A medical emergency

The Mole must apologise for failing to write a column last week. This was because of the sudden burst of activity in F1 after the summer holidays, coupled with the fact that The Mole was involved in a real life emergency room drama when he slipped on a banana skin that someone had left on the floor at SIS headquarters and, as a result, slid across a hallway and fell down some stairs. This unpleasant incident was complicated by a reflex action which resulted in him grabbing hold of the large bottle that sat, upside-down, on top of the water dispenser in the corridor outside the office. And that meant that as he fell it came away from its mountings. And as The Mole tumbled down the stairs he found he had both arms around a big bottle, and was aware of an unpleasant feeling of water pouring all over his trousers.

It was all rather embarrassing.

The rather naughty nurse he encountered in the Accident and Emergency Department at St Thomas's Hospital seemed completely unperturbed, as she locked his leg into one of those modern devices that stop one moving injured tendons and things.

"Look on the bright side," she said. "You didn't go head-first through the window, did you?"

It had been a long time since The Mole had been in a hospital and, for some reason, as he admired the nurse he remembered a line that David Coulthard had delivered a few months ago about there being only two sure things in life: "Death and nurses".

"Do things like that really happen?" he asked the nurse, pulling himself back to reality.

"Your eyes would water if I told you some of the things we see in here," she giggled. "Shampoo bottles are the thing. They get into the most extraordinary places!"

With that she winked, wiggled her starched posterior ever so slightly, and looked towards a squalling brat with a toilet seat around its head and mumbled: "Vaseline! My favourite."

The Mole picked up his crutches and hopped his way out into the real world again where Oswald the chauffeur was stamping out a cigarette and ready to rescue him from the arms of the National Health Service. If The Mole had hoped for a little sympathy from the girls in the office, he was to be disappointed. They were back from their holidays: refreshed, tanned and full of far too much energy. He sent Penelope (Wycombe Abbey) and Annabel the new girl off to Monza and spent most of the week being miserable.

"Look on the bright side," said Penelope (Roedean) on the morning after the race. "You could be Flavio Briatore. He has stepped on a whole series of banana skins and bars of soap in recent weeks. One after another. First there was the mass damper thing, then there was Alonso's penalty at Monza and then Flav opened his mouth a bit too much and said some pretty stupid things about F1 being more corrupt than Italian soccer. The next thing you know it is like Flav's in one of those pedalo boats going backwards at such speed that you think a great white shark is about to bite off his gonads. He was only joking, he said. And those nasty media people misinterpreted his remarks."

"I was amazed when I heard that he was joking," said Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College). "The Flavio I saw on TV last weekend did not look like a bloke in the mood to tell jokes. He looked very grumpy indeed."

"Yes," said The Mole. "I cannot help but think that perhaps he was told that the Execution Delegate at the FIA was building a gallows for the Turkish Grand Prix people and that if he did not shut up he might end up hanging with them in the Place de la Concorde."

"What a splendid idea," said Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College). "I never did like him."

"The thing is," said The Mole. "In this case you have to feel a little sorry for poor old Flavio. That penalty was absurd. Absolutely absurd. I am amazed that Max Mosley even tried to defend it when Martin Brundle beat him up with a microphone on the grid at Monza. There are some things one should not try to justify.

"Anyway, I really don't think it is a bad thing that all of this has happened. From time to time it is good to have scandals because it focusses people on a problem and forces change. If things are only moderately bad, no-one makes a fuss. I guess it is a bit like old houses, if you see a crack you tend to paint over it and you go on doing that until the ceiling falls on your head. At that point you have to face up to the realities and get to the root of the problem.

"I am afraid that F1 has a few beams that must now be fixed."

"Yes," said Penelope (Roedean). "When the World Champion gets up and publicly says that the sport stinks, I guess people have to do something. If nothing is done the public will start turning off the TVs."

"We got some research in from Germany the other day," said Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College). "This website asked 5500 people if they thought F1 was being manipulated and more than 50% of them said they did. That is a frightening figure. I mean, what happens if 50% of the TV viewers turn off their TVs? Do the people in F1 live such sheltered lives that they do not know about the fate of boxing? Are people really interested in athletics and the Tour de France when you know the competitors may all be using nasty secretions from monkeys to make themselves go quicker? When people watch sport, they want to see an honest competition. If they think that is not available they are going to turn off the TV."

"Unless they are wrestling fans," said The Mole.

"Absolutely," said Penelope (Roedean). "I won't watch that rubbish. Much better to grab a Pimm's and a guardsman and spend Sunday afternoon shagging!"

"Not really my thing," said The Mole drily.

"You get my point," said Penelope.

"I do," said The Mole. "If the people lose faith in the sport. It will be a disaster. If the TV numbers fall, the revenues will follow and everyone will be in trouble. Before you know it, the agents of the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department will be dressed as sheep, doing surveillance operations on Welsh separatists."

"A fate far worse than death," said Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College).

"So how do you fix the perception problems?" said Penelope (Roedean)

"Actually it is really very simple," said The Mole. "It is all about trust, isn't it? When the trust has gone, you cannot ever get it back."

"Like boyfriends," said Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College).

"If one has a life-threatening tumour you don't leave it there and hope that the problem goes away," said The Mole. "You chop it out. The problems in F1 are only about how one or two people are perceived, so the best thing is to promote them to exciting new positions. That way you get shining new faces in the paddock - and an FIA office in Greenland."

"And before you can say Nuuk," Penelope (Roedean) went on. "The trust returns. The nasty old media and the racing public pick up on it and Max doesn't get aggressive microphones shoved up his nostrils."

"I know a nurse who could help him remove them," said The Mole. "She's a bit of an expert."

September 11 2006

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