THE MAN IN THE PUB

All news is good news

Depending on which newspaper, magazine or website you read, as far as Formula 1 is concerned, the world came to an end at around 6pm on Thursday, September 13.

Unless you have been on the Moon, or in Guantanamo Bay, you’ll know this was, of course, the day when McLaren lost all of its Constructors’ points for 2007 and for good measure, $100m. And all because one of its chaps got caught with a bag full of Ferrari goodies and photocopy shop staff proved they were brighter than we suspected.

If that wasn’t enough, the fact that McLaren’s two Spanish drivers were allegedly in cahoots by e-mailing each other about the contents of said bag, carefully covering their tracks by referring to Ferrari’s motor as “The red car” (James Bond, Pedro de la Rosa is not) proves you have a great scandal on top of a great season.

Of course it just gets better, with the apparent revelation that Fernando Alonso threatened his boss with spilling the beans to the Paddock Police unless he made him his No 1 driver. Ron Dennis of course, not being used to being bossed around by anybody, least of all an employee, stopped that nonsense by handing himself over to the mercy of the FIA and his good mate Max Mosley - thus dropping himself well and truly in it.

It’s a bit like the F1 equivalent of throwing yourself on your own sword. Twice.

So, with ‘Stepneygate’, (why do they have to put the word ‘gate’ at the end of any scandal - I’m still trying to work out what “Buttongate” was all about) now front page news, we had the likes of Sirs Stewart and Moss appearing on the radio (eh?) and TV news roughly every 15 minutes, proclaiming their astonishment at what had happened and that the whole mess was really terrible for F1. They then made their argument a bit academic by saying that everybody and his wife snooped on their opponents in their day.

One leading F1 website had, for several days, a big black tombstone on it’s homepage with ‘F1 R.I.P 2007’ on it, which was maybe just a bit over-dramatic.

However, at the risk of being burnt at the stake for heresy (they still do that down here in the Cotswolds) I beg to differ. From what I can gather from my fellow drinkers in the pub, the Stepneygate Affair has been good for F1. Well, for its profile at least.

Had you asked anybody loitering at the bar to tell you anything about F1 a few weeks ago they’d have said that as far as they could tell, the Tiger Lewis bloke was doing well while at the same time wondering why they had not heard much about Michael Schumacher this year. So now, everybody (somewhat annoyingly) is a Formula 1 expert, fiercely debating whether such a huge fine was over the top or not, asking why the drivers get to keep their points yet not the team, whether Mike Coughlan will get a Christmas card from Ron Dennis and how can Ferrari can be so upset when the whole saga was supposedly started by one of their own employees?

In a nutshell all that has really happened is that McLaren has to fork out $100 million which they reckon they can absorb anyway, while St Lewis of Stevenage and the dastardly Spaniard get to keep their drivers points.

Apart from Norbert Haug and the Mercedes marketing department, who cares about the Constructors’ title anyway? Even the pub regulars during quiz night could have a bit of a stab at when such and such driver won his world title, but the Constructors’ title? You may as well ask them to recite the Koran for you.

It is fair to suppose that the main downside for McLaren is that it will be a longer walk from the paddock entrance to their slot at the end of the pitlane where those Indian and Japanese chappies will be hanging out.

Less room for tinkering in the garage and it might be a squeeze fitting the motorhome in, but at least the Woking boys will get to meet some new people next year and where’s the harm in that?

Cheers !

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