THE MOLE

The big glass boot in the sky

The Mole's injuries have now cleared up completely and, having been grounded for far too long, The Mole felt the need to fly off somewhere interesting and so decided to go to the launch of the ING-Renault sponsorship deal in Amsterdam.

"We can hear the speeches and make it for lunch at the Vermeer," said The Mole. "I hear they lost their second Michelin star recently but the avocado and octopus is really very good."

Annabel, the new girl, is still in awe of such things and simply nodded.

The next day they jumped on a VLM Fokker F50 and zipped over to Schipol where a taxi whisked them to the nearby ING House.

The building is rather weird to look at and seems from a distance like the back half of the Titanic, suspended above the polders.

"You know when an F1 drivers crashes and they strip the car down," Annabel said. "It looks like that. The tub sitting on some supports."

The Mole mused for a moment.

"I think it might be the prototype for Ron Dennis's next paddock palace," he said. "Anyway, it is rather bizarre."

"Like the front end of one of those TGV fast trains they have in France," said Annabel

"Yes, yes," said The Mole.

"I suppose that when the bank commissioned the architects they asked about ING and were told that the company was into marathons and so made a building like a big running shoe," Annabel added. "Either that or it is a joke about Dutchmen being called Cloggies."

"That's enough," said The Mole.

"Must have cost a bit," said Annabel.

"Yes," said The Mole, "rather more than the F1 sponsorship I fear. I mean at 25m per year for a title sponsorship the F1 deal is a bit of a bargain for the bank. Mind you, there haven't been that many big deals this year, have there? It is rather less than Mild Seven was paying as well but it is still a pretty solid replacement. Money is not easy to find these days."

"I don't know about that," said Annabel. "I heard the other day that some Dutchman called Har Muermans is going to spend $10m next year in F1."

The Mole raised an eyebrow.

"I have my sources," said Annabel. "Anyway, I went to his website. He's some big property developer guy and you know who is there?"

"Robert Doornbos," said The Mole, rather taking the wind out of the poor girl's sails.

"Yes," she said. "Old doorknobs."

"Where are they going to put the money?" The Mole asked. "I mean Red Bull Racing doesn't have sponsors and I doubt that Muermans is doing it for charity. I expect he wants some signage on the car."

Annabel nodded.

"You see," she said. "I've been wondering about this for a bit. You keep hearing people saying that they are talking about a Red Bull drive for 2007. Well, as far as I am concerned Red Bull Racing has announced David Coulthard and Mark Webber and I am pretty sure that Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed are under contract with Scuderia Toro Rosso. It would be silly not to have them under contract, given the amount of money that Red Bull has invested in them. So where are the other drives that people are talking about?"

"A good point," said The Mole. "I think both Speed and Liuzzi have done a pretty good job this year with a real old dog of a car and a team that was not much more than Minardi with a new paint job. Nice people but not up there with Renault and Ferrari when it comes to getting the job done."

"I did have one thought," said Annabel. "You know that Toro Rosso recently took on that bloke from Williams to do its marketing."

The Mole nodded.

"Well, that suggests that they need to find some money, doesn't it?" she went on.

"I guess so," said The Mole. "That would make sense because old man Mateschitz has got a lot of bills to pay and he only owns half of Toro Rosso and I suppose that could mean that Gerhard Berger might need to find the other half of the budget. Sponsors are pretty hard to find these days, particularly if you have results like Toro Rosso and I don't suppose that Gerhard is going to dip into his own millions. That's not his style. Besides, I hear he had an expensive year buying a new jet and a yacht that used to belong to Mansour Ojjeh.

"Mansour just shelled out 44m for a new 72-metre gin palace called the Kogo which some French military shipyard knocked up in its spare time," said Annabel. "So I guess he has off-loaded the old one on Berger."

"That sounds like a pretty good situation for Doorknobs," said The Mole.

"I don't think so," said Annabel. "I see that he was talking the other day about going to America and being an F1 test driver in his spare time."

The Mole rubbed his chin.

"So I guess Berger has to find the money from somewhere else."

"He should try a bank," said Annabel, looking up at the big glass boot in the sky. "They seem to have money to burn."

October 16 2006

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