EFF ONE

On the Sunday night after the Hungarian Grand Prix I went to a party organised by Red Bull. It took place in the famous Gellert Spa. When the party was still at the early polite conversation (all clothes in place) stage, we were treated to the mandatory bit of culture, which turned out to be a violinist with a comic "Cherman iccent," with which he proudly informed us all that his violin was worth four million dollars. Sticking the Stradivarius under his chin, he then proceeded to murder some of the classics.

It was the perfect analogy for the dull weekend of F1 we had just experienced, because while his instrument might well have been worth a fortune, what he did with it wasn't worth a nickel.

By the early hours of Monday morning, the place had begun to resemble the scene of a fairly raunchy Roman orgy. The Red Bull bash in Budapest is something of a tradition in F1 and one of the associated traditions is that the first thing that they run out of at the bar is Red Bull, followed a few minutes later by vodka. This means that the cardinal rule of party drinking, Do Not Mix Your Drinks, goes out the window, or more accurately down the toilet, as the cocktails inside the merrymakers begin to wreak havoc.

Mister Strad was still fiddling as the drinks ran out, just like Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and just as the F1 grandees are bickering while the sport crumbles around their ears.

While there have been some good races this year, the inadequacies of the Hungaroring shone a bright light on the huge cracks in the sport, with nothing for fans to get excited about on Friday and Saturday, prior to watching 70 parade laps on Sunday.

The good thing about Red Bull and vodka is that it provides great clarity in all things and soon we had concluded that the big problem of F1 is that it has been run by the same people for decades and the bright young men of yesteryear have lost their youthful enthusiasm for winning and have sold their souls to the giants of the car industry and now spend their time in meetings, looking through brochures for new yachts and jets. They don't want to change anything. Who cares if next year's World Championship sees cars struggling to get to the end of a race with their one set of tyres down to the canvas with the drivers in cruise mode, praying that their engines do not expire for fear that they will have to start the next GP with a ten place penalty on the grid. Life is just fine and dandy as long as the bosses get richer and more important by adding new venues in places where money is in plentiful supply but where you can still get thrown in jail for reading the wrong books.

There are signs that now that Michael Schumacher has destroyed the F1 record books he is considering taking up another sport. Asked in a Budapest press conference if he would consider a head-to-head race against Fernando Alonso in identical road cars, the World Champion suggested a duel on skateboards. Could it be that Schumi is a secret Bart Simpson fan? Will we hear him taunt his rivals with that famous catchphrase: "Ja, dude, eat meine Lederhosen!"

The only good thing about Hungary this year (apart from the women) was that at least we had the Jenson Button affair to write about although given the rash of marketing and media gurus in F1 at the moment (and I use the word "rash" advisedly) there seemed to be little skill being exhibited in the way Jenson's management handled the issue.

No doubt the matter will be settled in court.

I can see the scene now:

Judge: "Do you have a contract with BAR?"

Button barrister: "No, absolutely not."

BAR barrister: "Yes, you do! The Contract Recognition Board said you do. It's in an envelope in Geneva.

Williams barrister: "But the envelope hasn't been opened and judges haven't read it because they are all on holiday."

Judge: "Order, order! I will not have this sort of behaviour in my court. I repeat: Do you have a contract with BAR?"

Button barrister: "No, I don't."

BAR barrister: "Of course HE doesn't. His client Jenson Button does!"

Judge: "Order, order!"

Button barrister: "Surely, your honour, my learned friend's assertion that both Button and I have contracts with BAR means that neither contract can be valid. We cannot both drive the same car next year. I call for the case to be dismissed."

Judge: "Does Jenson Button have a contract with BAR."

Button barrister: "No, your honour, he does not have a contract. He's on a boat somewhere. I have the contract in my briefcase but as he does not have a contract perhaps the case should be immediately dismissed."

BAR barrister: "That's an outrage."

Williams barrister: "No it's not."

Judge: "Order! Order!"

Button barrister: "About time too. I'll have a gin and tonic. And I'd like a slice of lemon and one of those pretty umbrella things."

Judge (gravely): "That is enough."

Button barrister: "OK, make it a double. And ice too, Lot's of ice."

Judge: "This is a court of law."

Button barrister: "I don't recognise the court."

Judge: "Why not?"

Button barrister: "Well, it's been redecorated, hasn't it? And you have had your wig dry-cleaned."

The saddest aspect of this whole sorry mess is that while Williams will probably one day return as a winning force, there are few people who think it will happen overnight, while the loss of Button will be a huge blow to BAR. Ferrari must be laughing all the way to the bank.

The one good thing about Hungary is that it is now over and we might actually get some real racing on proper tracks like Spa and Monza.

I was certainly glad to leave Budapest, although the combination of the Red Bull party and some excessive turbulence meant that I felt pretty sick on the flight home. I called the steward for assistance but I think he misunderstood me because he said "use the bag in front".

Well, I would have done, but I didn't even fancy the woman and I was feeling a bit weary.

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