Mugello, Concorde and Gilles


Gilles Villeneuve at Imola
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I’m starting to have withdrawal symptoms now (although not actually sure whether they are from watching F1 or blogging). Its all very well for drivers to have these random breaks for testing (take note: McLaren), tweeting about bad hair days (Alonso…yes really), slagging off Pirelli tyres (hooray for Schumacher having a rant and saying what everyone else is thinking…), but when it just constantly, incessantly rains every single weekend, what the heck are we supposed to do with NO GRAND PRIX to watch. There are only so many Bluewater trips that the husband can stomach (normally just one a quarter) and trips out in the pouring rain to mud-splattered country pubs that one can take. Both my children hate the cold and rain – 4 year old constantly talks of emigrating to South Africa – so they pretty much start crying the minute we leave the house. You get the picture and it’s a grim one.
Anyway next weekend it is the Spanish Grand Prix when it won’t matter (ish) if it is raining – so no doubt there will be a mini heatwave, frenzied panic-buying of charcoal, burgers and chicken drumsticks up and down the country, 4 mile queues stretching out of Homebase, the Daily Mail will run pictures of sunbathing lovelies in Hyde Park alongside a shot of a rainy beach in Costa del Chav… Ooops sorry I got carried away there dreaming of the arrival of The Great British Summer (who came up with that moniker – some sadist?!). But I am just So Over This Weather and desperate for some freaking sun.
So what’s been occurring in the world of F1?

Tuscany – a nice spot for a Grand Prix (hint: Mugello circuit)

Lots of teams rocked up at Mugello to do some testing – except for Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton who didn’t bother to turn up. Kind of weird given these are the first in-season tests in Formula One in four years. If Ron Dennis had still been in charge, he would surely have driven Jenson and Lewis there himself (using brute force if necessary). Overall fastest was Grosjean showing once again that the Lotus really is a force to be reckoned with. Ferrari have been beavering away on the development front and have introduced a few bits and bobs – as well they might given that the F2012 is a pile of crud (although less so when it has a driver inside as brilliant as Alonso). No doubt the husband will be excitedly pausing and rewinding Ant Davidson’s techy bit next weekend to analyse the F2012’s heavily-revised rear bodywork and exhaust exits – oh lucky me. Basically its all to do with aerodynamics. Isn’t it always.
Its been a busy few weeks for Bernie Ecclestone. You might think given his advancing years, the hiatus between races would give him the chance to sit back in his Parker Knoll recliner and catch up on Countdown. But no. Bernie at the sprightly age of 81 has just announced his engagement to his 36 year old Brazilian lawyer girlfriend or as Hello Magazine describes her – “Bernie Ecclestone’s ‘enchanting’ bride-to-be Fabiana Flosi.” Being coincidentally 36 (for only a few more days – huge reminder here in Neon Lights to the husband) and also a lawyer, it is a little spooky. Bernie’s first wife (who he married in 1950!!) was called Ivy. Whatever became of poor Ivy I wonder?

The real Concorde

Also Bernie has been pressing ahead with his plans to float Formula 1 on the Singapore Stock Exchange. That will be one mammoth prospectus to proof-read by some poor schmuck trainee solicitors (yes, I speak from experience). Bernie isn’t the type of client who would tolerate a typo. Interestingly, F1’s biggest cost is prize money which is steadily increasing. Prize money payments are set out in the good old Concorde Agreement (the renegotiation of which gives rise to the F1 equivalent of trench warfare once every decade before Bernie manages to bludgeonbend everyone to his will). The current one expires at the end of 2012 and so far Bernie has agreed terms with most of the teams in the paddock. Three teams (Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) will receive seats on the board of F1 as part of the new Concorde Agreement. Only the three new teams (who will presumably just get the agreement faxed through to sign by return) and Mercedes are yet to sign anything. This may be a wild stab in the dark but it might be something to do with money
Apparently teams who haven’t changed their name since 2000 and have won constructors/back-to-back championships will get lots more dosh. Oooops, poor old Mercedes who since 2000 have been Brawn GP, who were formerly Honda Racing, who were formerly BAR Honda…you are basically stuffed. The Silver Arrows (try telling Mercedes they have no history), who quite happily allowed speculation to build up that they might quit F1, have today played it down. Good old F1 politics hey. And while we’re at it, why is Red Bull any more deserving of a place on the hallowed F1 board than Williams (or even Lotus). Basically Red Bull is just a sponsored team with an added dollop of genius from the Master of the Dark Arts aka Adrian Newey. Still clearly recent wins + pots of cash trumps history every time. Boo.

At the Circuit Gilles Villenueve in Canada on the start-finish line

Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve. He never won a F1 title but sometimes history goes beyond numbers. In just four years of racing at the top level, he lit up the F1 firmament with his incredible natural talent and cavalier driving. Adored by the Tifosi, he was given the fab-u-lous nick name of the “High Priest of Destruction” by none other than Enzo Ferrari himself. But lets face if you were Enzo Ferrari, you could call anyone what the hell you wanted!

Without doubt, the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix in Jarama was Villeneuve’s finest victory. A truly stunning win. Driving a cart-like Ferrari (sound familiar?), he held off a convoy of much, much faster cars for 67 gruelling laps. Just 1.24 seconds covered the top five cars at the chequered flag, led by Villeneuve. Here is a link to highlights from that race – sit back and enjoy (in your Parker Knoll or chair of preference!).   

PS. The commentary is almost as awesome as the race!



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