Fawlty Towers with wings and other stories

Who needs Nigel Mansell in Formula 1 when you get races like South Africa and Brazil?

No, I'm not being nasty to Nigel, I am trying to get the point across that the sport can look after itself. It can survive the loss of anyone. Even Ayrton Senna.

Actually, when you visit Brazil, you might be convinced otherwise. Ayrton is God (which explains why he said God willed his victory) and if he isn't God he is certainly earning more money than God - if not as much as Bernie Ecclestone, who must be licking his lips in the knowledge that F1 has another Senna-Prost battle to sell to the TV companies. Now that March has gone the F1 remaining teams all look pretty solid and F1 is certainly still getting the coverage.

One of the joys of globetrotting (apart, of course, from travelling economy on Varig) is that you read all manner of junk literature in the endless hours spent in planes and airports.

I read all about the Fittipaldi family in the Aeroports de Paris magazine Approche. According to this august journal, it was the French who made Wilson and Emerson famous. This, incidentally, was after the French had won the war and before farmers started throwing plums at the Eifel tower in protest over the EC.

In Sao Paulo there were Fittipaldis everywhere, although in Brazil everyone calls them 'Fitchypatchy'. Mummy Fitchypatchy, Christian's mother Suzy, was working in the press room and it was she who explained that what the crowd chanted at Alain Prost after his retirement was not physically possible.

Mummy Fitchypatchy speaks seven languages and has been hired by FOCA to conduct the post-race TV interviews for the rest of the year. So if Christian gets on the podium, you can expect to see the interviewer giving him a cuddle.

Most of the girls in Brazil would like to do similar things with Christian and there were some stunning trollops trawling the paddock, having left their morals and, judging by appearances, most of their underwear at home.

Advertisers have not been slow to notice that Christian is a good- looking chap. Every time you turned on the TV there he was, moodily lit, selling something.

One of his adverts was for the Banespa bank, part of an advertising war currently raging between the banks of Brazil. Senna is with Nacional, Fitchypatchy with Banespa.

Some of you may have seen Ayrton stop after crossing the finish line to pick up a flag. Two corners later he threw it away and stopped for another. Why? Because some undercover marketing man had given him the flag of Banco do Brasil!

But back to magazines. In Sao Paulo City Life - don't leave home without it - one discovered that: 'Sao Paulo's forms and spaces, the verticality of its urban architecture, its streets and avenues that cut through it in an infinity of directions, its horizontal growth all present a synthesis of the Paulistana culture, formed by the peoples who have united here and constructed the universal city.'

This was vaguely reassuring. Not because it made me understand why 16 million people live in Sao Paulo, but rather because I know that if F1 ever abolishes itself, one can still earn a living, writing rubbish for an ugly city. According to someone who once went on a guided city tour, Sao Paulo's only tourist attraction is the caipirinha, an evil drink made of sugar-cane alcohol.

The British F1 press was quick to embrace the term 'to be caipirinha-ed' and it was a good bet that anyone found staring vacantly into space in the press office had been 'caipirinha-ed' the night before.

Still, being caipirinha-ed is actually less painful than reading some in-flight magazines. Yes, we are back to Varig again - Fawlty Tower with wings. I found it fascinating that Varig's in-flight magazine is called Icaro, after Icarus the man with wax wings, who flew too close to the sun and plummeted to the ground.

Air Inter's Parcours magazine proved to be more interesting with a feature on 'technical' tourism in which one could discover that Renault gives 200,000 a year 'total immersion' tours of its vast Flins factory. It struck me that it is probably only a matter of time before F1 teams starting hiring tour guides.

The Air France magazine also had a remarkable story about a Monsieur D who bought, used and wore out 70 cars and left them to rot in barns. Collectors offered huge sums to buy the junk, but Mr. D, an eccentric, refused until he recently agreed to exhibit his cars on the understanding that they would be shown as they were found. The result was a scandal with Bugattis appearing with bird's nests in their headlights, and once-gorgeous Alfas with climbing plants crawling over their bonnets.

I cannot remember where it was I read about the new London restaurant called Prost. At first I thought it was a racing cafe in the fine tradition of Rene Dreyfus's Chanteclair in New York or Jean-Pierre Jabouille's Mexico Cafe in Paris.

In fact Prost is an eastern European restaurant which, according to the reviewer, serves a mean wild boar sausage with mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

In the light of recent events at FISA it is amusing to note that while Prost has just opened, Chez Max in London's glitzy Richmond suburb recently closed - due to lack of interest.

Oh, and Varig, I'm sorry I have abused you. Can I have by bag back now?

...and can Ukyo have his too?

Print Feature