Dishwashers, spectacles and upside-down cake...

Formula 1 team bosses always seem to think that there is little they can learn from anybody so it would probably be taken badly if I were to suggest that the sport could learn a lot from a dishwasher company.

To be honest I am not much interested in dishwashers, unless they are gorgeous, 18 years old and keen on older men (oh, and female of course) but I have to admit that I was impressed by an advert I saw recently in an old decoration magazine for "the exciting new Hotpoint range". Why? Because no dishwasher company has ever made me laugh before. Hotpoint did it. The premise was simple. Dishwashers are for washing dishes. Anyone can make a mess of a dish but experimental cooking (anything that Delia Smith has not done) usually makes more of a mess. Hotpoint's point (if you see what I mean) was that its machines will clean anything - and there is no risk involved. Using the slogan: "You've got the rest of your life to be reckless" the company pictured 42 pots and pans of different shapes and sizes and beneath each one suggested an experimental dish. I giggled at the thought of Trout and Toffee, Ostrich and Avocado and Gammon and Gooseberries and things began to get out of control when I reached Black Pudding and Sorbet, Haggis and Hot Chocolate and Grouse and Marmalade. By the I got to Chicken and Cherries, Steak & Raspberry Pie and Pheasant & Meringue I was guffawing like a retired colonel.

In part I was laughing because of the ideas but in part it was because, like everyone else, I have been subjected to experimental cooking over the years. My mother still has a dish (of which she is very proud) which involves chicken and apricots. It is known as Chicken Armageddon by unkind members of the family. My wife's first attempt at creme brulee would have made it to Hollywood disguised as a lump of plastic explosive. The only thing missing from that culinary bomb was a detonator...

Whatever the case, Hotpoint got my attention. Will I buy a Hotpoint machine? Probably not. But at least I registered the product and remember it fondly.

It was all in the presentation.

Making a dishwasher interesting is not an easy thing but one would have thought that presenting a Formula 1 team would be a lot easier. Formula 1 teams are "sexy" in advertising speak. They sell themselves. Why then, I asked myself, has this year's presentation season been quite so drab. For some years now I have tried to avoid the launches because everyone at these events is programmed in what they can say and they spout the same rubbish time and again until all the journalists go home, leaving a trail of half-eaten sandwiches and discarded press packs behind them. When you analyze what has been said invariable it brings you to a very big round number. This year the cars look pretty similar, there have not been many changes of sponsor and no-one is taking the top off the engines to how you their latest little tricks. In short, the only reason to go to a launch is to eat sandwiches - and I can do that at home.

I was very glad to have missed the British American Racing launch. To give the team credit I was rung up before the event and told (very politely) to stay away because there was not going to be anything to report. The only available 2001 car had been crashed and was in the Racing Car Hospital. The launch was being carried out with a 2000 car. The exciting new livery turned out to be as exciting as snail-racing but this did not stop every free-loader from Brindisi to Rekjavik turning up to rub shoulders with BAT executives who seem to have a very limited understanding about what happens in F1. They have worked out how to spend money but that is about all.

To add to the cringe factor there was a nasty outbreak of amateur dramatics, described by everyone I spoke to as "a load of old tosh!" and then Craig Pollock got up and said that there were no problems in the team and that third place in the Constructors' World Championship was a realistic goal for which to aim. Oh dear...

Everyone else was having rather more low-key presentations with no boastful claims and no performing seals. They have all learned from their mistakes. The thing they are all missing is that one can have a nice big launch without having to claim that you will be World Champion. Jordan did it best a few years ago when they took over the Albert Hall in London and entertained the massed bands of the international media with Cirque du Soleil followed by finger food. It was marvellous fun and very impressive. I have always felt that launches should be impressive if not informative. Why have them if they are not one or the other? I would like to have one in a windtunnel and see the air flowing over a model of the car being presented. Or being able to wander around a hall handling pieces of the new car, just to understand how light the materials used are these days. Or perhaps we could even watch a car being crash-tested to show just how impressive these automobiles really are.

But no, it is always a darkened auditorium, some loud throbbing music and a car under a dust sheet. At some of the launches one feels that it might be wiser to leave the team principals, engineers and drivers under the dust sheets and let the car do the talking.

There is so much about Formula 1 that is impressive and yet somehow this is never demonstrated at car launches.

If I had been BAR and been faced by the need to launch an old car, I would have done something silly.

Not long ago I was trying to explain to my son about aerodynamics and told him that a Formula 1 car has enough downforce to travel upside-down without falling off the ceiling. We got a bit bogged down in when I tried to explain that if the car was upside down, then the downforce would become lift. It would have been so much easier to show him a Formula 1 car doing it. They say it is possible so why has no-one done it yet? Can you imagine the publicity it would get?

I am sure Jacques Villeneuve would rise to the challenge. He likes having big accidents.

And then they could serve upsidedown cake and we could all go home saying what fine fellows they are with press packs printed the wrong way up.

Print Feature