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Some time later in Pogues les Eaux...

Eddie Jordan

Eddie Jordan 

 © The Cahier Archive

The man bustling up the platform at the Gare de Lyon in Paris looked vaguely familiar. But he seemed out of context and I did not have time to place him. I was rather busy at the time. As the seconds ticked away before the train was due to depart for Nevers, I was on the mobile phone frantically trying to help a colleague who was running around the station looking for the right platform. At the same time I was trying to convince the controlleur that the train did not have to run on time.

Normally, the trip to Magny Cours is not stressful. The train takes the strain. It is a trick I learned from the old days when Ligier staff regularly rattled between Paris and Nevers. It is quicker and a lot less hassle than driving up and down. If you buy a first class ticket they give you a little table on which you can work as you rush through the French countryside. So, in effect, you have a mobile office in which to work and the only real interruption comes when a man in a hat comes along and asks for a ticket.

If you have one he is very polite and goes away.

But this year it all went wrong.

The train started to move. I jumped on. The mobile telephone battery died a second later. And when I sat down I found that the man seated next to me was Eddie Jordan. He had been the strange figure, struggling up the platform dragging a rather natty black leather bag, and looking a little puffed.

Suggesting to a Formula 1 team boss that catching a train is a good idea evokes much the same facial expressions as proposing a trip to bathe in the Ganges. But there he was and judging by the dirty look that came my way, it was clear that he was upset about something.

The train drew away and Eddie was already muttering a lot of words beginning with F and I looked woefully at my ticket to see the time the train would eventually arrive in Nevers two hours and 25 minutes later.

EJ and I go back a very long way and whenever I edge towards anything close to criticism he tends to get ruffled. This time I had had a pretty big go and now I was going to have to pay.

For some reason I was reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre's wonderful play "Huis Clos" in which three characters find themselves in a small room and in discussion realize that they are in Hell and that each is there to irritate the others.

It did not help that Eddie was hungry and the train did not have any form of sustenance. This further convinced Jordan that the executive jet is the only way to travel. Eventually a banana and a stale bagel were purloined and EJ negotiated a half bottle of water from a race fan and things began to calm down, although once every 20 minutes he launched into another stream of abuse before drifting off into tales of the good old days when we used to tramp around Europe together as members of the European Formula 3 Championship circus.

The mobile telephones were fading in and out as they do on trains and so the opportunity to ignore one another was somewhat limited and so Eddie and I had a crash course in one another after a few years when all we had found the time to do was to nod across the paddock. Getting proper chats with people in F1 these days is a rare thing because of sponsor functions, technical meetings, deadlines, photo opportunities and mobile telephones.

Despite all the F words I found myself liking Eddie as I used to like him when we were younger and less serious. And when we discussed what I had written I agreed that yes perhaps it was a little too harsh, even if (I thought) the point was a good one. EJ disagreed.

It posed an interesting question: Should be media have an opinion or should they simply report the facts?

Of course, it is a joyously naive idea that such a choice is available. It is not. Journalists have to do what their publishers tell them to do and publishers have developed some interesting ideas in recent years about the ethics of journalism. But the one thing that dictates all is the bottom line. Publishers want what sells. And what sells is what the people want.

And apparently what people want to read is opinion. Bald facts are interesting but what do they really tell you about why something happened or what effects that will have? People want to know what people in the paddock are saying. They want to be in there.

This is why there are so many opinion columns that exist featuring writers pictured (with arty-farty lighting) wearing black polo neck sweaters.

If one accepts that this has to be the case, where does one draw the line? What is an acceptable opinion?

The Formula 1 team owners do not understand that the press does not exist to enhance their business and to make them look good. They have got around the problem by creating in-house magazines which always tell what they consider to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the team in question. Funnily enough there is never any criticism in these magazines and they sell in very small numbers. Most are given away - or thrown out of aircraft.

And so, the only guide to whether opinion should be read or rejected comes when predictions become realities.

Or not, as the case may be...

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