Quiet days in Vauxhall

Formula 1 had gone on holiday - at least the people who do the racing have got a chance for a rest even if the factories are still whirring away merrily. For some of the F1 team bosses that means a boat off Sardinia although this year some strange new tax for visiting gin palaces has got some of them rather hot under their collars.

"Poor things," said The Mole, with all the sincerity of an afternoon game show host.

The Motor Racing and Trade Development Department of the Secret Intelligence Service was also very quiet. Penelope Roedean had gone off to the Cote d'Azur with some wealthy young blade, Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College) was climbing with the Schweizer Alpen-Club and Annabel - the new girl - had gone to Sweden in a camper van.

"I hope she likes trees," said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey).

"And rocks, Volvos and people called Johansson," said The Mole.

Even Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) was away, spending her two weeks on the beach at Southwold, building sandcastles with her nieces and nephews.

And that left The Mole and Penelope (Wycombe Abbey) holding the fort, hoping that the phone would ring and when it did not, doing crossword puzzles and playing word games.

"It's quieter than a morgue at midnight," said Penelope.

"No," said The Mole. "It's quieter than turkey farm at Christmas."

It was so quiet, in fact, that by the third day of the week they were reading Hello! magazine and looking at the pictures of all of Flavio's friends (or people who pretend to be) in St Tropez and other such places where the jetset lands in the summer. There was even a picture of Flavio himself.

"Oh look," said Penelope. "Pamela Anderson got married again."

"I thought she was going out with Eddie Irvine," said The Mole. "Honestly, I just cannot keep up with these people."

The Mole leafed through the pages about the Beckhams, the McCartneys, Madonna and Kylie. He paused rather longer at the pictures of Keira Knightley dressed as a nurse and then rushed on to the recipes where he thoroughly enjoyed the description of how to make Banana and Honey ice cream.

"Almost as sweet as Keira," he mumbled.

Penelope spent a long time on the pages dedicated to Kate and Chelsy, the girlfriends of the Princes.

"Oh God," she said. "How can a princess have a nose like that?"

The Mole loved to see jealousy in one so young.

"One day your prince will come," he said, with a saintly smile.

Penelope gave him a very dirty look and threw the magazine across the room and straight into a wastebin.

"Blimey," said The Mole.

"You should see me with throwing knives," said Penelope.

"Ah," said The Mole, "Perhaps your prince will run away."

There really was nothing to do.

Toyota quit the GPMA but that was so exciting that The Mole merely shrugged, mumbled "Who cares?" and did not even bother to analyse the whys and the wherefores. Toyota may be a big and powerful car company but its importance in F1 is limited until it understands how to win races - and that is proving a mystery for them.

"Re-signing Jarno Trulli for three more years was the most extraordinary thing in F1 since they signed Ralf," said Penelope.

"What about firing Mike Gascoyne?" said The Mole.

"Yes," said Penelope, "that was a classic decision as well. Scared off all the normal F1 engineers."

"What about this Gillan chap?" said The Mole. "He seemed like a good sort of chap when he was at Jaguar Racing."

"Well he's a proper academic bloke," said Penelope, "and he has lots of letters after his name. He's a lot less aggressive than Mike but, by all accounts, he knows what he is doing and good aero blokes are few and far between at the moment. There seems to be a dearth of them. The good ones are locked in contracts and the demand definitely outstrips the supply."

"I am not entirely sure why people worry much about engineers who don't know about aero," said The Mole. "That's the only thing matters, isn't it?

"The thing I think is that the Toyota is actually a pretty good car," said Penelope. "I'd like to see a young hungry driver at the wheel. Jarno is good on a good day and Ralf occasionally races well but I reckon that car could do a lot more in the hands of someone else. Those two are a bit inconsistent. Can you imagine what Kimi or Fernando might do with a Toyota?"

The Mole thought about it for a while.

"Well, it would certainly be interesting," he said.

"Well it is not going to change for a while, is it?" said Penelope. "Most of the deals are now done for next year and I expect we'll start talking about 2008 as soon as Ferrari get their announcement out of the way."

"Renault too," said The Mole.

"Oh," said Penelope. "I forgot about Renault. Isn't that funny? I forgot about the World Championship leaders next year. There must be some deep psychological reason for that."

"Perhaps it is because they won't be winning many races with Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen," said The Mole thoughtfully.

August 16 2006

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