Race Blog
Bahrain 2014

Playground politics

Think back, way back to your early teenage years, running around the school playground chasing friends, kicking a tennis ball, pretending to be a footballing hero, wheeling away as you smashed in that FA Cup final-winning goal…. Well, that was what I foolishly imagined!

All the while in the top corner of the concrete yard there stood the ‘hard’ kids. All Jimmy Dean cool, smoking fags and scowling menacingly. Unwilling – or more likely unable – to join in the fun, they instead chose a bitter and often bullying mien for their hour-long break.

Fast-forward 30 years or so and here we are again; school playground malarkey in the Bahrain International Circuit Formula 1 paddock.

On one side of the concrete strip, happily toiling away, working hard, putting in the hours and effort, the Mercedes crew are fettling their gorgeous silver W05s, comfortable in the knowledge that all that clever planning and applied thinking will result in a dominant Sunday night performance.

Meanwhile on the other side of the ‘playground’ there’s a throng, a swarm, a cameras-clicking, flash-popping, notepad-scribbling and voice-recorder-red-light-glowing maelstrom of fuss.

Argh, Luca di Montezemolo must have arrived…

Ferrari’s capo di tutti capi is – as ever – the centre of attention. His face contorted with rage, gesticulating wildly, hands chopping this way and that, the Scuderia’s main man is telling all who will listen what’s so wrong with everything Formula 1.

Pausing only to preen his wispy hair, our Italian friend elucidates upon his topics of choice – which are, of course (please forgive the predictability) a lack of noise, the saving of fuel, “taxi-cab racing”, an over-complication of the sport, etc, etc, etc. It’s all so tedious.

On and on he goes, ranting to all who will listen, completely losing it at one point when citing F1’s support series GP2’s appalling engine note as something F1 should aspire to.

Of course, none of the attendant journalists or TV crews pose the obvious question that all are no doubt thinking: “Why, Mr Montezemolo, why did you approve and sign-up for the 2014 F1 rule changes if you thought they were such a bad idea?”

I guess if it were to be asked, a torrent of excuses and absolving of responsibility would be the reply – but the fact is that Ferrari lobbied hard for their preferred choice of a V6 turbo-based powertrain, no doubt confident in the knowledge that they’d make it work.

A few hours later – Bahrain grand prix now in full flow – he watches as his two red taxis trundle around in 9th and 10th place. Then, in full view of the TV cameras, with a look of utter despair and disbelief in his eyes and his mouth set in a rictus of disgruntlement, he turns and departs.

On an evening of stunning lights-to-flag racing one can appreciate that Luca would love – as we all would – to see Alonso and Raikkonen at the sharp end of the field, taking the fight to their competition. But the fact that Ferrari have so utterly failed to grasp the nettle that is posed by the 2014 regulations says so much about the Italian team.

For a respected and highly successful company chairman who sits at the zenith of power, controlling one the world’s most recognised brands, to behave in such a way is both disappointing and frankly a little embarrassing.

Would it not be the sensible course of action to roll up one’s sleeves and get busy sorting the mess. Find out why the Ferrari technical guys have so failed, why slow-corner exit traction is so low, why straight-line top speed is so poor and why tyre degradation is so high.

I’m no manager of men, nor a world-leading-company chairman, but I can see that Montezemolo’s apparent lobbying for a return to engine ‘technology’ of the past, with unlimited gas-guzzling, is a fruitless task.

Of course he’s on record as stating that Ferrari are in favour of F1 embracing new technologies, enabling the sport to lead the automotive world from the front. So, rather than label – as Montezemolo did last Sunday – Formula 1 as “Formula Boredom”, go get the job done.

It’s surely way beneath what such a powerful and influential man should be saying, especially when he and his staff were so involved in how the sport planned for it’s future.

In a week or so’s time F1 will be back to school again, and this time the ridiculously vast Shanghai paddock ‘playground’ will play host to the good and not-so-good children that make up our wonderful sport.

Now where’s my tennis ball?!


Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix by clicking here.

Get the blog straight to your inbox
View race page Tweet