Morale and destabilisation
JANUARY 13, 2002
There is nothing The Mole finds more disheartening than government lawyers who read The Mole's columns and decide that he is cutting too close to the bones of powerful individuals and so his work must be shredded immediately. The is then burned and the ashes are scattered over Motorsport Valley to ensure that no-one ever discovers what was written. The Mole hates to see the bad guy riding into the sunset (with the girl and the bags of gold). In such circumstances, The Mole goes out and has a nice lunch with some nice ladies and charges the government.
Morale is such an important thing. For Formula 1 teams it is a vital element of success. People will work day and night for someone they trust and respect but they will do only what is necessary for someone who does not warrant anything more. The Mole has always believed that it is not slimy, throat-cutting evil people who win in Grand Prix racing. It is the people who can be trusted. It those who demand respect on a human level. Blind ambition is one thing (and it can occasionally bring fleeting success) but longterm success needs trust and respect from the F1 community and from the workforce.
There is a reason why Williams and McLaren have won so many titles. Jean Todt may not come across well to journalists (for he is a cold fish to interview) but The Mole knows that when he is dealing with his team he is a man to be trusted and his drivers and colleagues hold him in the highest esteem. Ron Dennis may whinge a little too much and see conspiracies under every stone (along with the people who perpetrate them) but he knows how to lead a team.
Frank Williams is the source of inspiration to his team.
Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have no idea at all. Although we might complain that the sport is a technical one, the ultimate truth is that it is a sport in which force of character is still the main issue. Alain Prost was a great racing driving but when it came to team management he did not know how to do it. Craig Pollock was just beginning to show that he had the right idea when he was taken out by British American Tobacco. But Pollock has caught the Formula 1 bug and will almost certainly be back in one form or another. Others do not understand the concept or have forgotten why it is that they are involved. For them F1 is way to make money or a way to be famous.
The thing that has always been fascinating for The Mole is that people will go to such extremes to be successful in the sport and at the moment we are seeing that happening around Jaguar Racing.
Jaguar is wounded. The team has taken a lot of hits in recent months. Some are of its own making for Ford Motor Company politics is something which make the Borgias look like nice old Bob and Gladys just down the road. The team has suffered from that. The whole Jaguar story looks to be a mess and this is rather sad. For some reason The Mole feels a strange emotional attachment to the concept of Jaguar. Jaguars are a sign of comfortable success although a successful gentleman (if indeed there is such a thing) never has anything other than an Aston Martin.
Jaguar Racing started out as a good idea despite the fact that in Detroit there have always been people who did not like the concept.
For the last few weeks The Mole's staff have been firing in reports saying that there are "problems at Jaguar". The Mole reads the files and then sends them to the Registry in the basement. The Mole called in his team the other day to discuss the reports. They are an interesting lot: a quartet of pretty girls all called Penelope and a couple of pipe-smoking academic types with ill-fitting jackets. Their job is to find out where things are going to happen in F1 but before they actually happen. They are The Mole's equivalent of a research and development department.
The Mole questioned them about their views on Jaguar Racing and they began talking of a letter that is being circulated amongst the press purporting to have been written by a team member. This is critical of the team and its leading players. The person who is supposed to have signed the letter apparently did not write it. But no-one knows who did. The Penelopes said that there might be a deliberate attempt going on to destabilise the team.
For the moment there is no obvious motive for this. Their assessment is that it could be an element of revenge from those who are not happy with what happened when Bobby Rahal was ousted from the team last summer. It might however be that someone wants Ford to pull the plug on the team so they can take advantage of the situation.
One way or another, things are not good at Jaguar Racing at the moment and while the team can brush off such problems, the very fact that a letter exists shows just how troubled things are. Motivating the team in such circumstances is a very difficult thing to do.
The best way forward is to have the Jaguar R3 produce some good performances in the early races of the year. That will quieten down the jackals and get the team bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again. The big question now therefore is whether there is anyone at Jaguar who can make the R3 go quickly.
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