EFF ONE

I think it fair to say that the Malaysian Grand Prix was not exactly Party Central. It was hot and humid and as alcohol is frowned upon in these parts, the stories of wild excess were somewhat limited. In fact, they were non-existent and as a consequence of this sad fact the focus for the weekend was on what was happening on the race track (shock, horror!) and what was going on in the paddock. The good news is that Red Bull has decided to take it upon itself to make F1 more exciting again and has started bringing what can only be described "a posse of pulchritudinous pussy" into the paddock at each race. The team has done really well this year and one can only wonder if there is a correlation. Ever fearless, I embarked on a mission to interview Christian Klien on this very subject as he has risen to the challenge in F1 this year and is doing rather better than expected. It seems that the Austrian has found that the babes are affecting the set-up of his car.

"Every time I see them I feel it all going a bit stiff in front," he quipped.

The arrival of plate-loads of crumpet will no doubt have brought a smile to David Coulthard's face. He has always been a man well known for liking a bit of a tart with his tiffin (for those who were not part of the British Empire, tiffin was a light meal taken with tea at four in the afternoon). David has been around F1 for quite a long while now (although not quite back to Empire days) and we hear that the younger Red Bull drivers, Messrs. Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi have taken to calling him "Uncle David". Still, he is a man who deserves respect from his juniors. He is busy rebuilding his F1 career. They are still playing with the building blocks.

Of course, respect is a rare commodity in the Formula 1 paddock and old Jacques Villeneuve is probably wondering why he is not getting more of it from the nasty old F1 media. Oddly enough, none of the Canuck journalists wanted to use my joke about the former World Champion: "What's the difference between Jacques Villeneuve and the Pope?" I asked. "They're both too old for the job, but Villeneuve's got better diction."

The other difference, by the way, is that one is a Pole and the other will never see a pole again.

Another man who might be forgiven for thinking that no-one likes him is Jean Todt. He has been painted as "The Baddie" by all the other teams because he has driven a horse and cart through the testing agreements, but, after watching Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello floundering around in mid-field on Sunday, surely the other team bosses will now leave Mr Toad alone as it is fairly obvious that Ferrari and Bridgestone need to test 24-7 all year round to keep up with the current pace of F1. Already Todt's position as Team Boss Number One is under threat from Flavio "Where's the camera?" Briatore, who has been basking in the warm glow of attention after Giancarlo Fisichella's win in Melbourne. In Malaysia there was a rumour that Ferrari is mounting a bid (sounds painful) to buy Fernando Alonso.

Flav wasted no time in goading Ferrari.

"We are the real Italian team," he claimed. "We have an Italian team boss and an Italian driver."

I suppose that eventually someone will tell the French that piece of information although if you wander into the factory in Enstone and start talking any language other than Cotswold English, they will probably have you hauled way and shot as a spy.

Michael Schumacher too must have been ruminating about lack of respect when he went to the Grand Prix Drivers Association meeting on Friday evening. Michael is supposed to be one of the grown ups that sit at the front of the room but this time he had the lot of them telling him off for driving poor Nick Heidfeld off the track in Melbourne. It was as clear as the balls on a dog (to everyone except Michael and the stewards) that little Heidi had the line and Michael simply barged him off. Eventually, with 18 other drivers ganging up on him, The Champ finally admitted that he was a chump and even apologized to sweet little Nick. Given that Michael has seven World titles, drives for Ferrari and is German, it's hardly surprising that he probably thinks humility is a measure of the amount of water in the air.

I'm not going to criticise Michael for earning squillions, because we all know he has been incredibly generous, giving away great big chunks of his wealth to charity. However, given that he is not exactly short of spare change and has an endorsement deal with Omega, I don't understand why he was spotted in KL's Chinese market buying up loads of fake watches.

I'd advise the Ferrari mechanics to check this year's Christmas presents very carefully.

Honesty is a much-prized commodity in Formula 1 and dear old Paul Stoddart is determined to uphold this virtue. In his Friday press release from Sepang, he remarked that: "It's clear to everyone that the 2005 regulations are a resounding success - so much so that they've succeeded in adding more than three seconds to Minardi lap times compared with last year. Furthermore it is interesting to note that, in the first practice session today, in near identical climatic conditions to 2004, the top 10 cars were, without exception, faster than last year."

Yes, jolly good Paul. Um, but I hate to mention it, um, isn't that the whole point of F1? I may have missed something and F1 may be about scoring political points rather than World Championship ones, but I like watching the cars going round rather than listening to all the jibber jabber in the paddock.

Still, one should not take everything too literally. On Saturday morning Takuma Sato's loyal Japanese fans unfurled a banner in the grandstand opposite the BAR pits which proclaimed "Go Takuma Go". Alas it looks like he took it literally because when the cars came out a few minutes later the second BAR-Humbug (Oops, I mean BAR-Honda) was being driven by Anthony Davidson. Sato, it transpired had taken to his bed (and not even with a Red Bull girl). Without Sato to blow up their engines, Honda engineers had to ask Button and Davidson to perform the traditional race day detonations, which they did with much aplomb and efficiency, both retiring within three laps of the start.

Apart from poor Sato, most of the drivers seemed to avoid going down with anything in Sepang but, without the advantage of being permanently chained to a personal trainer, the paddock riff-raff were going down like flies with heat stroke, dehydration and what the late great Country & Western singer Johnny Cash once described as "that burning ring of fire". Whenever I spotted F1 Super Doc Gary Hartstein, he was flying around the paddock, treating maladies. Personally-speaking, I have the constitution of a cart horse and hardly ever suffer from Montezemolo's Revenge and other nasty gastric upheavals which one can encounter when eating and drinking local produce. Sadly, I did indulge in a burger just prior to flying home from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. One bite was enough to tell me that I was in trouble and thus is it came to pass that as we took off from KLIA (thank goodness it is called an Airport rather than a Terminal) I took off from my seat to get a little extra legroom in the loo, and spent a goodly time there, ruminating on my adventures with the burghers of KL.

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