Here in the lounge at Charles de Gaulle, with the security checkpoint a fast-fading memory and no-one prowling around with a machine-gun, there is plenty of time to mull over life, love and the universe. Half the people in this lounge look like Gérard Lopez (so it is thus a good place to pitch Gillette Fusion Proglide Flexball products), but in reality none of them are the man himself. He remains the invisible man of F1. When you stop and think about it, being a team principal who only comes to a few practice sessions in an entire season is a fairly odd arrangement and not one that is overly good for any team. Strangely enough, the only person I do recognise in the lounge is Frédéric Vasseur (or ART/Spark fame), who may – or may not – become Team Principal at Enstone, if and when there is a takeover of the team by Renault. I could go over and ask but we have already spoken on the subject and he has made it clear that he would do the job in the right circumstances so, even if it is all decided, I doubt he is about to blurt it out to me. I am not one of those journalists who feel the need to start grilling people wherever and whenever one bumps into them. Anyway, it’s too early for that sort of thing, so I shall leave him to his matinal musings, unless he wants to come over for a chat.
Elsewhere in F1, the latest game of Charades is now finished and everyone guessed quite quickly that the Todt/Ecclestone team had chosen the word “bluff” for their turn. Now it is the turn of the manufacturers to have their go and, after several committee meetings,they have selected the phrase “tangled web weaving”, which will take everyone rather longer to figure out, as there are lots of creeks up which they may paddle and which may lead nowhere at all.
While all this is simmering away in the background, the troops are gathering once more in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the World Championship. Going racing is always good fun, but given the points structure that we have these days, there is little to get excited about beyond whether Lewis or Nico will win the race on Sunday, or whether lightning will strike the F1 world and the path will be opened for an unlikely victory for Pastor Maldonado. All the championships are done and dusted and the only point of excitement is whether or not Valtteri Bottas or Kimi Raikkonen will come out ahead in their Finnish slug-fest for fourth place. You have to be a serious fan, or come from Pallas-Yllästunturin Kansallispuisto, to get excited about that. Whatever happens, Bottas is going to come out on top in image terms, because beating/nearly beating a Ferrari with a Williams is a much more worthy effort than vice versa.
Elsewhere there are some minor placing fights that will make the carbon composite suppliers smile, notably Maldonado versus Nasr for 13th. The Constructors’ Championship offers little hope of any great change, if one excludes the possibility of a McLaren 1-2.
There are times when one wonders whether NASCAR is smarter than F1 by making sure that every championship showdown has four contenders… And before the old curmudgeons dust off their typewriters and, with a hrmph and vague tsktsk noises, hammer away at un-oiled keys to complain to the nth degree about these flashy ideas from across The Pond (I must win a prize there for having a sentence with no fewer than three vowelless words – without even the letter y!), I should add that I am only half-joking. Why is F1 so stuck in its own mud (or should that be merde?) that it will not consider any kind of play-off format? I know that it was not like that “in my father’s day”, but a scoring system is a scoring system – and teams deal with the rules they are given. In any case, points systems have changed in F1 many times, so comparing the different eras is of no great value.
I saw on Twitter yesterday that Lewis was plugging his arrival in Dubai aboard his Bombardier Challenger 605. In the words of Shania Twain, that don’t impress me much… I’m coming in on an Airbus A380.