Tanglewood Tales

After the dubious delights of Silverstone, the sixth Grand Prix in eight weekends, it was time to do something completely different and get away from motor racing for a few days before the F1 bugle calls us all back into action at Hockenheim at the end of this week. Total concentration on a sport is a often a good thing but only in moderation. From time to time it is a good idea for people in the business to do something different and blow away the blinkers so they can see a bigger picture. An invitation to go to the Tanglewood Festival seemed, therefore, like a very good idea even if the idea of jumping on another aeroplane and flying across the Atlantic was a bit silly after two months on the F1 road.

Tanglewood is in the Berkshires (pronounced Burk-shires), a very pretty range of hills which are part of the Appalachian chain on America's eastern seaboard. They stretch from western Connecticut up through Massachusetts and into Vermont. The Berkshires are a land of pretty wooded vallies, white weatherboard houses, old-fashioned Main Streets and covered bridges. This is where Norman Rockwell painted his famous scenes of small town American life.

But the Berkshires are also where the wealthy of New York and Boston built their summer "cottages" in the late nineteenth century. These are vast mansions which have long since been abandoned and turned into fancy hotels. The rich brought with them a wide array of European servants and the Berkshires became a very cosmopolitan place with such un-American activities as cricket matches and garden parties being the norm. Fancy restaurants opened up to feed the wealthy barons and when the word got out, authors and other artists headed out to take a look and found peaceful places in which to write. Nathaniel Hawthorne settled here in 1850 and wrote The House of the Seven Gables and later the Tanglewood Tales. Soon after his arrival Hawthorne bumped into a youngster called Herman Melville while out walking in the hills. The two men hit it off and Hawthorne encouraged Melville to push on with his book about a whale. The result was Moby Dick, one of the great books of American literature. Later Edith Wharton would settle in the area and write of life amongst America's rich.

In the 1930s music followed words to the Berkshires when a group of wealthy music-loving summer residents invited members of the New York Philharmonic orchestra to play a series of concerts. These were such a success that a festival soon developed. Since then the old Tanglewood Estate, next to the cottage where Hawthorne wrote, has become the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and each summer some of the world's best musicians and conductors fly in to perform.

Afternoons sipping wine, listening to Beethoven and doing non-F1 things like discussing whether or not F Scott Fitzgerald was America's best writer proved to be a marvellous tonic after two solid months of fast cars and motor racing politics. The mobile phone stayed frmly switched off.

In this part of the world people think Formula 1 is a hair treatment. No-one has heard of Bernie Ecclestone nor Max Mosley. Even Michael Schumacher would be able to go about life without being chased by fans.

When one takes a step back from a subject one often ends up seeing things much more clearly. I stopped for a moment one day and had a little think about the recent months in F1. I concluded that the biggest disappointment is not that all the races have been won by the same man but rather that the others have done so badly. There are different reasons why each of the teams has not been able to beat Ferrari and it seems to me that most of this can be traced back to management or motivational problems. McLaren is just now coming out of a period when performance was screwed by political in-fighting while Williams has been a big disappointment this year not because the car is not good but rather because there is a chemistry that is lacking within the team. The team members wants a hero to inspire them and lead them forwards. The engineers and management cannot do it by themselves. It is a thing that the drivers need to do and with Juan Pablo Montoya going off to McLaren his magic has gone. Ralf Schumacher has never understood the concept of team building and Marc Gene's performances while solid were just not enough to get anyone excited.

Antonio Pizzonia is now going into a make-or-break period.

There are many in F1 who say that Mark Webber has achieved little and they do not understand why some of the top teams want him. From where I am sitting, I can see one thing: Webber understands how to get the best out of people and what Williams needs is a locomotive force like Mark to get things on the move again.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the sport needs a new locomotive as well. Bernie Ecclestone is doing what he can, but the teams are no longer willing to be dragged along behind as once they were. Bernie has taken out too much and the teams have put the brakes on and the whole F1 train is screeching along. Max Mosley has done a lot of good things for F1 but he has irritated many by being too clever and too dismissive. In addition there are serious reservations about the new rules package he is now flogging. The other team bosses are all too polarized to work together and the only one who gives an impression that he has what it might take is David Richards and he seems to be playing a waiting game. Perhaps that is the way to go. The top people in the sport are getting old.

But, sitting in the hills of Massachusetts with a glass of wine my hand, I have concluded that the sport is not really in any danger. It is not going to keel over and die. It will just bumble on as it always has, mismanaged and inefficent perhaps, but still producing enough cash to keep the powerful happy.

But who knows? Who would have thought that a hilly part of remote New England would end up hosting a major interantional music festival. It is just a question of the right people being in the right places.

Maybe Formula 1 can figure that out and get the train going again.

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