Notebook from the hotel lobby
September 5, 2016 by Joe Saward
IMG_0051The joys of Italy have often, during my career, been related to the Internet, or rather the lack of it. I shudder to remember all the adventures I have had when trying to file copy. Here at the hotel in Monza, the last few days have been a minor nightmare, unless I sit in the lobby and type there. It’s a way of meeting people, I suppose, and I did have a nice long chat with Eddie Jordan the other evening, something that is hard to do in the F1 Paddock where EJ is a bundle of distraction and ploughing a straight course of conversation with him is almost impossible.
Conversations in the F1 Paddock are often disjointed because of interruptions and it is often quite frustrating. I spent about 15 minutes at one point on Saturday evening trying to get just a few words with Toto Wolff, but a stream of people came along and interrupted, or Toto felt the need to grab others as they were passing by. I understand why this happens and I am a very patient man, but there are ways to do these things. Some people know how to do it, and others do not. It is, I always feel, a good way to judge the way people are. The reason I mention this is that it was thanks to just such a rude interruption that I got the confirmation I had been searching for all weekend about the sale of the Formula One group by CVC Capital.
And it came straight from the horse’s mouth.
I will come out and admit, straight away, that I never liked the cut of Donald Mackenzie’s jib. I’m not someone who is impressed by money, power or appearance. I judge people on their intelligence, their honesty, their good manners and other such old-fashioned things. A grouse moor, some guns, green wellies and a Land Rover do not make you an aristocrat. Just as a press pass does not make you a pork-pie hat wearing monster.
I am sure that Mackenzie oozes charm at dinner parties with his own kind, but I have always found him arrogant, rude, and disdainful, as only the newly-rich can be. His “well, you couldn’t possibly understand” attitude was a very clear sign that he was high on his own supply and, in the words of Shania Twain, “that don’t impress me much”. Good for him for being talented at making money, but I’m not ever going to praise what he did to Formula 1 and I am happy to apply my boot to the rear of his twill trousers to assist him towards the door marked “uscita”.
I was chatting with Ron Dennis on the grid when Mackenzie sailed up and butted straight into the conversation and Ron, knowing which side his bread is buttered on, immediately responded with a big grin. I no longer existed. I was the invisible man. Lots of people are prone to do this and one has the choice of making a remark about politeness, which always creates an awkward situation, or one can withdraw gracefully once it is established that they are not going to even say “excuse me”. Mackenzie, alas, clearly missed the class about having class, but he was so convinced of my invisibility that he said “this is my last race” to Dennis. It is rude to listen to the conversations of others, but if they butt in and blurt things out when you are still part of the conversation, it is not your fault. So as far as I am concerned that is fair game. So Donald confirmed that the sale is completed.
Perfect. My notebook reads “Donald ducks out”.
So goodbye Mr Mackenzie, it’s back to asset-stripping rubbish bin manufacturing firms for you. Your days in the F1 sunlight are over. And, here in the land of sport, we are rejoicing. The day of the jackal is over. I see all financiers as unprincipled and greedy, and he sees all journalists as being bad people. East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
One is tempted to look at the sale of the sport as being a day of liberation. We have seen the last of an occupying army and the Yanks are coming, with Shermans, chewing gum and chocolate, and nylons for the ladies. We can dance the night away. We have no idea whether the liberators will be a good thing, but right now, we really don’t care. We can worry about that tomorrow. Today is the time to weed out the collaborators, shave their heads and throw them in the rivers, or be more colourful and defenestrate them, as they used to do with ghastly Regents in Prague. It is a time when we can all pretend that we resisted and award ourselves medals. It’s a time when the scalawags will call for reforms and the carpetbaggers will arrive, looking for opportunities (Wow, was that Flav at Monza, or someone who looks like he’s had a face job to look like Flav?) It is a time when charlatans, snake oil salesmen and cowboys all pop up. The Malone Gang is coming to town and we will all peep out from behind the curtains to see what they look like. Chase Carey has a good name to be a gunfighter and maybe he has a lot of notches on his six-shooters. We’ll see…
The cynics will say that all revolutions go full circle and you end up with another version of what you originally had, but others see change as a chance for enlightenment and new attitudes. What F1 needs now is reconstruction. A Marshall Plan for the sport to get it moving, make it cool again and attract the young of today.
The notebook from Monza features lots of stories of drivers: Perez-Renault? Sainz-Enstone? Pastor Maldonado? and other such scribbles. It is all still up in the air, but the market is now on the move and so we will see some action soon. I think the scrawls that are most likely to happen are “Ocon to Renault” and “Stroll to Williams”. The latter may read like a reminder, but it is actually a news story. The note $25 million next to it is all the explanation required.
There are other notes that say “Manor sale” and “Aus-China” which tell their own stories, but there is also the more cryptic “Apple-EU”, which was designed to remind me that the EU Competition Directorate is now back from the summer holidays and in a feisty mood, having walloped Apple Inc with a massive tax bill. These things take time, but one day soon the notebook is going to have a scribble that says “F1-EU” and one wonders if the Malone Gang know of this booby-trap.