EFF ONE

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were not the only people driving a Ferrari at Spa. I travelled from England in a fabulous 575 Maranello. I should perhaps add that a 575 is somewhat beyond the pitiful stipend of a Formula 1 journalist and that the car in question was on loan but I enjoyed driving it and I must say that the real bonus came from the way I was treated wherever I went: there was privileged parking on the cross-Channel ferry, in the media car park at Spa and in the hotel garage. Small children and adults saluted as I zoomed along and everyone on the motorway got out of my way in an instant. I guess that is how Michael Schumacher does it.

I can only wonder if he had the same problems that I had with members of the Belgian gendarmerie, who point blank refused to let me take any direct route from the racing circuit to my hotel and demanded that I make a 20 mile detour through dank Belgian forests. "Point blank" are important words here as a photographer who insisted that he had a perfect right to do the same thing soon had a gun pointing at his head, which adds a whole new meaning to the expression "photo shoot".

The Belgian police are the vilest bunch of law enforcers on the planet, although I have heard that there are some in the darkest parts of Africa which would be able to compete, and every year at the Belgian GP (if there is one), at least one photographer ends up having his arm or his leg accessorised, with a fierce Rottweiler attached. They tell me that some times it is difficult to tell the dog from the handler (apparently the handler drools rather than more than the dog) but I am a complete coward when it comes to such things and so I stay in the relative safety of the paddock.

On Sunday the police struck another blow for international stupidity after the organizers asked them to ensure that VIP guests in the Paddock Club stand back from the fence for the first three laps of the race, on the grounds of safety. The goons could not grasp this concept and so began hustling F1 photographers away from their legitimate snapping locations. This debacle ended with several snappers being led away in handcuffs.

Spa is a great track and it pains me to think that the Grand Prix might be lost again because of the stupidity of these boneheads. Perhaps in future it would be an idea to send over a contingent of British bobbies to do the job instead, just as Britain supplies most of the marshals for this event.

After the meagre offering in Hungary, no-one really expected the Belgian Grand Prix to be able to compete with the final weekend of the Olympic Games in terms of spectacle and excitement, but the race at Spa did just that and then some. Afterwards Michael Schumacher showed that he has a perfect grasp of the Olympic ideal. Finishing second behind Kimi Raikkonen, the newly crowned world champion explained that the best man had won the day. So 10 out of 10 for the Weltmeister.

This was in stark contrast to the British TV commentators at the Olympic Games who failed to grasp even the most basic rules of the game when they tried to persuade their bemused countrymen that while national heroine Paula Radcliffe might have retired from both the 10,000 metres and the marathon, she was still the best runner in the world at these distances.

After reading the view of McLaren's Ron Dennis on the proposed rule changes, I came to the conclusion that he has a glittering career as a TV commentator ahead of him. Ron reckons the changes are being proposed to favour Ferrari. According to the BBC, the McLaren man claims that: "If one team (Ferrari) has an engine that currently does 1,500km and another (McLaren) has one that does 500km and suddenly you've got a rule that the engine has to do two races, then you have a situation where those who are already close to that level have got a clear advantage. Similarly, if you've got a tyre that is very durable and has less degradation over the distance of a Grand Prix and then suddenly you've got a regulation that says we are only going to use one set of tyres for a Grand Prix, then that team is immediately at an advantage."

Surely, it is the job of McLaren, Mercedes and Michelin to up their game?

Maybe Ron wasn't thinking too clearly because of problems at home. Rumours began filtering to Spa that a group of what one is supposed to call "travellers" have invaded the grounds of the new McLaren Technical Centre and were setting up camp with their caravans, donkeys and mongrel dogs. An F1 factory might seem like an odd choice for a group of gypsies to settle on, but you only have to look at their caravans to understand the decision. They are usually, immaculately turned out and finished in grey, silver and chrome, all the colourways so beloved of the team.

And if the tinkers could spot examples of MP4-18 or the first 19 through the windows, they would have deduced that their own vehicles had similar aerodynamic characteristics.

Ah, but what is passed is passed and perhaps in a few years we will look back with affection at the cars. Time does tend to blur realities.

I noticed this on Saturday when Mild Seven organised a Seventies Night. They say that if you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there and I always thought that the Seventies were not very different although I do have some vague memories of many hours spent crammed into hot and sweaty discotheques listening to dreadful music, while wowing the chicks with my tweed hipster flared trousers. The thing I didn't remember was drinking multi-coloured cocktails. I made my excuses and left, dropping off at another motorhome where I have been known to take a quick libation on my way home.

"Look at this Eff," said the charming hostess. "The label on this wine is written in Braille.

"Perfect," I replied. "If that is the case, I will be able to get blind drunk."

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