Pain and pleasure

Penelope (Roedean) had spent the weekend being tortured in a country house not far from London.

She had concluded that before hitting the beaches on the Cote d'Azur in the middle of August, when all the French go back to Paris and it is civilised once again, she needed a trip to a health farm. And so, while The Mole went to spend a soggy weekend in Budapest, she was steamed, covered in detoxifying algae, bombarded with high pressure hoses, and then after a light lunch involving salmon and assorted weeds, subjected to "a restorative mud envelopment" followed by an Indian head massage, a manicure, a pedicure and rather painful waxing and polishing. After all of that she needed a lie down before dinner and woke up at 10pm, starving but with no chance of getting any food. She pondered slipping down the drainpipe and battling through the dark woods to find a pub and lusted (yes, that is not too strong a word) for a stiff gin and a bag of pork scratchings. In the end she concluded it would be best to sleep but, alas, she could not and so after finishing a murder mystery (the butler did it) she found herself reading the only other book she had scooped up before departing. This was "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers, a book that Max Mosley has undoubtedly read. This was rather dull and just before the dawn chorus began tuning up she fell asleep and awoke at 10am having missed breakfast and was then forced by a moustachioed and muscled dominatrix to jog through what seemed like an endless forest.

"By lunchtime my stomach and thighs had both disappeared!" she complained to The Mole. "My entire body was feeding off my gluteus maximus."

"You must have been very hungry," said The Mole.

"Yes," said Penelope, "and all they fed me was a fiddly piece of tuna and some more weeds drenched in balsamic vinegar."

"Ghastly," said The Mole.

The day continued with a bronzing session during which the captive fell asleep, and that meant that she was embarrassingly pink when she took to the swiming pool on Sunday afternoon for a final toning of the muscles. She was then massaged to a point at which she could no longer think straight and at 5pm was sent off home.

"I was in a real daze," she said. "So rather than drive home and crash into someone, I went to the nearest pub and had a stiff gin and some pork scratchings. I read somewhere that in America there is a pork scratching diet. It seemed like a good idea to give that a try."

"Well, you look very clean and healthy," said The Mole, trying to be encouraging.

Penelope smiled.

"Anyway," said Penelope. "When I was reading that power book and I reached some rather startling conclusions."

"Really?" said The Mole.

"It struck me that all this fighting between the FIA and the automobile manufacturers makes no sense at all," she said. "They are supposed to be grown-ups and while it may be a tussle between them for power, it is actually not in the interest of either side to reach an agreement."

The Mole raised an eyebrow.

"Well, when CVC Capital Partners bought Formula One Management they thought that FOM would quickly sort out all the problems and there would soon be a bond issue. They would have their money back and all would be well, they would have an asset that had been paid for and which was earning them money as well. But that has not happened. Time has rolled on and while FOM did finally get a commercial deal with the teams, a new Concorde Agreement needs a settlement over the technical regulations as well. Without a Concorde Agrement CVC cannot go to the bond market. And so CVC is disappointed with FOM and both, through their inability to solve the problem, are losing power. They are exposed and the knowledge that their power is draining away increases the problem because without power there is less respect and with less respect there is less power."

"I follow you," said The Mole.

"Well," said Penelope. "The longer that goes on, the weaker they become and at some point the FIA and the manufacturers must have realised this because they are both dragging their feet to get the technical deal. And all the while there are worries about the TV revenues of the future because TV advertising revenues are coming down and that means that in the fullness of time TV stations will be less keen to bid for F1 TV rights and with less demand from TV companies there is less money for FOM."

"Which means that FOM has to improve the show and start looking elsewhere to balance the books," said The Mole.

"In other words," said Penelope, "not getting a settlement in the technical battle will force FOM to go out and do all those things that it has not been bothered to do in recent years."

"Hmm," said The Mole. "So do you think we will end up with F1 movies and mini-series?"

"Why not?" said Penelope. "And more merchandising and perhaps some pressure on the drivers to be more fan-friendly."

"So what you are saying is really that the fight between the FIA and the manufacturers is a good thing," said The Mole.

"Absolutely," said Penelope. "It's like going to a health farm. It's not much fun being buried in seaweed and waxed and polished but just look at the result."

And with that she spun on her heel, stuck out her pert little bottom, threw back her hair and, with a rather naughty laugh, marched out of The Mole's office.

"It must have been the pork scratchings," said The Mole.

August 10 2006

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