Secrets in Lugano
MAY 31, 2003
"The answer is in Lugano," said Number Two, his voice slightly raised. "I think we should organise a break-in!"
The Mole sighed. He waved his hand airily as if to say to Number Two that there was no need for further sound.
Number Two stopped talking.
The Mole heard a pin drop and watched a slightly flustered Penelope searching as elegantly as she could beneath her chair with one hand. He wondered what the pin had been holding up, holding in or holding down.
To save the poor girl further embarrassment, The Mole decided he would speak again.
"I am not sure that Sganzini, Bernasconi, Peter & Gaggini would appreciate a clandestine visit," he said. "And it might not be very easy to find what we are looking for. It is a big law firm and I don't suppose that they have a red filing cabinet with a prancing horse logo on the side."
"Well perhaps we could have a word with Dr Henry Peter," said Number Two, not willing to admit defeat.
"Swiss lawyers are not exactly famous for spilling the beans about their clients," said The Mole. "I do not expect he will tell us everything we want to know."
The Mole looked at the dossier in front of him. Peter is 46. He was the youngest and best lawyer to be admitted to the Geneva bar in 1981. He was a visiting scholar at the University of California in Berkeley. He got his doctorate in 1988 and is now an associate professor of law at Geneva University, while also being a partner of SBPG and one of the leading lawyers in sport. And he represents Ferrari in all commercial, contractual and sporting issues.
"Well, if there is one person who knows for certain," said Number Two. "It is him!"
"And he is not going to tell us!" said The Mole. "Look, the bloke clearly has a laser beam intellect and is inordinately discreet."
"He's half-French," said Number Two, trying to sustain the argument.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Any known vices?" said Number Two. "We could send one of the Penelopes down there and see if he is susceptible to a little slap and tickle."
"No!" said The Mole. "It is not really that important. I mean do we really care if Rubens Barrichello leaves Ferrari and goes to Sauber next year? Does it make the petals fall off your roses? Will the knowledge enable us to stop traffic jams on the M25? He knows and we don't. We will find out soon enough. We can wait."
Number Two looked a little crestfallen.
"Not even a little honeytrap?" he said miserably.
"I think you need a holiday," said The Mole.
"I was thinking of going to Lugano," Number Two fired back.
The Mole shot his deputy a dirty look.
"Lugano is a very pretty spot," said Number Two. "It is on Lake Ceresio. It is a town full of history which links Italy with the rest of the world and it played an important role in the Italian uprising as it provided shelter for the revolutionaries. And after they opened the St Gotthard railway tunnel it became a tourist resort for the rich and cultivated bourgeoisie..."
"...which is why you want to go there," said The Mole.
"Well, I am not rich," said Number Two.
"In that case, stick to Clacton-on-Sea!"
The meeting broke up and The Mole was left to think.
It is quite possible, he thought, that Barrichello could be moving to Sauber, although there are rumours too that Felipe Massa put his signature on a Sauber contract during the European Grand Prix weekend. The Mole felt that either story could be true but that on balance it was more logical for Ferrari to want Massa alongside Michael Schumacher.
Michael is going to retire one day and even if it is at the end of 2006, Massa is so young now that by then he will still only be 24 years old. In preparation it would be useful for Ferrari to have Massa racing and getting comfortable with the team, learning from Schumacher and getting ready to step into his shoes.
And perhaps also to help push Michael if he slows a little in the twilight of his F1 career.
Rubens, like Eddie Irvine before him, needs to move on in order to maintain his motivation and get out from under the shadow of Schumacher. It must have hurt Rubens the other day when Ferrari announced it had extended the contracts of all the major players apart from him. And if Ferrari is planning so far ahead in all other respects it would be daft to not have decided on a strategy for the second driver.
Moving Rubens to Sauber would also help the Swiss team. Ferrari wants Sauber to be fairly competitive to help in the battle against Williams and McLaren. Giving Sauber a driver of Rubens's experience and speed would help Sauber improve and probably help the team to produce better results and raise more sponsorship money.
There are those who say that Barrichello is under contract at Ferrari until the end of 2004. This is true, but who is to say (apart from Dr Peter) whether this contract might allow Ferrari to transfer him to Sauber. And anyway why would Peter Sauber sign Massa again when he and the Brazilian did not get on in 2002.
There is no reason to suggest that things would be any better in 2004.
Out across the River Thames, The Mole could see the MI5 building and he wondered what fun and games they were up to down there.
His train of thought was disturbed by one of the Penelopes, knocking on the door.
"Come in," he said.
"Hello sir," she said. "I've brought you the Jean Todt file. Very interesting reading. But you know there is nothing really about Massa, except a suspicion noted down in 2001 that Todt is managing Massa in his spare time. That is backed up by a report which seems to have come from Jordan sources that when Eddie Jordan wanted to sign up Massa earlier this year he found that the man behind Massa was Todt."
"Well, it is not unusual for team bosses to personally manage the drivers in their employ," said The Mole.
"Yes," said Penelope, "but not at Ferrari."
"True, it is not the team's style, is it?" replied The Mole. "If Jean Todt is Massa's manager it would not do to have him signed to race for Ferrari. Dr Peter likes to keep things neat and tidy, particularly as there are shareholders involved and a flotation is being planned. If Massa is at Sauber it would not be a problem and Todt could take a slice of his earnings. But if Felipe is at Ferrari..."
"Yes, I reached the same conclusion," she said. "If Massa signs to race for Ferrari, Todt would be under pressure to let him go. And the funny thing is that last week my contact in Lugano told me that there has been some negotiations going on and she believes that Massa has been released from his contract with Todt.
"Which means he is not going to Sauber," said The Mole.
"My thoughts entirely," said Penelope, fiddling with her pearls.
"I suppose I should mention that to Number Two," said The Mole absentmindedly.
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