Looking to the future

Mrs Batty was clearing away the cheese plates, tut-tutting at anyone who had not finished their Beenleigh Blue. The Mole had enjoyed the deliciously tangy but very rare sheep's cheese that Mrs Batty had tracked down with all the enthusiasm of a Labrador chasing a nice chewy stick. She had decided that this would go well with a bottle of Dickerson's 1987 Zinfandel, which she had found in the back of the cupboard while Spring-cleaning.

"A lusty combination," commented the moustachioed dowager from down the road.

"A very good description," said Penelope (Roedean). "I say, vicar, do you like a bit of Zin from time to time?"

The Reverend O knew that Penelope was teasing him, but he could do nothing to avoid blushing.

"It's amazing," he said, trying to cover his confusion. "The wine tastes a little of mint, and perhaps a hint of chocolate as well."

Penelope looked at him with rather large eyes, a signal which he misunderstood completely.

"Did you drop an After Eight in there?" she said.

They all knew that the Reverend O was enthralled with Penelope but only the vicar himself knew the extent of this passion. Secretly he hoped that one day Penelope would decide to give up her life as a undercover government gun-slinger and agree to spend the rest of her days as a clergyman's wife in a quiet parish in the Mendips.

He had decided some time ago that suburban parishes were really not his thing and was idly planning to one day disappear off to country where they still use the 1662 service. He knew that it was unlikely that Penelope would fall for a poor clergyman but, as a man of faith, left it in the hands of the Lord.

Mrs Mole had launched into the subject of wisteria and The Mole, The Colonel (The Mole's next door neighbour and a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party) and the Reverend were soon chased into the drawing room by Mrs Batty with a coffee pot and the trio settled down for a little post-prandial conversation - and perhaps a sniff of brandy - while the ladies disappeared into the garden.

"So what's happening in the racing world, Mole old boy?" said The Colonel.

The Mole shrugged.

"Oh, the usual stuff," he said. "Nothing very exciting. There's a lot of talk about driver movements. Some grumbling about flexible wings and all the usual political stuff."

"Bloody awful year for McLaren," said The Colonel, with his usual tact.

"No," said The Mole. "It's true that they have not achieved much thus far but I think that things will get better, although they do seem to be losing rather a lot of staff at the moment. It will be interesting to see what happens next year with Fernando Alonso."

"Will they keep Juan Pablo Montoya," said the Reverend O.

"I cannot imagine it," said The Mole. "Monty doesn't seem to fit in. And they have already failed to take up an option they had. My feeling is that they are looking elsewhere."

"I heard that Ron rather fancies Nico Rosberg," said the Reverend O, completely unaware of what he had said.

The Mole laughed.

"Well, I know he looks like a bit of a matinee idol but I am not sure he's Ron's cup of tea."

The Reverend realised what he had said and went rather quiet.

"I think young Rosberg needs to prove himself a little more before McLaren comes after him," said The Mole, moving the conversation swiftly on to spare the Reverend's blushes.

"Well, who would you choose?" said The Colonel.

The Mole shrugged.

"Actually I really don't know," he said, stirring his coffee. "There are not that many really quick drivers out there at the moment. We have Schumacher, Alonso and Raikkonen. I think Jenson Button has the potential to be a winner and I see more steel in Mark Webber this year. If that car holds together he might surprise us all one day."

He paused for a moment to consider, looking out of the window and watching the ladies gossiping down near the summerhouse.

"No," he said. "I think the big teams must look to the new generation for the next heroes."

"Who do you have in mind?" said The Colonel.

"Well," said The Mole. "There's this kid Lewis Hamilton who is racing in GP2 this year. He is very quick and may be mature enough to move up to F1 next year. We will have to see but so far he has done very well. If they give him a lot of testing over the winter, I think he could be in F1 next year and perhaps even become the next F1 superstar. He'd be very cheap to hire and I think he'd bring a lot more interest into the sport."

The Colonel pondered that for a moment.

"And Montoya?" he asked.

"Good question," said The Mole. "Really, I have no idea."

"Well, he's had a lot of chances with Williams and McLaren," said the Reverend, "and frankly he has not proved to be the mega-star that we once thought he was. Renault has got Heikki Kovalainen and I still think Schumacher could end up there. The other day Flavio said that Renault did not want Montoya. And there is no definitely no room at the Ferrari Inn."

"So really Juan Pablo and his people need to be looking to Toyota, BMW and Red Bull Racing," said The Colonel.

"Toyota could use someone feisty but I am not sure they are ready for a Montoya," said The Mole. "That would be a bit like running bulls through a china factory. It's not really Montoya country at all. BMW might have a sniff at him but I think they have the hots for the Polish chap and frankly the last thing they need is a big name blaming the car. And try as I might I just cannot see it happening at Red Bull. Half the people there now are from McLaren."

"How old is he?" asked the Reverend O.

"Thirty-one," said The Mole. "But that makes him 10 years older than Nico Rosberg."

"Time is moving on," said The Colonel. "Michael Schumacher is 37 and a dinosaur these days. David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve are not far behind and need to start thinking about getting proper jobs and, frankly, I think Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher have all had their chances. There are a lot of names that F1 can afford to send out to pasture."

"Why don't you say what you think," said The Mole, with a twinkle in his eye.

"A dangerous thing to do," said the Reverend who, for some reason, was staring out of the window at something in the garden.

May 4 2006

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