A lady calls

The telephone rang on The Mole's desk in the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department of the Secret Intelligence Service. It had been a quiet day. The Penelopes were out trying on yashmaks in preparation for their visit to Bahrain. Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) was doing her nails, at taxpayers' expense. The Mole had been reading a rather dull file about the future of Super Aguri F1.

The ringing phone, he noted, was the direct line. The hotline. The one reserved for the really good stuff. It had not rung for a while which, The Mole admitted, had been rather nice. People had even started talking about racing cars again and who was going to be quickest in Melbourne. What motor racing was all about.

He wondered whether it was a call about Silverstone. Or perhaps even about some alternative plan to build a race track at the Olympic Park in Stratford. He wondered for a split second if it was about the Australian GP. Or maybe, he thought with a smile, it was some abusive Spanish racist ringing up to make unpleasant remarks about Sir Francis Drake.

Tentatively, he lifted the receiver and said "Hello" in much the same way as Miss Marple might do.

He heard the somewhat breathless voice of his Legal Counsel, Norma Zaas, a partner in the outrageously over-priced legal firm of Scheister, Scheister, Zissu & Zaas.

"Did you hear the news from Italy?" she said.

The Mole yawned.

"Has The Pope sprinkled Holy Water on Luca di Montezemolo?" he asked.

"Don't be silly," said Norma.

"Of course I have heard," said The Mole. "Read about it yesterday in the Italian newspapers. Probably knew about it before McLaren did. I'm just not very interested, that's all. This is a business which is best off buried. It is too depressing to go on turning it over and over. If I did that I think I would retire and go off to grow parnsips."

"But don't you see?" said Norma. "There are two sides to this thing."

"Two sides?" said The Mole. "Ferrari nails McLaren again. That is the only side I can see. What is the other?"

"That McLaren might actually be found innocent," replied Norma.

The Mole dropped his pencil.

"I hadn't thought of that," he said.

"Everyone assumed that Ferrari's civil action would go away after the McLaren statement in December," he went on, "but from what I hear once something is started in Italy, it depends what the magistrate wants to do. The FIA has done all of its stuff, and that is fine, but what happens if a civil court finds that McLaren has no charges to answer. Or goes ahead the investigation and then clears McLaren of all charges. What are the legal implications of that?

"Besides," she added. "The magistrate cannot easily drop the case without giving the impression that there is a backroom deal and that may not be an impression he wants to give."

"Come on," said The Mole. "This is Ferrari."

"And?" said Norma. "These magistrates are an independent lot. Last summer they busted SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service."

"Yes," said The Mole. "We spies were aware of that one."

"They found all kinds of good stuff and it ended up with SISMI being abolished," said Norma. "And you may recall that the magistrates have a pretty good record when it comes to challenging organised crime and corruption. Their behaviour has been exemplary. They have even busted Prime Ministers, or least former ones. So they value their independence, and they don't like being told what to do. They are also not really bothered by the FIA, are they? It has made its decisions and they will make their decision and if the two do not tally then that will be the way it is."

"Yes," said The Mole, "but what would that mean?"

"Who knows?" said Norma. "It would certainly raise questions about the FIA judgement."

The Mole nodded.

"But would anyone do anything?" she mused. "It is not in McLaren's interest, is it?"

"No," said The Mole.

"But there are others who might take the opportunity," she added. "Legal decisions are public so who knows who might ask questions about how a civil court can rule one thing and a sporting organisation can rule the opposite."

They paused for a moment.

"Well," said The Mole. "The good news is that none of that has happened yet and I alway say it is best not to cross bridges until you come to them."

"I expect Max will have retired by then anyhow," said Norma. "Oh yeah," she added. "Someone told me the other day that Jean Todt will take over at the FIA with backing from Max."

The Mole sighed.

"Yes," he said. "I've heard the same stories."

"Do you believe them?" she said.

"As I always say," The Mole repeated. "It is best not to cross bridges until you come to them."

February 7 2008

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