GLOBETROTTER

Globetrotter

Did you know that in 1873 French poet Arthur Rimbaud (for readers of The Sun this is pronounced 'Rambo') was shot and wounded by fellow poet Paul Verlaine in a literary dispute worthy of comment.

The demise of Nigel Mansell - some would argue that it was suicide - has produced a literary dispute of rather less crucial proportions, but a rift which has been festering for some time and has now appeared. The British F1 press corps is split down the middle: the specialist press versus the tabloids. Don't get me wrong, it isn't yet computers at dawn, but there are differences of opinion.

To the tabloid editors Nigel Mansell can have no publishable faults. He is just 'Our Nige', victim of injustice, battler for the little people and, as a result, a jolly good chap.

For the tabloid reporters - who obey the editors, lest they be sent to cover darts competitions in Scunthorpe - Nigel is a free ticket to exotic locations with the glamorous world of Formula 1. A chance to expand the expenses in a sunny Eldorado-esque world.

The motor racing specialist press is rather different. They will still be reporting F1 when Mansell is trying to get a job as a BBC commentator. They feel that if there is a case for criticism then 'Our Nige' is not above it. Members of the Mansell camp - perhaps not the great man himself but those who whisper in the famous ear - seemed to think fawning adulation the norm and got hot under their collars if anyone suggests that Nigel is anything less than Mother Theresa and Dr. Doolittle all rolled into one.

In recent months the Mansell adulation grew to such an extent that five members of Fleet Street's finest became known as 'Brown Five', in deference to Nigel's Red Five and, presumably, the art of brown-nosing.

After Nigel's retirement announcement these gents loaded themselves with faggots - bundles of wood not American homosexuals - and began burning their bridges. Without Nigel their careers in motor racing were likely to be short-lived.

The Sun, which prides itself on going to what the Australians call 'the height of lowness', tried to organize a reinstate Nigel campaign. Any publicity is good publicity, right?

Well, gentlemen of News International, chew on this. If The Sun cares so much about British motor racing why not put some of the huge sums of money raised using Nigel Mansell as a pop-up superhero to sponsor either him - perhaps #7 million a year is too pricey? - or take the cheaper route and give #250,000 to the McLaren/AUTOSPORT Young Driver of the Year Award and find a new Nigel.

I doubt that will happen, for the truth is that the newspapers in question care nothing for the sport and are only interested in selling papers.

When it is your own money, you think twice. Ask Frank Williams.

Or to put it into Sun-speak: You fancy your next door neighbor's wife. She says: "You can have all the rumpy-pumpy you like, just give me your life savings". Do you agree? Particularly if your new wife - who we will call Alain - wants you to remain faithful to her.

Get the picture?

As a member of the Williams team said last week: 'We'll just weather the storm for a few days and then some member of the royal family will get their bits out, and the papers will forget all about us again.'

As Nigel Mansell said himself, money was the trigger in the contractual negotiations which went wrong. To my mind, pride was the gun with which Nigel shot himself, having negotiated himself into a corner.

In the current economic climate, with the costs of F1 high-technology and the gains to be had from electronics now outweighing the worth of drivers, it is understandable that F1 team bosses have clubbed together to create a salary ceiling - it also makes sense to deny its existence lest the drivers get uppity. They either take it or they leave it.

This flies in the face of the modern belief that drivers have careers. In the old days drivers were too busy having fun before they killed themselves to worry about zillions of dollars. They were young and they raced for fun. Nowadays they stick around, tick over, break records and retire - or, more often than not, are forced out. Perhaps, as life is not so immediate, the stars have forgotten how to shine - how to have fun.

Max Mosley was at Monza, talking about his recent trip to Indianapolis to see drag racers in action.

'You know,' he said, 'I saw T-shirt in Indianapolis: it said "I remember when motor racing was dangerous and sex was safe".

Bang on - if you'll pardon the expression. I do not advocate increasing the dangers of F1 - for they exist still ready to bite when we least expect it - but there is an argument for instigating age limits.

What would it be like if no F1 drivers or journalists could be over 35? Why not have a veterans' championship - like golfers and tennis players now do.

Oh, and one other rule change: there must be no team owners who have ever sold a second hand car.

Just a thought.

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