A little light entertainment
APRIL 12, 2002
The last few days have been very stressful in the world of Formula 1. The Mole was not surprised by what happened at the A1 Ring on Sunday but, like everyone in Formula 1, he was surprised by the reaction. This is the biggest public reaction to the sport since the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 and the message that is coming from all across the world is that the sport has got to give up "race-fixing". There have always been team orders when they are necessary: firstly because as long as drivers are paid to drive they can be told what to do; and secondly because the investment is such that no-one can afford to leave things to chance.
The Williams team has on occasion used team orders to help its lead driver at the end of a season but it has also paid the price for allowing its drivers to fight with each other. In 1981 and in 1985 the team lost the Drivers' World Championship because the fight for domination by the two team drivers led to a third driver collecting enough points to steal the title away. Williams accepts this. They believe that teams have a responsibility to the fans to provide good racing and so their primary motivation is always to win the Constructors' title. They see the Drivers' title as a bonus.
Ferrari has a different policy and given the world's reaction to what happened in Austria, it is one that needs to be rethought. The Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham has been receiving hundreds of e-mails and faxes from people saying that they are trading in their Ferraris for Honda Civics and BMWs in disgust at what was done at the A1 Ring.
The Ferrari men can justify what they did within the rules of the sport but The Mole's think tank's postmortem was that the team would have been wiser to use a little more commonsense. The team's position in the Constructors' Championship was the same whether Barrichello finished ahead of Schumacher or not. So the only person to gain from it all was Michael Schumacher and, after four wins in five races, it did not seem necessary for the team to help him to the title. The worst crime however was that this was the first time that a team mate has ever beaten Michael fairly and squarely and there were millions of people around the world waiting to celebrate that fact. And they were robbed of the celebration in the most unsubtle fashion.
It is not the first time that Jean Todt has done such things in his career. Thirteen years ago The Mole joined up with the Paris-Dakar Rally after spending New Year's Eve with his old pal Colonel Gadhafi, Leader of the Revolution and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in Libya, discussing the sort of things one does with totalitarian dictators who like blowing things up.
It was a very pleasant evening.
The following morning, after listening the New Year's Day Concert from Vienna on the wireless, The Mole set off through the desert in one of those four-by-four things and a few days later, fortified by roasted goat flavoured with sand and a little kerosene, turned up in Agadez in Niger in time to join up with the last great automotive adventure.
At the time two Peugeot 405s of Jacky Ickx and Ari Vatanen were two hours ahead of the rest of the field and fighting one another. From Agadez to Tahoua Vatanen was unbeatable and then it was on to Niamey (where, remarkably, there is a very nice Vietnamese restaurant) and Gao.
On the last stage before Gao Vatanen rolled his Peugeot 405 and Todt, who was the boss of Peugeot Talbot Sport at the time, decided that the race had to stop. That evening Todt called his drivers together and told them that the rally would be decided by the toss of a 10 Franc coin. The event still had six days to go! Todt tossed the coin and declared that Vatanen should be the winner. Ickx played the Barrichello role and looked crestfallen. Vatanen said that he was not happy to win the event in this way (a la Schumacher).
The Paris-Dakar is one of the biggest events in France and there were howls of criticisms from the cafes of Paris but at Peugeot headquarters on the Avenue de la Grande Armee the bureaucrats smiled and put some gold stars on the front of Todt's file in the personnel department and then went back to selling Peugeot 205s in Orleans and Toulouse.
The Mole felt that Todt had knowingly ruined the last true motor sporting adventure and The Mole decided that when the rally reached Bamako (the Nashville of West Africa) a few days later that he had had enough and he took a plane back to Europe, having first picked up a few cassettes of The Bamako Rail Band, Tata Bambo Kouyate and Kolly et ses Acolytes in the local market.
A little Bamako Rail Band music does wonders for shaping up a dull dinner party down at The Mole's country house but in general he is a fan of more classical music and finds that a touch of Elgar does wonders to clear the head.
Josef Haydn is not one of The Mole's favourites but one cannot help but enjoy the anthem which he wrote as the Austrian national anthem and which, thanks to a man in the 1940s with a very trimmed moustache, later became the national anthem of Germany. "Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles" had never before been played after the Austrian GP. Over the years they have played the bouncy little Italian anthem on several occasions, "God Saved the Queen" and "La Marseillaise". Alan Jones says that when he won the race in 1977 the Austrians were so surprised that they did not have the music for the Australian national anthem and so a drunk played Happy Birthday on a trumpet instead.
On Sunday in Austria it seems one could hardly hear the magnificent tune because of the whistling from the crowd.
The Austrian Chancellor did not look very comfortable. There he was on global television with his own countrymen whistling abuse at him while a Brazilian stood on the top step of the podium while they played the German national anthem. All was confusion.
The Mole switched off his TV, threw the keys to his Ferrari into the dustbin and went off to listen to a little Elgar.
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