GLOBETROTTER

Globetrotter

This is the time of year when everyone involved in F1 wants to know next year's calendar. There are hotels to be booked and helicopters to be reserved. Putting together a list of race dates, however, is apparently not an easy thing to do because there are all kinds of considerations to be taken into account which are not immediately obvious. To start with there are races tied to moveable feasts, like Monaco which always takes place on the Ascension Day weekend. There are local national holidays and festivals and such strange things as Labour Days. There are clashing sporting events - you do not want a Grand Prix to be competing for TV time with the World Cup final or the Olympic 100m. There are even visits by Emperors and other such events which might disrupt the region in which a race is taking place. And, on top of all this, one has to take notice of the climate. Holding races in tropical countries in the monsoon season is not always a good idea. There was one famous occasion in Spain some years ago when the end of summer time change, the southern location of Jerez de la Frontera and the need for pre-qualifying conspired to create a situation where F1 cars were supposed to leave the pits in pitch darkness.

At the moment everyone in F1 is wondering what it will be like at the Nurburgring in three weeks time. It will be cold but might it even be snowing? Way back in April 1985 there was an F3000 event at the 'Ring which had to cancelled because of snow - although this gave photographers the opportunity of snapping the unusual sight of single-seaters thundering through snowstorms.

Racing in the snow is not without precedent but it is not advised. In 1933, so they tell me, the Grand Prix of Pau was held in snowy conditions and won by Algerians Marcel Lehoux with fellow-countryman Guy Moll finishing behind him. They say that the Algerians were fast because they had never seen snow before and did not know how cautious they needed to be.

In these high technology days, however, snow at an F1 race is a worry, not least for the tire men. Are they expected to take studded rubber to the 'Ring? I am told that the rubber boffins have done all sorts of weird and wonderful research into snow tires and well-placed sources in Akron, Ohio (Goodyear City) assure me that they have even tried producing rubber impregnated with ground walnut shells. These produced remarkably good grip in snowy conditions and wore down gradually. I am also told that tire flavouring and coloring is an area which F1 has not yet reached the limits of development. Perhaps in the years ahead we will see drivers complete a fast lap and then stand in the pits sucking on chunks their rubber...

I always associate the Nurburgring with bad weather in much the same way that to me Monza is always linked to rain. Thursday this year was horrible and it reminded me of my first visit to the Autodromo Nazionale in 1984 when, in pouring rain, I pitched my tent in what is today the F1 Personnel Car Park. It was a miserable weekend of European Touring Cars with Tom Walkinshaw's Jaguars doing the winning. Martin Brundle was there, having just signed a Tyrrell contract.

Frank Williams's experience as a camper at Monza in the early 1960s are rather more dramatic than mine, but miserable nonetheless. Frank was then racing in Formula 3 and went from circuit to circuit with a van and a tent and had set up a base in a camp site on the outside of the Curva Grande one day when a Ferrari sportscar which was testing, crashed and flew over the wall and landed in the campsite.

I doubt that in those dim and distant days Frank would ever have imagined how his racing team would develop. Today Williams is a vast and efficient organization, although there remains a rather homely spark of "cottage industry" about the team.

McLaren and Ferrari are different. These are corporations, run like corporations, with levels of management and endless committees making decisions. At McLaren this has worked well in the past, but Ferrari has never quite managed to match the Italian passion for racing with an organization capable of winning. Nowadays Ferrari has so many designers and engineers - there are now no fewer than five men who have been technical directors of other F1 teams: John Barnard, Gustav Brunner, Mike Coughlan, George Ryton and Aldo Costa - that there is a joke at Maranello that Ferrari has perfected a pyramid form of management. The only problem, so they say, is that the pyramid structure is upside-down and while there are plenty of managers sending memos to one another there is one poor guy at the bottom of the pyramid who has to make all the parts...

Such a massive organization is a nightmare to control and although Jean Todt is doing a pretty good job, he is the man in the firing line when the bullets start to fly. In the paddock at Monza bets were being placed that he would be out of Ferrari by June 15 1996 - as soon as Michael Schumacher fails to win races at the start of next season.

Theoretical management structures have never been much use in F1, which it seems to me suffers a lot from what is called The Peter Principle. This was devised by Canadian psychologist Laurence Peter and argues that employees rise in a company until they reach a level where they are no longer competent - and there they stay, making the company as a whole an incompetent organization. One of the best examples of this is Adolf Hitler, who was a good politician but a lousy commander-in-chief. In F1 it is easy to see examples of great designers who have not translated to being great technical directors. Great spares coordinators do not necessarily make great team managers and while great motorhomers make good sandwiches this does not mean that when the graduate to VIP hospitality and sponsor-hunting that they can land the big bucks on a plate. There are always exceptions to the rule, notably Ron Dennis who has risen from the ranks to run probably the most impressive organization in the paddock - even if it is not currently winning races.

These days everyone in an F1 garage talks to everyone else by radio. There are hundreds of channels buzzing with activity. The McLaren garage is always a place of calm organization with the red and white army muttering into mouthpieces and the job being done. Some of the other teams haven't quite got the hang of the communication problems. In the paddock, McLaren uses walkie-talkies, while some teams use these newfangled GSM mobile phones to find one another. It is very simple. You stand in Monza and press a button on your Nokia, Ericsson or Motorola. The phone dials the person you are looking for and rings England. The computers then dial up your target in Italy and - in the blink of an eye - his phone rings and the conversation is something like this:

"Hello Wombat No 1. Wombat No 2 here. Where are you? We need you to smooch with some sponsors."

"I'm behind the motorhome."

"That's not possible No 1. I'm behind the motorhome."

"Sorry, No 2, you must be in FRONT of the motorhome."

"No, No 1. The front of the motorhome is where the motorhome driver sits."

"Are you saying you are on one side of the motorhome?"

"Yes I am."

"Can you tell me what you can see from where you are standing?"

"Sure. It's the Dodgy Racing motorhome kitchen area."

"OK. No 2. You are on the other side of the bus from where I am calling."

"Probably. No 1. I'll walk around the back - where the engine is - and I'll meet you there in 20 seconds."

"OK, No 2, over and out."

The total cost of this exchange is about 5 a head - but who cares if the team is paying...

Somehow I don't think the GSM form of communication will ever catch on in F1, but the McLaren radios are probably the shape of things to come. The team already has a live link between the pit garage and the paddock club so that the hugely important sponsors can be told exactly what is going on in the garage, without clogging up the available space. All a rival team now needs is a man in the McLaren VIP area with a GSM mobile phone. I guess it will not be long before a team comes up with its own Radio Station. Just imagine...

"Hi. This is Radio McLaren broadcasting to all you team members out there on 107.6FM at race tracks all around the world. And now a word from our sponsors..."

This will then be interrupted with:

"Bleep! Mika how's the car handling? Bleep!"

"Hurdy-gurdy, gurdy-hurdy (other Anglo-Finnish noises)."

"Boffin here. Is there any problem with the hyper grunger-sockets?"

"Gurdy-hurdy, hurdy-gurdy,"

"Well folks, now we all know and here's a little musical break for you guys out there in the garage. It's a request from the design team dedicated to the drivers. Elton John: "Sorry seems to be the hardest word."

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