Penelope gets picked up

The Mole was nursing a gin and tonic and wondering to himself what would happen in the Place de la Concorde on Thursday. It was, he concluded, an awful mess that needed to be sorted out.

Then, with a barely audible screech of patent leather on the tiled floor, Penelope (Roedean) arrived, a little out of breath.

"Goodness," she said. "What a morning! The flight was really early. I mean like Rocky Horror Show in the mirror early. And then I had to rush to the flat, dump my stuff and get down here. The traffic was just awful."

She took a breath.

"Glass of white, please," she fired as the barman threatened to look in her direction. "Anyway, so I was in the lounge at Linate and there was this rather handsome chap who seemed a little forlorn so, rather than falling asleep and drooling in an embarrassing fashion, I decided to have a triple espresso and chat to him."

The Mole nodded. Caffeine was clearly flowing through her veins.

"Anyway," she went on. "It turns out that he was sad because Ferrari had done so badly at Monza."

"Wrist-slashing stuff," said The Mole, popping a pork scratching into his mouth.

Penelope winced, pork scratchings not being at all her thing.

"He obviously thought that I was some blonde in Milan to buy shoes and so after a while he began telling me that his wife did not understand him and that his work was a big mess and how all he really wanted to do was to escape to the mountains and have heaps of wild sex with a nice English girl."

The Mole raised an eyebrow.

"Well, he didn't actually say that, but that was what the subtitles were saying."

"The normal conversation with an Italian man," added The Mole.

"Pretty much," said Penelope, with an elegant scratch on the end of her nose. "Anyway, then he said he worked for Ferrari."

"That old line," said The Mole, with a grin. "I guess it still works down that way."

Penelope laughed.

"I assumed he was hitting on me," she went on, "but then he said that there was a power struggle going on between Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo and I fell off my chair. I mean I was sitting on the arm of the chair, to make him feel that I had the hots for him, and I literally fell off and was scrambling on the floor And as I was doing that I noticed that he had one of those sexy briefcases with a prancing horse logo just about the lock."

"Really?" said The Mole. "Now you are talking."

"He was very nice," Penelope went on. "He helped me up and even patted my bottom to get some dust off my skirt."

"What a nice man," said The Mole, eyeing the rump in question.

"So anyway," she went on, "he then tells me that after two years without a world title Montezemolo thinks it is time for Todt to go and unless the FIA comes to Ferrari's rescue this year and punishes McLaren. It is going to be three failures in a row. He said that a year ago it was expected that Todt would retire when Michael Schumacher quit but then he decided to stay on because he liked being an F1 boss so much. The problem is that Ross Brawn is supposed to come back and take over the running of the team and leave Todt pushing papers about road cars around his desk. But he does not want that. You remember a year ago Montezemolo announced that Todt would stay on as head of the racing department on an "interim" basis and it was assumed that the job was being kept open for Brawn. The trouble is that Todt really wants to keep his job and Brawn won't come back in his old role and so Montezemolo cannot restructure without pushing Todt out but he cannot do that without a good reason. His big chance is to do it if Ferrari fails to win this year because that will mean that Todt will need to answer serious questions when the Ferrari board next meets. If Ferrari wins Todt will be a hero again and no-one will ask the difficult questions. If Ferrari loses Todt has to justify how the Ferrari F2007 was such a quick car and yet how the team failed to win. He will have to explain about poor reliability and the Stepneygate business. Most of all, he will have to explain how it was that the wind tunnel fell apart because of poor maintenance which is the real reason why Ferrari fell behind in the World Championship.

"So Todt needs a title and is pushing really hard to get McLaren punished as this will wipe out his problems and lessen the impact of Nigel Stepney saying that he knows things that Ferrari does not want to come out."

"Wonderful," said The Mole. "What was the guy's name?"

Penelope shrugged.

"No idea," she said. "He did not say."

"So how did it all end up?" said The Mole.

"They called his flight," Penelope said. "He gave me his phone number and said that if I would like to see some of the splendid sights in the Italian lakes I should call him. He said that Bellagio is beautiful in November when the tourists are no longer there and that he knows a great little hotel from which one can enjoy great views, exhilarating walks and even a trip to Milan for shopping and La Scala. And the food is really good too."

"Every girl's dream," said The Mole.

Penelope shrugged her shoulders.

"There are worse things," she said.

The Mole nodded.

"Sure," he said. "You could be his wife."

September 11 2007

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