EFF ONE

Years of experience has taught me that the best way to stay fed and watered in the gastronomic wasteland that is Germany, without having to eat dead pig (lips and feet included) washed down with antifreeze, is to dine in one of the many Italian pizzerias that mysteriously thrive there. The result is that one eats too much nightmare-inducing cheese and drinks far too much Chianti.

After consuming a huge Gorgonzola pizza on Thursday evening, I then spent the night having hallucinations that would have impressed LSD guru Timothy Leary and my eyes definitely had focussing issues, as they managed to convince me I was staying in a nice hotel with air-conditioning and a minibar. In fact, once my brain readjusted and I realised that it had all been a bad dream, I had to resort to drinking half the contents of the cold tap in the shower to quench my cheese thirst, while noticing in the bathroom mirror that the Gorgonzola had indeed transformed me into a Gorgon-like monster.

I don't know if veteran English hack Mike Doodson ever indulged in hallucinogenic foodstuffs, although he is old enough to remember eating the wild strawberries that grew in the Motodrom section at Hockenheim, back in the days when he used to cover Formula 2 races. Maybe it wasn't drugs but simply old age that caused the Dood to have an extended senior moment on his trip to Hockenheim. A bit out of touch as he's now a resident of Mallorca, he fronted up in Stuttgart for a Mercedes bash with a pocket full of redundant Deutschmarks and trotted down to the local Deutsche Bundesbank where he dutifully joined a queue of Stuttgarters, all toting plastic buckets filled with obsolete coins. Two hours later, he emerged forty Euros richer and promptly spent his money on CDs. His satisfaction alas turned sour as, carried away listening to his new purchases, he found himself halfway to Switzerland when he realized he should have turned right to Hockenheim.

Late at night, having finally found the circuit which he has visited every year since God was a boy, Mike forgot that the Media Car Park has not been sited inside the track for at least six years and tried to argue his way in. Stuck at the gate, with a marshal and a policeman, his mobile rang as his anxious room buddy tried to find out what's happened to the old boy. As Mike answered the phone, the policeman promptly charged him for using a mobile telephone while in a vehicle with the engine running and Michael had to pay a fine of sixty Euros. By that stage, the emissions from the car would not have passed any road transport test. Surely, the most expensive commission charge in history for changing a few redundant Deutschmarks!

On the subject of money, there's obviously been an influx of funds into the Minardi piggy bank or Schweinebank as they're known in Germany (shortly before someone eats them) but I gather all is not sweetness and light between Christijan Albers and Robert Doornbos as they each reckon there's one Dutchman too many in the Double Dutch driver line-up. On Thursday there appeared to be a third one as the Jordan team placed a cardboard cut-out of their dear departed Robert over the dividing wall between the two teams' pits, so that he appeared to be spying on the folk from Faenza. You find your laughs where you can down the cheap end of pit lane.

Saturday night saw the British press "celebrate" the retirement of one of its number, Stan "The Man" Piecha, who for those of you not familiar with the press in the UK, is the doyen of F1 tabloid journalists. There was a touching farewell earlier in the day at the BAR motorhome when, tongue in cheek, no one had a good word to say about Stan. He was presented with assorted gifts, including the Holy Grail for all scribblers, a pass for life from Bernie Ecclestone himself.

"Remember, I can take it back whenever I want to," warned the Bolt. Stan duly and proudly tried it out on the swipe machine outside the media centre only to find he was refused entry. One is quickly forgotten in this game.

Life was so dull in Hockenheim that I even broke the habit of a lifetime and started reading the Press Conference transcripts. There was a nice little throwaway line in Thursday's copy where John Howett revealed that Williams had made overtures to Toyota as to a possible engine supply. It's good to see that Frank has lost none of his diplomatic skills in that he bypassed Cologne completely, putting in his V8 request chitty straight through to the Toyota Tokyo wallahs. This is a bit like a man asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage without first taking the lady in question out on a date. Of course the request was then bounced back across the water to Cologne, which must have caused some bad odour: dare one say it Odour Cologne?

Williams must be desperate if the team is considering slipping between the sheets with another Japanese company, after its bitter experience with the men from Honda.

"You meet the nicest people on a Honda" went one of their early motorcycle ad campaigns, but this was not a view shared by Williams and Patrick Head, whom I seem to remember reckoned that the Land of the Rising Sun would never again see dawn break over Didcot/Grove, after Honda, in a characteristic act of charity, nipped off to McLaren while Frank was recovering from his terrible road accident.

Mind you, if Williams are hoping to let bygones be bygones and swallow their pride along with some Toyota Sake, they should be prepared to find themselves headed off at the pass by McLaren. Ron and Frank might be the best of friends but the former has made a habit of pulling the rug out from under the latter. Mansour Ojjeh's first foray into F1 came with Frank, but he ended up at McLaren, followed in short order by Honda engines, Adrian Newey and Wayne Montoya. Well, three out of four ain't bad. Whatever the politics, an engine deal needs to be sorted out pronto or Frank and the boys will be left with no option other than that Korean car company with the German name, Hy Und Drei.

If Toyota Cologne was a bit miffed at Williams' move on Tokyo, the top brass were probably equally unimpressed with their head technical man Mike Gascoyne's latest choice of transport. The lad has got to spend his millions on something, but was having his brand new red Ferrari 355 delivered to the Cologne factory just as the workforce was coming out of the gates, a wise PR move? It's even got a personalised number plate: KMG 355.

King Mike Gascoyne perhaps?

The Hockenheim paddock used to be a great source of gossip and tall stories, but this year it all seemed rather subdued, which mirrors the general mood in Germania right now. They seemed to be running the EU, but even that has escaped them now and their own economy is going down the drain. On top of that, in F1 terms, wunderkind Schumacher is having his worst season in years, BMW and Nick Heidfeld are tied up with a team that is going backwards, Mercedes are doing a great job of losing a world championship that was theirs for the taking and Ralf Schumacher is still Ralf Schumacher.

It would have been hard for me to sum up my feelings of gloating at this national discomfort as no language has a single word to capture that rush of satisfaction at the misfortune of others - except German. Which is why the whole world uses the German word, Schadenfreude.

Thank you Deutschland, I knew you would come in handy for something.

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