THE MOLE

What DID happen at that meeting in Paris?

"So what happened at that meeting in Paris?" said The Colonel, as they sat in their usual seats down at the village pub.

The Mole smiled.

"You know that I would have to kill you if I tell you that," he said, taking a sip of his Whisky Mac.

"Well, I'm old enough," said The Colonel. "I've lived a full life. Sorted out a few bad buys in my time and I fully expect to be on the fast train to Heaven, so I am not too bothered really."

The Mole laughed.

"I love your confidence," said The Mole. "I expect I will end up trapped in a room with the team principals."

"That will be Hell," said The Colonel.

"Well," The Mole added. "You have always been the righteous one. I have always been more pragmatic."

The Colonel smiled. It was the kind of smile that old soldiers give to ladies as they deliver glasses of sherry to them.

"I must say," The Mole went on. "It took an awful lot to get the details. The Penelopes had to really turn on the old charm. But you know there are one or two of those chaps who are a little susceptible to persuasion. It makes them feel good to be associated with lithe and sexy young women."

"So they are men?" said The Colonel, opening a packet of pork scratchings.

"Apparently," said The Mole. "Although Penelope (Roedean) did say she was a little worried about a couple."

"Re-eally," said The Colonel. "What a suggestion! Does she have any evidence?"

"Of course not," said The Mole. "I guess it is a woman's intuition. She thinks some of those guys are not really interested in sex. They are only into power."

"Sex is power," said The Colonel.

"That depends how you do it!" said The Mole.

"Or who you do it with," added The Colonel.

The two men nodded and reckoned that they had the world pretty much under control.

"From what we can gather," The Mole began, "Mosley was on a charm offensive, wanting to move F1 onward from the messy 2007 season. They talked a lot about engines and agreed that the engine freeze until 2018 is really not a good idea and so concluded that it will end in 2012. There will then be a completely new engine package in 2013, but this must reflect some of the latest technologies and take into account the industry requirements for efficiency and low emissions."

"That is sensible," said The Colonel. "F1 needs to remain relevant for the automobile manufacturers as well as keeping down the costs."

"True," said The Mole. "Anyway, the new engines will need to be low-cost, long-life and with running costs that are suitable for use by customer teams. The aim is to establish the concept of the engine within a year and the full technical regulations by the start of 2010. The FIA is even going to try to stop them all spending on the development of this new engine prior to the middle part of 2010."

"And the River Thames will start to flow up to Hampstead Heath at about the same time," said The Colonel, taking a close look at a pork scratching but eating it nonetheless.

"They are then going to put a cap on engine spending," The Mole went on. "That will include not only the cost of development but also fix the price that customer teams will be charged."

"Bugger!" said The Colonel. "I think I've done a cap on my tooth."

The Mole ignored him and The Colonel seemed so worried that he popped a second pork scratching into his mouth to see how it felt.

"The most important discussion was on the subject of how to create a budget cap for the rest of Formula 1's spiralling costs," The Mole continued. "From what we hear this total would not include driver salaries nor any expenditure on promotion and marketing. The funny thing is that they also had discussions about their won salaries and concluded - bless them - that things were far too complicated to cap their earning potential because some own shares and so on."

The Colonel laughed, his tooth problem now a thing of the past.

"The whole concept will now be developed with further meetings," The Mole said. "This will probably involve the team accountants and finance directors. The FIA will then decide on a suitable figure and this will be introduced for 2009 - and may even go beyond that. Working out how to regulate a budget cap is not something that can be done easily and we hear that there will be some kind of financial working group to discuss the details. This will presumably be made up of the financial directors of the various teams. It is going to be headed by Tony Purnell."

"The Jaguar chap?" said The Colonel.

"Ah," said The Mole, "but here comes the crunch. In order to get a proposal from this body by the middle of this year, Max is keeping the other proposals in play. You know the ones which give the FIA the right to invade premises and stuff like that. The good news is that there is going to be a majority decision so all that is needed is six teams that agree.

"Ferrari will get an advantage," said The Colonel. "It has two customer teams that will probably be convinced that Ferrari thinking is correct."

"You are a cynic," said The Mole.

January 17 2008

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