GLOBETROTTER

A view of Monaco from the bunker

Well wasn't that exciting? A Monaco Grand Prix with a Silverstone finish. You have to go back to 1982 to remember a Monaco which had people jumping out of their armchairs and knocking over the Ovaltine.

I love Monaco, but there is no doubt in my mind that Grand Prix racing has outgrown the place. Driving the modern machinery around the streets is like going to the local supermarket in a space shuttle.

It is incredibly exciting to watch. Believe me, if you watch it on television, you are not even seeing half of it. TV can never capture the atmosphere, the speed and the noise. And take it from the journalists at Monaco, we know.

How? Well, the dash to the finish with Nigel Mansell snaking around behind Ayrton Senna's gearbox sent adrenaline pumping through the hardened arteries of the press room and when the pair flashed across the finishing line, the gentlemen of the press broke into cheering. And then the word processors began to chatter.

But this explosion of enthusiasm from the media went unnoticed - because the press room was three floors underground.

Even as Ayrton and Nigel zigzagged their way through the final corner, in the bowels of the earth way below them there was movement.

How, you might ask, do the press see the cars? We don't. We watch on television. There was a press grandstand but this was only available for those journalists who FISA thought unworthy of a place in the press bunker.

Burying the press might be related to the interest shown by sections of the media in the activities of the Monegasque royal family which, in certain cases, seems to have been as exciting as the Monaco finish.

As each year passes it seems that the Monaco GP goes more and more underground. This year all but the top five F1 teams had to work in an underground car park. Racing cars are far too unsightly to be allowed on to the quayside where motorhomes, potted plants, important people and the Paddock Club have edged out the grubby noisy things they have come to Monaco to watch. Actually, I'm not sure if that is the real reason while people come to Monaco. For some years I have been subscribing to the philosophy that Monaco isn't really about racing at all. It's all about being able to tell people in your office that you were in Monaco for the Grand Prix. For the teams it is all about raising money and for the paddock poseurs it is about being seen.

Bernie Ecclestone says Monaco gives F1 enough to make it worthwhile putting up with poor facilities. Ecclestone argues that the Automobile Club de Monaco is very innovative.

Right. I have a couple of innovations for the chaps in the club house to mull over.

Monaco should drop the cars and declare an International Sponsorship Grand Prix, in tandem with a Concours d'Elegance for profilers. This would do away with all the noise. It could be achieved with minimal road closures. Racing teams could send just their fabulous motorhomes and team management which would help reduce F1 costs. In this suddenly peaceful setting everyone could get down to some hard lunching and serious talking about money, without having to shout to be heard. At the end of the weekend, each team would issue a press release to announce what deals had been clinched and a winner would be chosen by an panel - who would also give points for team clothing, motorhome decoration and quality of food. That would be a fascinating battle.

My second innovation would require serious capital investment. The city could build a brand new racing track - a real racing track - completely underground. The racers could then race and everyone else could profile and wheeler-deal on the surface. From a television point of view - and Bernie is big on television - there would never be any stoppages for bad weather and if other cities followed suit there could be an indoor F1 World Championship.

Well, it was just an idea...

It would certainly be different. There are some who argue that F1 is a bit samey at the moment and that we need rule changes to help everyone catch up with Williams. Poppycock! We need the opposition to pull their fingers out and deliver. That is how it happens and how it has always happened.

Mind you, I have heard some interesting ideas for rule changes. My personal favorite comes from Cobra magazine. This was once the Brabham fan rag, but with the demise of the heroes of Chessington, Cobra has gone independent in disgust.

Cobra's idea is simple: once a car has set fastest lap during a race a FISA official will ensure that the car involved has a bucket of fresh whitebait thrown in its path when next it crosses the start/finish line. I doubt Williams would agree with the rule as Our Nige would spend the rest of the year smelling like an old fishwife. And let's face it, that would put off the sponsors.

Sponsors love Monaco, of course, and love to give parties - which journalists love to go to. It isn't often that scribes get forced into suits and personally I rather enjoy getting all dressed up.

This year Marlboro gave a party to celebrate 20 years in F1. It provided some interesting perspectives on how the game has changed over the years.

"Drivers many years ago were friendly open and approachable - just like they are today," said Walter Thoma of Marlboro. "Let me give you an example. 1974 marked the beginning of our highly successful relationship with McLaren and Denny Hulme won the first GP of the season in Argentina. What a great start we thought. At the next race in Brazil we, in our enthusiasm, wanted to meet Denny, so we all trooped up to the pits after practice and we greeted our new hero only to be told, "So you are the sponsor, where are the bloody sandwiches?".

"James Hunt was another driver who provided us with experience in our formative years. He was always well-dressed - in a casual sort of way and groomed to match. His cooperation with the media was legendary. Well, he hasn't changed his tailor nor his barber. Nevertheless I was taken aback the other day when I heard him complaining about the lack of cooperation from some of the younger drivers who he wanted to talk to in his capacity as a broadcaster.

"Who do they think they are, you can't get near them," I heard him explaining.

"Indeed times have changed."

Watching F1 from the bunker, you cannot help but agree with him...

Print Feature