THE MOLE

The need for divine intervention

Churchmen do not always spend enough time on the street with the barrow boys, the dodgy car dealers and the hookers. Their world is too often that of coffee mornings and wealthy suburbanites, pretending to be angelic. They forget Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 24, which says that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God".

The Mole did remember one occasion when the Reverend O remarked that "I guess that most of the people in Formula 1 have no chance of going to heaven"; and he had replied that it was as likely as getting a camel into the F1 paddock.

The Reverend O remains resolute in his faith in mankind, even if he knows only too well that God drummed Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for being sinful and disobeying his orders. The Mole finds this innocence rather charming, and tries to let the Reverend down lightly when he has expectations that one gets if one spends too long at theological college.

"I was reading the paper this morning that Ron Dennis is going to step down as team principal of McLaren?" The Reverend said as they settled back after a splendid joint of roast lamb cooked to perfection by Mrs Batty.

Mrs Mole had fussed off to the kitchen, muttering something about treacle, and The Mole and the Reverend were alone. The Colonel was off shooting things. The Mole had forgotten to ask where and it was probably Scotland, but he could not help but giggle and mention Afghanistan.

"The Sunday Times usually gets privileged information," The Mole said. "There are some folk in F1 who seem to think that this is a newspaper that sets the mood and has great influence. I am not sure I agree. It seems to me that any half-serious media outlet can get lots of coverage these days by writing something outrageous. The world is so full of websites and blogs that it is hard to know what is true and what is not true."

"What about Ron?" said The Reverend, with considerable tact.

"I think that probably Ron has not yet decided what he wants to do. It is not an easy decision to make. There are a whole lot of people who want to see him go so that they can blame him for the mess last year. It would be neat and tidy, without anyone being the fly that is stuck in the gloss paint. And the ironic thing is that he was probably just about ready to do this when all the espionage things began last year. Imagine if Lewis Hamilton had won the World Championship and there had not been all the troubles. Ron could have taken a step back and would have been cheered to the echo. Martin Whitmarsh has been his understudy for almost 20 years and he would move easily into the role and there would be a nice kind of symmetry for Formula 1, because Jean Todt was slid out at Ferrari, leaving the spotlight for Stefano Domenicali. If Ron were to go it would be a real changing of the guard."

"Up to a point," said The Reverend O. "There are a few others still there."

The Mole nodded.

"But now," he added. "After all that has happened. Will Dennis really want to step down? Will that really make the problems go away? Will the Italian magistrates stop chasing McLaren if Ron is no longer on the pit wall or in the team principal meetings?"

"I do hope not," said The Reverend. "That would say terrible things about the Italian justice system."

"It would," said The Mole.

"Ron has all the money he needs," he went on. "I don't see him selling out. He is in control of the firm and while his partners might grumble a bit and threaten this and that, they would be worse off without McLaren than they are with it. And they know that.

"The big question for me is what is his ambition now?" The Mole said. "Ron has always prided himself on being the man who looks to the long term future. Is it better for the McLaren group to be handed over to Mercedes-Benz and disappear into the corporate cupboard as a brand that can be whisked out when it is needed or thrown in the bin when some dull bean-counter arrives who does not understand the passion that exists for cars. Every time I ask that question the answer is no.

"Maybe there is no way that small car companies can build their own engines these days. Maybe the emissions laws are now such that this is impossible and the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world needed a big company behind them. That is what the Mercedes-Benz alliance is all about. Do you remember how everyone thought last year that Ron was selling to Mercedes-Benz. I am sure it was not about money. He sold it to the Bahrainis because there was some strategic reason to do it. That gave the McLaren brand a much longer life, which showed Ron's ultimate goal. Maybe he will stand down as team principal to save the team from some heat. Maybe he will sacrifice some personal credibility for the good of the cause."

The Reverend O nodded. The Mole could tell that he was thinking that this was the right thing to do.

"Then again," The Mole went on. "Maybe he won't do that. Maybe he will say that they can all go to hell. Anyway, I think there are other matters involved as well. There are personal things. The team announced not long ago that Ron was separating from his wife."

"Very sad.," said the Reverend.

"Indeed," said The Mole. "But what does one do? Who knows whether there are ways that he could rebuild that or whether it will act as a new spur for him in his professional life? Who can guess this kind of stuff? Those are questions that people in the sport have no right to ask. I am sure that there will be an answer pretty soon, but I would not like to guess what he will do. I suppose he could stand down from his Team Principal role and keep all the other roles. That would probably satisfy those who want him out. It would make life easier for the team and calm the troubled waters. They could then get on with achieving the Hamilton Dream scenario and moving the company onwards and upwards."

"God knows," he added.

"Yes, indeed," said The Reverend O. "I doubt he will be surprised."

March 3 2008

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