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Bahrain Grand Prix 2008

7th April 2008

The law of the jungle

In so many respects the Formula 1 paddock is a unique place, but in one particular way it’s exactly the same as the world outside its well-secured walls: you don’t annoy the boss.

The boss in this world is Bernie Ecclestone and due respect should be shown at all times. This is his place; he owns it – he made it.

Here comes Bernie now, mobile phone pressed tightly to his ear, important conversation (he doesn’t do trivial) in full flow. Approaching him from behind is F1’s newest team owner, Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya, obviously keen to talk.

Just wait, Vijay, no, please don’t do it…. too late, as his hand clasps Bernie firmly on the shoulder.

The reaction is swift and damning. F1’s coolest billionaire is less than pleased, directing an icy glare into the eye of F1’s blingest.

Now surely the best thing to do would be simply to walk away. But no, he persists, shuffling along ten feet or so in Bernie’s wake. Eventually the conversation reaches a conclusion and Mr Ecclestone stops at the steps of Force India’s new neighbours, says his goodbyes and rings off. Before Mallya can get close he quickly disappears into McLaren’s marketing suite.

Feeling a little foolish, I’m sure, and perhaps a little unloved, Vijay is left to plead for some Bernie-time with the main man’s Bahraini bodyguard before walking disconsolately away.

This entertaining little vignette was witnessed by no more than 10 of us on Saturday lunchtime, but it illustrates perfectly the hierarchy that underpins this high octane environment.

Mallya is an interesting character, mind, regularly walking the length of the paddock flanked by four nubile Indian beauties – all the while being photographed by snappers employed, by him, specifically to do so.

I wonder what Bernie, the ultra-conservative, makes of that?

Please now click on the ‘Formula One’ link at the top of the page to enjoy my pictures from the 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix.

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