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A pet hate

The Rosberg-Hamilton in Spa has brought out a number of those people who like to accuse journalists of bias because they share the same nationality of one or other of the protagonists. One commenter, called Robert, summed up my views on this subject. “I do hate how people bring up the subject of being British in a negative way to further their opinions,” he wrote. “It immediately marks the writer out as none too bright in my opinion.”

I am happy to forgive people for being passionate about the sport they love and perhaps going too far in their remarks, but the accusation of nationalistic bias is something that I take as an insult and I feel it is all the more outrageous because the accuser does not have the wit to understand that such slurs are more a reflection of the person making them than they are a reflection of the target. In order to level such a charge one must believe that there are intelligent people who have blind, unquestioning devotion to a country and all of its subjects – and for me that is something that only a stupid man can believe. As a journalist one strives, if one has any professional pride, to be as objective as possible, and to cut through the smoke and mirrors to try and tell the story as it is. This is the reason for our existence. If one wants to be a propagandist it is a choice which one can make – and it pays far better – but one must accept that one must then have the opinion of one’s paymaster. Intelligent men through the ages have seen through nationalism and exposed it for what it is.

“Nationalism is an infantile thing,” wrote Albert Einstein. The poet and philosopher George Santayana phrased it differently but delivered the same message: “To me,” he wrote, “it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.”

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was more brutal in his assessment: “Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

Having a different view on a subject when there is a conflict between two different nationals can sometimes appear to be bias, but more often than not, this comes because the national media speak the language of the individual involved and thus have a better understanding of the reasons and the character of the person who acted as they did.

Bits and bobs in F1

There is a mix-and-match lot of news kicking around today with nothing really unexpected, nor very interesting. The idea of a Grand Prix in Greece has been kicking around for the best part of 15 years and has never got beyond the chattering stage. The whole thing is daft when you look at it in relation to the economics of the country. The big news about Greece in the real world is that the country’s economy is now shrinking at its slowest rate in nearly six years, according to the latest official figures. One can read this to be an improvement from an economy in free-fall but the economy is still in deficit and no sensible politician is going to provide funding for a Grand Prix until other things are sorted. Since the crisis of 2008 the Greek economy has shrunk by around 25 percent, largely because of drastic spending cuts and tax hikes required by the country’s creditors. Grands Prix are luxury items and they don’t get purchased when there is no money available.

Elsewhere, Martin Whitmarsh and McLaren have finally agreed on a settlement nine months after their relationship ended. The problem was not financial but rather with regard to what Whitmarsh could or could not do in terms of future employment. It was harsh business clearly designed to keep Martin off the job market but the passage of time has dulled the bloody-minded approach in Woking. It is doubtful it has dulled Martin’s abilities. Having plenty of holiday has probably made him a stronger overall package. Martin’s knowledge of the sport and his experience make him a man of great value for a team owner with the foresight to pick him, although the unstitching of McLaren’s “matrix management” that is currently going on is a sign that such approaches may work in other industries, but they definitely don’t work in F1.

The only other point of note is the FIA saying it will not get involved in the Rosberg-Hamilton business . This is to be expected with the FIA at the moment, which seems to be frightened of its own shadow in F1 terms. There is a clear difference between “flying under the radar” and doing nothing at all. In my view it is absolutely wrong for a regulator to not even investigate the matter. To try to argue that ”a comment alleged to have been made in an internal briefing and later denied by the team itself” does not warrant an investigation is to my mind an abdication of the governing body’s responsibilities to ensure fair play in the sport. Lewis Hamilton’s World Championship ambitions were materially affected by a move by his primary rival that was later claimed to have been deliberate. To do nothing simply underlines that the FIA is failing to do its job properly. The fact that race officials did not investigate the incident at the time was bad enough, and incomprehensible to many observers at Spa. One can only assume that the FIA is now trying to hide behind this blather because it would be embarrassing to put a spotlight on the initial failure.

This is typical of the murine attitudes of the current leadership and the failure of the people around the leadership to weigh in and point out the damage being done.

I am led to the sad conclusion that I care more about the institution that they represent than they do…

Len Terry has died at the age of 91. Born in Birmingham in 1923, Terry grew up in London, leaving school at the age of 14. Initially he worked as an office boy for a theatre producer, but the war changed the course of his life when he joined the Royal Air Force becoming an instrument maker specialising in cameras that were used for aerial photography. Later he would be transferred to Karachi in pre-Partition India before being demobilised and moving to a job as a trainee draughtsman with the Ever Ready battery company in Walthamstow.

He would work as a draughtsman in various different industries in the years that followed, notably working with Professor Denis Melrose on the design of a heart-lung machine that was first used in 1957, enabling surgeons to start doing open heart surgery. At the same time he started racing in the highly-competitive 750 Motor Club world and joined forced with rivals Maurice Philippe and Brian Hart to build a Formula Junior car in the mid 1950s called the Delta. This was followed by another Formula Junior called the Moorland before Terry began to build his own Terrier cars in 1957, doing the work in the from room of his home and driving the cars himself. He then joined Lotus but he soon fell out with Colin Chapman over the Terriers. It did not help that he crashed and broke his leg. The Terriers did well in Formula Junior in 1960 with Hart driving. Terry moved to Gilby, designing first a sports car and then in 1960 an F1 car for Gilby’s Sid Green. He was then convinced to return to Lotus and became Colin Chapman’s design engineer, translating his ideas into designs and making them work. In this role he played a key part in the design if the Lotus 25 and 33 models. This was followed by the Lotus 38 with which Jim Clark won the Indy 500. He was later lured away to join Dan Gurney’s Eagle cars for F1 and Indianapolis and ultimately designed the 1968 BRM. He went on to design a BMW Formula 2 car but the project was cancelled after the death of Gerhard Mitter. At the same time he penned the Leda Formula 5000 car which would ultimately become a Surtees with much success in Britain and America. Later he would attempt a come back with the Viking F3 project and with BRM. He then returned to contract design work until his retirement.

Yesterday was a pretty horrible day across Belgium and northern France. The man on French radio described the weather as “ridiculous” for August and that seemed about right, as I drove through endless streaming rain and dodged huge puddles. When I got back into France I decided to retreat for a while into motor racing history and set off for a lap of the long gone Circuit de l’Argonne, used 110 years ago, for a series of major international events. I did it for no reason other than it was there and I was not in a rush. It is always good to remind oneself from where the sport came and the fabulous old road tracks of Europe put a lot in perspective, particularly when you remember how basic the cars were at the time. In the modern age race tracks are fiddly things, Spa and Monza being the only ones that truly flow, but in the early days the sport was all about going flat out on fast open roads. These circuits were grandiose in conception and mightily impressive for the spectators, even if they saw the cars only a few times. The road was quick almost all the way, going straight across undulating hills with dips and crests and through classic avenues of French plane trees. There was a splendid section overlooking a large lake and several very grand estates and houses. One may travel faster today than the heroes did in their rickety racers, but one cannot help but be impressed at what they did.

History is a good place to hide when the present is unpleasant, but at the moment F1 is not a nasty place, but rather producing not only good races, but also exciting off track activity as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg play at being Tom and Jerry. We have learned that Rosberg has a darker side and that Lewis has a rather endearing Peter Pan-like innocence. But there is much subtlety in the goings on than the screaming headlines do not quite grasp. Nico did not set out to crash into Lewis at Les Combes on lap 2 of the Belgian Grand Prix, but he did make the conscious decision not to back out of a place where he ought not to have been when he tried to overtake. He said he was proving a point. Showing Lewis, presumably, that he cannot always treat the race track as his own territory as he tends to do in a fight. Nico was roundly condemned by his own team for his actions and the British press leapt on the bandwagon, painting Nico as black as a Ninja. Perhaps it was a smart thing to do, to lay down a marker and try to destabilize Lewis some more, but the execution was flawed when it came to the media because an annoyed Hamilton saw no reason to play the game any longer. If Rosberg was going to resort to dubious tactics, Lewis was going to make sure the world understood.

There was a marvelous moment of theatre at Mercedes when at one point after the race Rosberg was downstairs explaining that he had not done it on purpose, while upstairs Hamilton was revealing that Nico had told the team he could have backed out of the move, but chose not to…

When the incident occurred, I was sure that Rosberg was to blame. He had by his action materially affected a rival’s race – not to mention the World Championship – and I was astonished that there was not even an investigation into the incident. I did not think it deliberate because of the risk factors (which ruined both of their races) but it looked like a mistake that ought to have been punished because it was clearly not fair for Hamilton, but nothing happened. We concluded that the FIA’s new policy of allowing racing without penalizing every move that goes wrong was to blame for this lack of action. The problem with this is that if you let such things go, it creates precedents that can and will be exploited later by the unscrupulous. Sometimes the cry of “it was an accident” is a straight lie so allowing the boys to race without fear of being penalized only opens the way for dirty driving tactics.

So no action was taken because the FIA did not see the need and no team asked for the incident to be looked into because, even in the oft-bizarre F1 world teams are still smart enough not to be protesting themselves.

However the post-race revelations end up making the FIA look foolish, because there was a level of intent that had been completely overlooked up in Race Control. In another age, the FIA would now be holding an investigation and we would be off to the Place de la Concorde in a week or two for a Mosleyan coup de théatre, but in the age of Todt, not even dynamite can force a decisive gesture on the part of the President. Some see this as weakness, and it is hard to argue against that. All too often when it comes to power, Emperors parade themselves on horses, clad in invisible new clothes and the crowd is led to believe them, lest they are seen to be stupid by their peers. But in the case of Todt all that appears to be on the back of the horse is an empty pile of clothing.

As for Rosberg, the incident serves only to demolish his carefully-constructed image that he is a jovial boy-next-door kind of figure. And it raises questions about the incident in qualifying in Monaco, and the jumped chicane in Montreal. Lewis is a tough competitor, but he generally plays it fair. There’s nothing underhand about him.

For those who have never read A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the next paragraph will be of little use, but one wonders now whether Nico has followed other F1 challengers down the path of cynical ambition towards Vanity Fair, leaving Hamilton to wade through the Slough of Despond. They are both aiming for the Celestial City but who will get there first?

Onward to the next Wacky Race…

Time to ruminate

I am driving home today and I think it will be good to have time to ruminate a little on the excitements at Spa. It was terrific theatre after the race with the excitements at Mercedes but sometimes it is better to let the emotions cool a little to get a better feel of the situation. So, check in tomorrow and I’ll have something for you to think about.

In the meantime, don’t get too convinced about Ferrari drivers staying the same next year. On paper the drive line-up will be unchanged, but as they say in the opera houses of the world, the show isn’t over until the fat lady sings. She should be warbling at Monza.

Cover Belgium

The Belgium Grand Prix was full of drama, excitement and controversy, but thing didn’t really kick off until after the chequered flag had fallen when Lewis Hamilton told the F1 media that in the post-race team debrief Nico Rosberg had admitted that he deliberately left his car’s nose where it was in a fight with Hamilton – in order to prove a point, thus admitting that he had caused the accident that ruined Hamilton’s race. This also resulted in Rosberg being unable to beat Dan Ricciardo’s Red Bull for the win at Spa. So victory went to the Australian. The relationship between the two Mercedes drivers has been heating up for some time. Now, it would seem, the gloves are off…

- We look at Bernie Ecclestone’s Great Escape from Germany
– The story of Max Verstappen
– JS commiserates with Alexander Rossi
– Tony Fernandes explains why he left F1
– We remember the March 701
– The Hack looks back in anger
– DT finds himself agreeing with Max Mosley
– Peter Nygaard and his team braved the elements to bring you their great photography

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. Yet it is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters are some of the most respected in the business and we take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. We have forthright opinions and we don’t care if we knock noses out of joint. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography and old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 22 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2014 Formula 1 season.
It’s the bargain available in Formula 1

For more information, go to http://www.grandprixplus.com.

Marussia has changed its mind and Max Chilton is back in the car for the race this weekend. One has to presume that the contractual problems have been solved by the arrival of money from the Chilton camp. This is tough on Alexander Rossi as he was looking forward to making his F1 debut. Rossi ends up doing just the FP1 session.

The team’s future remains clouded at the moment with continuing rumours that it will be sold to an American consortium. One might speculate that the owner Andrej Cheglakov may want to hang on to the business until the inaugural Russian GP in the autumn.

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