An old stamping ground

Looking out across the piece of water they call The Golden Horn towards the Topkapi Palace, The Mole decided that Istanbul was not half as bad as he remembered. Of course, his last visit had been back in the days of the Cold War, when Istanbul had been the place to dally with Brother Boris on important philosophical matters of the moment. The Orient Bar at the Pera Palas had always been the front line.

It all seemed a long time ago, The Mole noted to himself, and turned his attention to the Turkish Grand Prix. There is a huge ambition in Turkey for the race not because of the race itself but rather because of the messages it sends out to world.

Penelope (Roedean) was out at the Grand Bazaar, The Mole presumed that she would be haggling for a husband, but he had stayed in the hotel in order to try to figure out how to work the new computer that the technical wallahs back in London had given him. This had something called a hidden hard drive which The Mole had trouble finding because of an invisible option in one of the menus.

"If only I could ask one of the old Benetton Boys," he mumbled. "They would know about this sort of thing."

Eventually, in fact by accident, he hit the buttons in the correct order and an entirely secret section of his computer opened up before his eyes and he settled down to read his latest e-mails, including a file called "GP1" which the Registry has sent him in code.

It made interesting reading. For the last few months Bernie Ecclestone and his people have been working on a secret new championship called GP1 to replace the Formula 1 World Championship. This has been undertaken in case no other option exists and the big teams and car manufacturers go and do their own thing.

The Mole smiled as he read the details. It was classic Ecclestone. He is, it said, the motive force behind the GP2 Series although as always he lets Flavio Briatore be the front man. And it is all done through Lietchentsein so no-one can find the details of who owns what. GP2 is not a bad show, thought The Mole, but while in part this is due to the fact that the grids are reversed and artificial pit stops take place, it is also because the spread of talent in the series is huge because things are so expensive that all almost all the teams have to take on a rich driver to help pay the bills. Rich drivers always seem to get in the way.

The plan, The Mole read, is for GP1 to be an advanced version of GP2 with engines most likely to come from the older Mader factory in Switzerland, a facility which is now owned by Mecachrome. With Red Bull Racing and Ferrari in league in the current F1, it would not be unlikely if a good number of the cars carried sponsorship from Red Bull, as is currently the case in GP2. With plans for chassis sharing on the cards there could be a full field although the report did point out that none of the F1 team bosses are really interested as it would mean cutting their staff from 500 to 50 and throwing away all their investment for the last 25 years.

Or to put it another way, it meant the team owners destroying their life's work so that Ecclestone could take most of the money.

The application for the GP1 trademark had come, he read, from a company called Formula One Promtoions and Administration, which was a privately-owned firm used in the old days by Ecclestone before he sold out to the Formula One group. The whole concept will only work if Ecclestone is able to sign up more teams than Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Jordan. What fans want to see are the best teams: the McLarens, Williams, Renaults and BARs. And drivers too are important, which perhaps explains why there is talk of Michael Schumacher talking to McLaren.

The biggest fear, the report concluded, was that new TV and race contracts currently under negotiation may be agreed not with Formula One Management but rather with Formula One Promotions and Administration. Admittedly, most of those involved in the sport these days know the difference but those with lots of enthusiasm might find themselves having signed up for the wrong series.

"Sounds a silly idea me," said The Mole, and clicked the file closed.

"Ah, what about this?" he said aloud. "The next FIA President. doc. That sounds interesting."

It was a report on a Turk called Mumtaz Tahincioglu.

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

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