The joys of paperwork

One of the great joys of racing round the world chasing Grand Prix cars is that one never has time to do paperwork. And so one collects everything that arrives through the letterbox. When I left England for France, I did away with a 4ft. high pile of paper, laboriously and uselessly collected over the years.

There were times when, coming home from a race, one could not see the top of the desk and it was time for action. Sifting through fungus-filled coffee cups, computers, books, boxes and so on, is a lengthy but fascinating business.

There was a selection of daft business cards collected in transit: the Desert Storm Car Service of Brooklyn, New York and the Stinking Rose garlic restaurant of San Francisco. There was a US$2 dollar bill; coins from all over the world and any number of used and unused airline tickets.

There were ticket stubs from troglodyte caves in the Perigord, but most mystifying was a colorful information sheet about a parrot called Swainson's Loriquet (Trichoglossus haematodus).

I was amused to discover a scrap of paper listing famous Belgians and another with notes on Alfred Adler's inferiority complex theories. Yes, all useful for folk reporting on F1.

There was also, and now I must blush, a letter from the RAC MSA which I forgot to send to the magazine after the European GP, saying thank you to all the marshals and officials. Sorry.

There were a pair of bright yellow ear defenders (a press freebie from a long-lost French GP at Paul Ricard), unopened letters, unpaid bills, uncashed cheques (Yippee!) and enough Renault press releases to repaper two bedrooms. The most bizarre item of all I have to say was a 1943 War Office map of coastal Normandy. I wish I was kidding.

And there among all this, I stumbled on a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's play Huis Clos, which I had dragged off my shelves back in February after Max Mosley quoted from it during a press conference in Paris.

Max was talking about his endless meetings with the F1 team bosses about technical regulations. Huis Clos is the story of three people who meet in a room in Hell and, as the play unfolds, gradually understand that they have been put together for eternity to needle one another, chasing each other round and round in a vicious circle, "like horses on a carousel".

Near the end of the play, they realize that "Hell is other people" and, the play ends with the ghastly phrase: "Well, let's get on with it..."

The F1 team bosses got on with it, locked in a small room in Barcelona, for four more hours of pointless talks.

In F1 things like this are secret (Alfred Adler could probably explain it, I cannot). The trouble is in F1 you cannot keep secrets. We know what was going on. We know what was said and by whom. We know who sat where and the exact wording of the Williams/McLaren/Ferrari proposals. I can even tell you that the air conditioning wasn't working very well so Benetton's Flavio Briatore and Lotus's Peter Collins kept swapping chairs.

Perhaps if the meetings were open, things might get, because the people involved would realize they were being watched and judged and they would not behave like children.

Rumor has it that when asked about his weekend in Spain, Bernie Ecclestone replied: "Yes, I spent it as I always do - with the children."

There was no talk of rules at all in Monaco, the word being that Bernie had told everyone to shut up so everyone could talk to sponsors without things being confused by politics. On Saturday night in Spain, wandering through the paddock, waiting for the daft meeting to break up, I bumped into Pasquale from FOCA, riding a monkey bike. What was happening? I asked. I knew there was no chance of an answer. I was just going through the motions.

Pasquale leaned forward conspiratorially: "There's blood on the floor. Two dead so far." And with a giggle he accelerated away.

Everyone knows Pasquale, although I doubt anyone knows his surname. F1 is full of people know by only one name: Bernie, Ayrton, Alain, Ron and Frank. If you have an unusual name like Cyril, Flavio or Herbie you are instantly known.

There are choirs of angelic Gabrieles and more Marios and Enzos than at a wedding on New York's lower east side.

But there is only one Pasquale and every knows him. He is the paddock policeman. Sneak onto the grid with the wrong pass and the chances are that Pasquale will get you. Often it is not an easy job because the F1 paddock is full of people who like to be successful - even if they have to cheat a bit. It's like being the sheriff of Dodge City when The James Gang and Butch and Sundance are all in town.

Pasquale is often abused and sometimes thumped. But he is a cheery soul and is merciless (except when it comes to members of royal families). In Barcelona he led a raid against people without passes around the track, picking them up and loading them into a minibus. When it was full he sent it off to the motorway with instructions to dump everyone there.

The same day, I saw him whispering to a chunky bodyguard (Yes, F1 has such people) outside the FOCA bus and pointing in my direction. Thinking nothing of it, I went about my business. Moments later Pasquale came bouncing up: "You know what I told him," he giggled. "I said you were a madman with a knife who wants to kill Bernie and that he must watch out if you go near the FOCA bus."

I laughed uneasily and stayed away from the bus...

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