DECEMBER 17, 2004
It was freezing in Geneva, as it often is at this time of year. The Mole had arranged for lunch with one of his contacts, known as The Fixer. Normally he would have nipped out of the airport at Cointrin and gone to the Hotel de l'Aviation, a quiet place where the food was marvellous and there was guaranteed to be no-one from the Formula 1 world. But The Fixer was busy and had a limited amount of time to get from his office in Lausanne and so it was agreed they would meet somewhere in the middle. The Mole, an old Geneva hand from Cold War days, picked the Buffet de la Gare in Celigny, a nice place in the country, off the beaten track and rarely visited by the tax-dodging billionaires who live in the neighbourhood. He had organized a chauffeur-driven car from the airport. He flashed his diplomatic passport at the Swiss policeman and strode through into the baggage hall. Outside was a man with a sign that read "M. Taupe".
"Monsieur Taupe?" asked the chauffeur.
Minutes later the big Mercedes was on the motorway heading north. Within minutes it was wiggling through country lanes to The Buffet.
Not much had changed.
"Salut Nicolas," said The Mole as he entered. "Salut Joelle. Ca va?"
The owners smiled.
"A bottle of Schutz & Moser?" asked Nicolas, without even a blink.
"Perfect," said The Mole. "Even on a cold day."
The Fixer was already there. They ordered and then chatted for a while about the sponsorship scene in Formula 1 and in the impending ban on tobacco.
"And what about the Russians?" said The Fixer.
"It's just like the old days in The Cold War," he said, with a smile
"Not quite," said The Fixer. "This new generation of Russians have Canadian passports."
The Mole laughed.
"We all had Canadian passports," he said. "That was what spies had. They were so easy to get. You just went along to a graveyard, jotted down a few details and then applied for a passport. A couple of weeks later you were a Canadian."
The Fixer raised an eyebrow.
"Never trust a man with a Canadian passport who does not have a Canadian flag on his rucksack or a Maple Leaf pin on his lapel," said The Mole. "Real Canadians always have that to prove to the world that they are not Americans."
"Anyway," said The Fixer, "I don't get the impression that these Russian guys care very much about motor racing."
The Mole shrugged.
"But the people running the team do," he said.
The conversation turned to Colin Kolles, the new managing director of Jordan, over the lobster bisque.
"A man I know from Ingolstadt told me that Kolles is the son of Ceausescu's dentist," said The Fixer.
"Nicolae Ceausescu?" asked The Mole. "The communist who was president of Romania between 1968 and 1989?"
The Fixer nodded.
"So they say."
"Really?" said The Mole. "That was all a bit of mess at the end. Ceausescu and his missus had to get out chop-chop by helicopter when the army rose up against them. We heard that one of his aides held a gun at the head of the chopper pilot."
"Very persuasive," said The Fixer.
"It always worked for me," said The Mole. "This guy must have been brave or stupid because he faked an engine failure and landed the chopper. There followed a bit of a car chase and in the end the police got the president and handed him over to the army."
The Mole indicated with his fingers that Ceausescu had been shot shortly afterwards.
"Any sensible dentist would have got out of town after that," said The Fixer. "Anyway, dentistry must have been big business in Romania because when the Kolles Family came west it was not long before Colin began running around in flash cars and racing Formula 3. After that he started his own team. That was in the 1990s. The team did not win anything until 2001 when Pierre Kaffer was driving for them. And then in 2002 Kolles and Carlin got together to run a team at Macau."
"Delightful perch," said The Mole, savouring the fish that had now arrived.
The Fixer looked out of the window.
"Not a bad view," he said, rather mystified by The Mole's remark.
The Mole raised his eyebrows.
"Anyway, it does not matter what the story is," he said. "The thing that I see is a group of people arriving in Formula 1 in the most dangerous of all possible states."
"What is that?" said The Fixer.
"They don't know what they don't know," said The Mole. "Carlin and Kolles may have won in Formula 3 and they may have a pile of money but the signs are that they are underestimating the job in hand. Signing up Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro is not a good idea. Neither has any experience."
"Well, Minardi has done the same," said The Fixer.
"Yes, " said The Mole, "but Paul Stoddart knows what he is doing. He is doing it for the money. He has no illusions. Midland could have found some money to get a more experienced driver. I have seen the same thing with Craig Pollock at BAR and with Toyota. They all make the same mistake. They seem to think that if they draft in the members of the Carlin Motorsport Nissan World Series team then things will be fine. They've put in the general manager, an engineer and the chief mechanic."
"Were they very successful in the Nissan series?" asked The Fixer. "I cannot say I'm an expert on obscure championships in the Iberian Peninsular."
"They did not win anything in 2003 and then last year Pons Racing and Heikki Koavalainen won eight of the 18 races. Carlin won five. I guess Monteiro was second in the championship."
"What the hell," said The Fixer, "Midland can afford to lose a few million dollars."
"Not if they are going to pay for their Ferrari V8 engines in 2006," said The Mole.
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