GLOBETROTTER

Laws of F1 physics and Chaos Theory

Everyone in F1 knows that there are certain laws which can never be broken. This does not stop Grand Prix people trying to prove them wrong. After all, F1 is all about finding the limits, delving into the grey areas or expanding "the windows of opportunity".

But in motor racing, as in life, there is no getting away from the fact that what goes up must come down (Brabham's Law). That if something can go wrong it will (The Pacific Principle) and that money isn't everything (McLaren's Law).

Ferrari doesn't have a Law as such but there is a Cycle which is now being attached to the famous Italian team.

A few years ago - when Brabham was a race team rather than a Law of F1 Physics - the Chessington team had an unofficial fan magazine called Cobra. It was named after the team's logo Hissing Sid the snake, but could equally have been accused of being as poisonous as a cobra. It said the unsayable, insulted the ego-inflated and, rather worryingly, printed the truth - which is more than can be said for a lot of magazines in F1 these days. Cobra was so tiny that it could never be sued because it never had any money to lose. In fact it survived longer than the team. Alas, it has now gone.

One of Cobra's greatest hits - and there were many - was the Ferrari Cycle, a circular diagram, highlighting Ferrari's approach to the sport.

If you imagine a clock face and look at 12 o'clock you would find the words: "Hire Top Designer". At 2 o'clock it said: "Build Technical Facility in England" and at 4 o'clock: "Build the Car to Beat all Cars". At six o'clock the words: "Struggle and Panic" appear and continue round to 8 o'clock and you find: "Fire Top Designer". At 10 o'clock it said: "Close down English facility" and so one arrived back at the start of the Cycle again.

The loudest whisper in the Buenos Aires paddock was that it is six o'clock at Ferrari. The team is on the verge of panicking because the F310 has not won all the races this year and so someone must be to blame. According to the Italian press - who start most of these rumors - the time has come for the Ferrari men to perform the triennial Maranello headless chicken dance.

One would imagine that Jean Todt, in his logical and efficient way, will be standing up in the name of stability, but when panic comes to Maranello it often comes like a tidal wave. This is, of course, all very silly because the Ferrari is actually a pretty good fundamental car. It has been reliable since the disastrous first tests and pretty competitive in Australia. It needs a lot of tuning but it doesn't need a wholesale slaughter in the drawing office. Team members will tell you this but it doesn't stop the Italians getting jumpy. The next few weeks will be significant because they will tell us if the team is being run by Jean Todt or by the Italians. If it is the latter Michael Schumacher would do well to leave immediately because Ferrari will never be successful.

The amusing thing about the Maranello Panic of 1996 is that it is coming at a time when editors across the world are asking their F1 journalists to write stories about Ferrari's revival. There have been a couple of podium finishes: Eddie Irvine in Australia and Michael Schumacher in Brazil. In the pre-season Michael Schumacher and company did everything they possibly could to talk down any chances of success this season. It was a logical policy to adopt. If you have people expecting a lot from you there is a much bigger chance of a public relations disaster. In F1 terms this might be termed the Porsche Principle - after the disastrous Footwork-Porsche program of 1991. Having said that the Law of Physics in question - the number of pre-season boasts being inversely proportional to the number of points scored - is in danger of being renamed after another German manufacturer which is currently making a right royal mess in Grand Prix racing.

The Germanic nations, funnily enough, seem to be completely unable to understand why things should not run smoothly. Trains are built to run on time. In F1, however, sometimes one has to take into account outside influences such as The Pacific Principle and The South American Factor. The latter law seems to be a sub-clause of Chaos Theory - in which total chaos gradually forms into patterns.

When the Sauber team arrived in Buenos Aires they expected everything to be in order with their hire cars. In Switzerland all 14 of them would have been lined up in a row, glistening, with their engines ticking over. One of Sauber's official partners is the Hertz hire car company - a subsidiary of Sauber's engine supplier the Ford Motor Company - and so Peter Sauber and his boys were probably expecting a few red carpets and boiled sweets to send them happily on their way to work at the Autodromo. The folk behind the Hertz desk, however, looked rather surprised and informed Herr Sauber that there were no cars available.

There are rarely any hire cars in South America. Or if by chance one has been dropped off by accident it is usually full of the last renter's rubbish from a fishing trip in Patagonia or a dirty weekend in Belo Horizonte. Our hire car in Brazil rattled like a armadillo in a biscuit tin if driven over 50mph and the rear window had at some point been prised open and so we lived in constant fear of it falling out. Still it was better than the car we had ordered in Buenos Aires. This did not exist. The hotel had promised to organize everything for us and so in the fullness of time a white Fiat Ghastly turned up. There was some shopping the back but - What the hell - the windows were all attached to the bodywork. We jousted through the traffic as one does and drove across the occasional central reservation as decreed in the South American Highway Code. And then our poor little Ghastly died in the paddock car park. And, as no-one outside had a pass to get in and we couldn't take the car out, it stayed in the car park for the rest of the weekend. The hotel was very pleased with this because at least no-one was going to steal it.

Theft is a major part of the South American Factor and on each jolly jaunt to Brazil and Argentina we expect to lose a few wallets, computers, paddock passes and whatever else takes the fancy of the local light-fingered fraternity. It seemed for a while on our South American jaunt that everyone had first hand experience of being robbed. In Buenos Aires a man was apprehended in the F1 paddock wearing a tabard marked "Safety Car Driver". The giveaway was that his entire right arm - from wrist to elbow - was encased in plaster!

They say that the best thing to do if you are robbed in South America is to smile, give away everything you have and say "Have a nice day" when the robbers run off. Resistance is not advised and judging by the fact that last month in Sao Paulo there were 719 violent deaths - many of them due to robberies - this seems like good advice.

After the Brazilian GP most sensible people fled to Argentina where the murder rate these days is considerably lower than Brazil and the most likely cause of unexpected death is eating too much beef.

Some folk went to Rio de Janeiro and one eminent British publisher of motor racing magazines - who we will call The Publisher to protect his identity - decided one evening to have a walk on Copacabana Beach. This is a bit like putting on a hat with a neon sign saying "Rob Me" and an arrow pointing downwards. And in the fullness of time - about 23 seconds - three dubious-looking individuals had removed the gentleman's wallet and wrist watch. Finding $17 and a plastic watch - well, you know how cheap publishers can be - they were rather disappointed and figured that The Publisher must be wearing a money belt and so proceeded to remove the poor man's trousers, which I am sure was a rather alarming experience as the robbers were not dusky Brazilians girls...

The Publisher's trousers are probably now hanging on a wall in a South American dwelling - which is shaped a lot like a Fiat Ghastly - the Brazilian equivalent of a maisonette.

But the adventures of The Publisher are nothing compared to a pair of British journalists known as "The Disaster Twins" or "The Lost Boys". They go from race to race and are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. If someone has to be robbed it will always be them. If a computer blows up it will be one of theirs. Planes are there to be missed; cars to break down. It's a bit like the Marx Brothers go Motor Racing.

One night in Sao Paulo they went out for dinner and came back to find that their computers and a passport had disappeared. One of The Lost Boys was doubly hit because his computer had crashed at the previous race and he had borrowed another for the South American races from a colleague.

The Lost Boys have admirable resistance to pain and their rallying cry "No problem" can be heard on most occasions.

"You know," said a colleague as we waited for them to appear on Friday in Buenos Aires, "I now look to see which flights they travel on because I know that it won't crash."

That sounded illogical and I muttered: "Surely you don't want to be on a flight with The Disaster Twins."

"But that's just it," I was told. "If they are booked on your flight you know they will miss it, and therefore it is safe to get on!"

You'll be delighted to know that The Disaster Twins did finally turn up, muttering "No problem" and laughing at their misfortunes, trailing computer leads (without computers attached) and a vague whiff of stomach-calming medicine - a bottle of which had unaccountably been smashed in one of the suitcases in transit.

After 10 days in South America one is very glad for The Salvation Principle which states that it is cheaper to buy a return ticket than it is to travel one-way. I just hope The Disaster Twins are booked on my flight home...

Print Feature