One too many for The Colonel

"It is time for a barbecue," The Mole announced while breakfasting on Saturday morning. "Let's bring in the usual suspects and entertain our nearest and dearest with the gentle roasting of tender meats over fragrant charcoal."

Mrs Mole rolled her eyes.

"Yes dear," she said. "Just one little thing. No Pak Bung. Ever since that Thai barbecue we've been finding bits of that horrid cabbage everywhere. I found some in the apple tree and another bit in the peg bag. I am not having any more vegetable tossing in my garden."

"It was fun," said The Mole.

"Sausages and lamb chops," said Mrs Mole with a Churchillian look on her face.

The Mole pouted but then remembered a rather splendid recipe involving sausages, honey and rosemary and concluded that this would be fine.

"And lots of Pimm's," he said.

"Oh Lord, preserve us," said Mrs Mole.

As it turned out most of the usual gang were away on holiday and only The Colonel (The Mole's next door neighbour and a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party) and the Reverend O were able to attend. They came round to watch the Grand Prix and The Colonel insisted on calculating the number of Pimm's refills needed in the course of the race, so that their pit stops did not interfere with the stops in the F1 race.

"I think this is a three Pimm's race," The Colonel said. "So we have a number of strategic windows of opportunity."

The Mole and the Reverend O looked at one another in horror.

The Colonel carefully set up in the conservatory with a bowl of chopped fruits, mint and borage. Ice was carefully removed from trays and made ready.

"What we really need is a lemonade gun," he announced.

"I shall just mosey on down to the local saloon and get one," said Mrs Mole, before returning to her roses.

By the middle of the race, things had got a little out of hand. The Colonel's three-stop strategy had been ruined with a Ralf Schumacher-like moment when he tripped and dropped half a glass of Pimm's on the grass. He dashed back into the conservatory for a refill.

"Stop the clock!" cried the Reverend O, who seemed by then to be less keen on moderation than normally. "Four ice cubes and a full tank of fuel in 7.2 seconds. A terrific pit stop."

The Colonel went downhill from there.

"How can the Renaults be so good one day and so awful the next," he slurred. "It's those mass dampers and the FIA."

"You have to be a bit careful how you say that," said The Mole.

"What's a mass damper?" said The Reverend O.

"A tricky thing in the suspension," said The Colonel, showing off his in-depth knowledge of all things technical.

"Well," said The Mole. "The F1 engineers want their cars to be as stable as possible. If the cars are jumping around all over the place, they are less efficient because the contact patch of the tyre needs to be as large as possible at all times. If your wheels are in the air, you don't get any grip!"

The Colonel giggled in a rather maniacal fashion.

"The best answer would be those exotic active suspension systems we used to have in the 1980s and 1990s," The Mole went on. "But they are banned so the next best thing is to do the same thing using weight. Last year some of the teams were moving fuel around inside their tanks to get the weight where they wanted it. Honda got into trouble about that so the other teams started looking for another solution and in September Renault introduced these mass damper things. The FIA looked at them and said they were fine. So Renault designed this year's car around those dampers. And that was a huge advantage because when something is designed into the car, others people cannot copy it quickly. There have been a few attempts. At least seven teams having tried the idea."

"So the FIA has banned the mass dampers to mess up Renault and allow Ferrari to catch up," slurred The Colonel.

The Mole sighed.

"That is the problem," he said. "That is what everyone thinks. I had to admit that it is really clumsy timing from the federation because it makes it look as though they are trying to manipulate the championship."

"They must be," said The Colonel, with a quiet burp.

"Well consider this," said The Mole. "Perhaps all the other teams have started working on next year's cars and have concluded that if vertical mass dampers are allowed then there is no reason why they should not use them horizontally and longitudinally as well. Nor is there any reason why they cannot make them bigger and put them closer to the centre of gravity of the cars."

"So ban them for next year," said The Colonel. "Not for now."

The Mole nodded. Amazingly, that was logical.

"They should have proper regulations that are not open to interpretation," said the Reverend O. "Leave the devil a tiny gap and he will jump into it."

"Who is the devil in this scenario?" said The Mole.

He never did get an answer as The Colonel launched himself into one of his famous rants, the kind of thing that he usually reserved for Tony Blair.

"I think it is manipulation," he said. "Look at the timing. Renault goes into two back-to-back races and there is no time for a court of appeal because all the judges are off building sand castles. Renault cannot risk running the dampers because they might then lose all the points at a later date. They are screwed. The next thing will be that the FIA will decide that everything is all right for this year and suddenly Renault will be back in the hunt. The fight for the World Championship will be on, but Renault will not be able to claim points that were never scored."

"No," said The Mole. "I bet they have the dampers back in Hungary. If you cannot score points without them, you have nothing to lose."

"A damned conspiracy," said The Colonel, swaying slightly.

"Conspiracies are generally just attempts by people to cover up for their screw-ups." said The Mole.

"Oh yes," said The Colonel. "That was what happened to JFK."

"Sausage anyone?" said Mrs Mole.

"Got any of that Pak Bung stuff?" said The Colonel.

July 31 2006

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