On Mansell, Max and sheep with FISA passes

Nigel Mansell is going to win the World Championship. Unless something untoward occurs, he is going to make it before the school holidays are over.

It is doubtful that Mansell will ever be more famous - or more feted - than he is today. The hype-machine is whirring. In the wake of Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards and Paul 'Gazzer' Gascoigne comes another sporting megastar, 'Mazzer', the Bulldog Drummond who upholds British ways against all things fiendish, foreign and foul-smelling.

Nigel says he doesn't read the papers - which is a shame because he would probably get a good laugh. Instead he is fed titbits of juicy stories by flunkies who buzz around him. Perhaps one needs to live in a rarified atmosphere to win world titles, but I think it is dangerous.

'The national press is fantastic with me,' Nigel told the French L'Equipe newspaper on the Tuesday after the British GP. 'The specialist press is corrupt, that is to say it has prejudices. Several years ago, for example, Ken Tyrrell told everyone that I had none of the qualities which make a good racing driver. He has since admitted to me that he regrets that. I forgive him. The journalists said the same thing, they do not wish to recognize their mistake. Their ego is too strong.'

Nigel is now too famous to be accused of biting the hand that feeds him, but to tell a journalist he is corrupt is hurtful stuff. The odd thing is that the British specialist press - to a man (and there are not many of us) - loves to see a British driver winning. Nothing could be better for the sport in this country. And we all agree that behind the wheel of a racing car Nigel is a fantastic talent.

Isaac Newton once discovered that what goes up, must come down. Baseballer Babe Ruth added that it is better to be nice to people on the way up because you meet them again on the way down. The only way to avoid this is to quit at the top.

"It is the mark of many famous people that they cannot part with their brightest hour," wrote playwright Lillian Hellman.

One likes to hope that Nigel is different. At the end of last year, he told us that winning the world championship would mean 'instant retirement' but now he is talking new contracts.

At Silverstone, however, after a dominant victory and unrivalled adulation he spoke of his thoughts on the podium.

"I thought about the 28 wins and Jackie Stewart's record," he said. "Then I thought about something else. Some other things which I will let you know about later - in about three months' time."

I hope he means retirement. It would be a graceful way of avoiding the sad fall that has happened to so many champions.

One man hoping to avoid a similar fall from grace this autumn is FISA president Max Mosley. In the nine months since he defeated Jean-Marie Balestre, I have spent a lot of time watching Mosley operate. It has been like watching Gulliver in action in Lilliput. In a perfect world Mosley would have gone into real politics, rather than motor racing's pale equivalent. He would have made a fine Member of Parliament. Robin Herd, who founded March with Mosley back in 1969, reckons that Max would be Prime Minister now - and he's probably not wrong.

I haven't quite decided if Mosley cares passionately about motor sport - I suspect he does - but what I do know is that he looks at problems in a completely different way to most of the people involved. He has a marvellous way of telling you how right you are and then explaining that you are entirely wrong. Those who see it react in different ways: some get angry, some giggle. A lot of people go away feeling charmed and sure that they have the president's ear.

One man who does have Mosley's ear is FOCA president Bernie Ecclestone and I reckon that the pair spend a lot of the time on the telephone, giggling with one another. They are both exceptional and love to wind up those who take themselves too seriously.

Meanwhile the F1 world wonders whether Max is pulling Bernie's strings or Bernie is pulling Max's. The answer is that they probably don't know.

Funnily enough, in recent weeks Max and Bernie have been caught in their own spider's web. In order for F1 decisions to be made with the agreement of the teams and not dictated by FISA, Bernie and Max put together the F1 Commission and the Concord Agreement. It stopped FISA (and its then president Jean-Marie Balestre) from meddling about with F1. Today Mosley and Ecclestone find themselves on the other side of the fence...

Balestre, incidentally, is in a similar position. The ex-FISA president spent a lot of time ensuring that the FIA could not dabble in the FISA world. Now he finds himself president of FIA, wanting to meddle in FISA business.

Perhaps the best thing about Mosley is that he doesn't think he's anyone particularly important. He has no airs and no graces.

Talking of your heirs and your graces, last year, you may recall, I complained that Prince William had contravened Article 142 of the Sporting Code by appearing in the pitlane under the age of 16.

Access is always a big issue at the British GP. Spectators complain that they pay huge sums and cannot see the drivers and the cars. In part the annual track invasion is due to the fact that people want a closer look. How can we condemn invading spectators when royal princes get away with breaking rules?

Royal princes are all very well so long as Article 142 reads: No persons under the age of 16 with the exception of royal princes is allowed in the pitlane. It doesn't.

If Silverstone isn't careful someone who owns two sheep - which curiously I seem to - might turn up at Silverstone next year. Sheep are banned under Article 143, but if Article 142 is ignored - it will be hard to enforce 143.

And if sheep with passes get on the grid, Good Lord, they'll be allowing paying race fans next...

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