Fruitcakes in F1
DECEMBER 27, 2002
The Mole is one of those strange people who actually like fruitcake. For most people fruitcake conjures up an image of something as hard as rock that should have a government health warning attached. However The Mole is a fan of these concoctions and was delighted to learn that widespread mockery of the fruitcake has led to the creation of a Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake.
This is, of course, the fruitcake time of year as families are gathered, jigsaw puzzles are done and other old-fashioned things like "Thank You" letters are endured.
It is also the time to enjoy Christmas gifts and this year The Mole's haul included a rather curious book from America called "The History of the Holidays" which looks at how the various traditions of the Christmas period developed. This proved to be fascinating although the rest of the Mole Family apparently found it less than thrilling as The Mole spent several days merely grunting "Yes" or "No" whenever spoken to.
The Mole was drawn into the tales of the revels which used to occur at Christmas in medieval times but which have since been lost in the mists of time. In those days the 12 days of Christmas were a riotous affair with all manner of outrageous behaviour taking place between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night. This period was overseen by The Lord of Misrule. Wearing a paper crown (the crowns in Christmas crackers are the last remnant of this tradition) the Lord of Misrule was usually a peasant who was picked to be in charge of everything. Hev could do pretty much as he wanted to do. Not unnaturally this involved a large amount of alcohol and a little sex when he had a moment to spare. This tradition dated back to Roman times when the festival ended with the "Lord" being slaughtered on the alter of Saturn.
With the passage of time, however, this rather messy business faded away and the period when the world was topsy-turvy ended on Twelfth Night with everyone eating fruit cake. This is perhaps where the expression "mad as a fruitcake" first came from. Inside the cake was hidden a silver coin. In Britain this tradition was later absorbed into the Christmas tradition although in France they still eat a cake called the Galette des Rois (The Cake of Kings) on the Twelfth Night.
The idea of the lunatics running the asylum sounded like a splendid idea and The Mole was reminded that this is what has been happening in motor bracing for the last 10 years. Once upon a time Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley were the lunatics, banging on the doors at the FIA, trying to win control of the sport from the federation. They understood after being subdued by the men in the FIA blazers that the federation had inordinate power and so they set out to become The Establishment. Twenty years later history is repeating the same cycle: the F1 teams are battering on the doors at the FIA but inside the building are Max and Bernie, dressed in blazers. As before there is something of a stand-off taking place and we have yet to see the denouement of this latest "war" between the competitors and the regulators.
The next skirmish will come on January 15 when Mosley has called a meeting for the F1 team bosses. No-one currently knows what the agenda will include and The Mole is quite sure that there is a reason for this. Normally such things would have leaked out by now. This suggests that there is going to be trouble. The Mole's sources say that the likelihood is that the FIA will put forward technical measures to cut costs. They have tried to do things with the Sporting Regulations and have achieved only a limited amount. And so they must try again, concentrating specifically on cost-cutting measures. Given the lack of time for research into new ideas The Mole would guess that the measures which will be discussed are likely to be ones which are proven to have worked in other formulae (CART, Formula 3000 and the Indy Racing League) such as standard ECUs and so on.
The point of interest, at least as far as The Mole is concerned, is not what will be suggested but how the FIA thinks that the new rules are going to be pushed through. In order for them to take effect the Concorde Agreement insists on 100% agreement between the teams. And how does one get these people to agree on anything?
There are, as The Mole sees it, two routes forward: the carrot and the stick.
"The carrot" would be some form of an incentive to get everyone to agree but The Mole does not see that working. It is not really the style of Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA. It is more likely that "the stick" will be used again. The Mole has pondered long and hard what threat there might be to get the teams to agree. The current cars could in theory at least be declared illegal (that trick was used in Canada in 1994) but there is no obvious way that could be done. There could be some kind of pressure exerted on the automobile manufacturers to convince them that they need to save money in F1. The pressure could perhaps be of a more subtle nature. If nothing happens in the year ahead there is a danger that a couple of teams will go to the wall and that would mean that there would be just eight teams left and, in order to meet their contractual obligations, they would need to supply three cars each to make up the numbers. That would push up costs still further and it might get to a point where one of the manufacturers might decide to pull the plug. That could force a renegotiation of the Concorde Agreement.
For the moment we do not know what topsy-turvy ideas will pop up on January 15, but The Mole is sure that something interesting will have to happen before everyone sits down and eats an F1 fruitcake.
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