THE MAN IN THE PUB

The German we should be talking about

Sunday’s during the winter are, it has to be said, generally rather pleasant affairs. They are the high point of the week and during the dark months they usually follow the same pattern. Have an hour’s extra kip, get up and enjoy a trucker's salad, take assorted ankle biters off to mini-rugby then retire to the Halfway House (it is a pub not somewhere for those on probation to stay), while the current wife does something unnatural to a chicken, with a lemon and half a pound of sausagemeat.

Talking of doing unnatural things to trussed up birds, it’s fair to say that the main topic of conversation amongst the chaps at the bar is not of Lewis Hamilton’s dip in form, Ferrari’s funny new nose or anything even remotely track-related, but more about some rather spicy antics in a Chelsea basement that may well have been sponsored by World of Leather.

Our quiet little pub, deep in the conservative Cotswolds, is more the sort of place where you will find the choice of newspaper being The Times or The Daily Telegraph. Somebody once came in with a copy of the Daily Mail - I think he was promptly shown the door and barred for life. Recently however, us country folk have been woken up to what goes on up in the smoke as more than a few copies of The News of The World have been spotted around the place.

For those who have been on the Moon for the last month, or maybe in Wales, the NOTW got the F1 scoop of the decade with the story, complete with pictures and even a video, for Pete’s sake, of some sexy (I use that word loosely, it’s more like a post-watershed version of ‘Allo Allo’) goings on with Max Mosley and some young ladies who appear to have been on some sort of foreign exchange trip.

The story has dominated the back, middle and often front pages of every newspaper and racing magazine for weeks. The video is probably the most Googled since the one of the dippy Amercan heiress and her boyfriend made it onto the web.

The first issue of F1 Racing (May’s) since the scandal broke, chose to not whip (sorry) the matter up anymore and tried it’s best to ignore it completely. A bit late and more than a little pointless really, the words ‘gate’ and ‘horse’ spring to mind, but you can understand their motives.

It’s a bit of a shame, to put it mildly, that the conversation for the last four Sundays - and no doubt many more to come, is not about what really matters, a season ahead with the best top driver line up for yonks, but instead a bit of rather adventurous hanky panky.

Still, back on the track it’s going to be a battle royale between Hamilton, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica and Nick Heidfeld - and there’s a name I never thought I’d ever include in the same sentence as the words "top driver".

You see, Heidfeld is an odd type for an F1 driver. You’ll notice that I (as most others do) refer to the top drivers by surname only, it’s all that’s needed as everybody knows who they are without the need to elaborate. Blimey, even Sato doesn’t require a full name introduction. Nick on the other hand needs the complete moniker, as despite being in F1 since 2000 he has been hidden away better than a NOTW snapper. And yet, here he is 8 years later, finding himself in one of the quickest cars on the grid - and sitting nicely in second place (I’m writing this pre-Spanish Grand Prix) in the Drivers' World Championship.

How did he do that? Did anybody else notice? We were all busy paying attention to the red and silver cars (as ever) and noting on a few stellar drives from super-pole Kubica, yet there Nick is, second place on 16 points.

Sure, the season never really starts for real until the circus gets back to Europe, but here we are now, are on tracks that (Raikkonen excepted) Heidfeld knows better than any of his immediate rivals. The man who my Mum, bless her, mistook for Bjorn Borg is finally in a position to show us what he is made of.

Leaving the top half dozen drivers aside, it is Nick’s countryman, Sebastian Vettel, currently giving his team mate a bit of a caning (sorry again), who is grabbing the headlines, but maybe, at least for 2008, he is not the German we should be watching.

Auf wiedersehen !

Rob Sinfield also writes for www.GrandPrixDiary.com

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