top lawyers in the paddock are all women. Beverley wasn't around long enough to know all that and given that she herself was employed to provide some eye candy and that the ITV F1 producer openly criticized her work ethic, one can ignore her remarks.

Besides, the events at the charity auction lead me to conclude that in fact it is the men in F1 who feel threatened by the "weaker" sex. A woman of a certain age, best described as a plain country girl of the Young Farmer type, took it upon herself to model Juan Pablo Montoya's race suit to speed up the bidding. With nothing on underneath, she walked the floor forcing men to put money down her cleavage if they wanted to avoid having their head buried in it. Naturally, with a threat like that, everyone paid up pronto. In fact, someone put in a generous bid just for her to zip up, while another rather short-sighted person put in an offer to buy the puppies.

Fortunately, she did not unzip her overalls down to her waist and we thus avoided finally seeing her nipples.

On the subject of nudity, the British press corps is in a state of much amusement about the competitiveness of the new McLaren. A while ago, the Daily Express's motor sport correspondent Bob McKenzie vowed that if McLaren won a race this season he would run naked round the track in question. You can be sure that if Kimi or David are first past the flag, then Ron Dennis will ensure that he gets his pound of flesh, or rather more than a pound in Mr. McKenzie's case.

I advised Bob that the only way he could escape the ignominy of exposure would be to rush down to a pet shop, buy a dog, name it "Naked" and then run "Naked" round the track.

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