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I am expecting some big differences of opinion amongst us this week on this matter and that is good. Yet let’s respect each other’s opinions because I see here a growing group of people who debate incredibly well and expose most angles of any subject and some new ones which are refreshing and from way out left field.
It is likely we will see a news saturation of the situation in Bahrain in the coming days. Ecclestone has been clever in repositioning the race since it was cancelled in its new slot – back to back with China. The teams are flat out tearing down their setup, travelling and building it up again to minimise time for reflection or comment.
Further it appears the news coverage of all things Bahrain but not F1 is limited to 5 or 6 days. Apparently a media specialist friend of mine tells me this actually makes the intensity of the news far greater than were there a 2 week build up prior to F1 arriving in the Gulf State.
One of the key issues will be how well both sides of the dispute have organised themselves this year. There are those who believe specialist ‘activists’ have been recruited from Iran and they will cause a more potent threat than was the case in 2012.
The four explosions yesterday may indicate the level of organisation of the opposition has indeed been upgraded. The simultaneous attacks happened around 8.30pm last night, starting in Sanabis, then Karranah and the last outside the Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH).
The radical opposition group, the Coalition of February 14 Youth, has claimed responsibility for the blast in front of the BFH and warned it would continue with similar “operations”. Stolen vehicles were used and exploding gas canisters were placed inside the cars which on explosion caused chaos through a main route – the King Faisal Highway – as police cordoned off the area and diverted motorists away from the blast site.
The coalition claimed the blast was part of “Operation Warning”, which was part of protests against the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, which began on Friday. “February 14 revolutionaries have completed the operation by carrying out the explosion. Our message is clear. We will continue the escalation according to our planned operations”. This was communicated via a twitter account.
A Bahrain ministry official said, “The car was not parked on the road. It was parked in a parking area in front of the Bahrain Financial Harbour. There were no damages to the surrounding properties and no injuries. Police, Civil Defence and the explosives detection unit were called to the scene. A full investigation will be launched.”
After hacking into the Formula1.com website last year, cyber anarchists Anonymous are threatening further disruption to Bahrain GP this week saying they will aim “to wreck your little party again Mr Ecclestone”.
Journalists who were turned away in 2012 at the border are reporting they are being allowed in. Ian Parkes of the Press Association arrived in Bahrain this morning and tweeted “Well, they’ve let me in! Will I get out again! Haha!”.
Certain corporate sponsors have already said they will be cutting back or canceling again they’re invitation to guests to attend the 2013 Bahrain event.
Women in F1
The BBC has commissioned a feature to be aired tonight entitled, “Women in F1”. Interestingly if anyone was under the illusion that modern F1 was not about doing whatever is necessary to raise more cash, recent comments on this matter more than argue the contrary.
Sir Stirling Moss represents the traditional male view of F1 as a sport. He did however ply his trade as a driver when the death of a colleague was frequent and a driver contemplated their own mortality on a weekly basis. Further, Moss hails from an era when chivalry meant ‘women and children first’ but those burning the bra saw chivalry as chauvinism.
Sir Stirling says, “We’ve got some very strong and robust ladies, but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you’re trying to win. The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don’t think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race.”
Suzie Wolff predictably has a differing opinion and it is one that should be heard because there are those who would argue that she has already demonstrated the necessary sacrifice required to get into F1.
The wannabe F1 drivers often have to sacrifice their freedom to the daily subjugation of their masters who provide them with the funding to attract a team to sign them up. Heike Kovalainen is an example of this. He refused to give up his right to play golf and work the sponsors hard in return for a continued drive in F1.
Suzie too has demonstrated this level of commitment and personal sacrifice. She renounced the freedom of a single person to marry an uber rich male racing fanatic who also happens to have shares in a couple of F1 teams.
“I don’t know where to start after hearing that interview. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sir Stirling and what he achieved, but I think we’re in a different generation. For Moss, it’s unbelievable that a female would drive a Formula 1 car, which is fair enough. In the days they were racing, every time they stepped into a car, they were putting their life on the line. But F1 is much more technologically advanced; it’s much safer than it was.”
There we go then. Let’s make F1 so safe that a regular housewife (or househusband) can do it – that’s why we can’t go racing in the wet anymore…
It would not have been too long ago that Lauda, Marko and Ecclestone would have joined Sir Stirling and heartily warbled along with Simon Cowell’s Ex’s signature tune. Yet times have changed. Red Bull wants women to buy their caffeine laden drinks so Marko signed an 18 year old girl this week to the ‘Red Bull junior driver programme’.
Ecclestone, with one eye on the pink dollar on the sofa is open to the idea. “There’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t be able to compete with a man. Unfortunately, the way things are, I don’t imagine a lady will ever get the chance to drive a Red Bull or a Ferrari. The only chance is with a lesser team – and they only take someone if they come with a good sponsor. Regretfully, the problem is that many ladies who could compete probably as well as the guys won’t get chance.”
Far be it for TJ13 to disagree with our glorious F1 leader, but on what basis does he make this pronouncement? We live in a world where positive discrimination and the pink and black dollar have all been regularly touted to redress the ‘imbalance’ of the market’s opinion on recruitment and promotion.
Why will this be any different in F1? I suggest it is far more likely that there will be a female F1 driver who is far less competent than available male counterparts merely because the PR marketing value is greater for the sponsor coughing up the cash.
Maybe McLaren are more open to who will become their title sponsor and drive for them than we realise. I can hear it now… the shrill verbal expulsions from Ben Sheppard when Wolff gets her first pole for McLaren next year. “And it is the Tena Lady McLaren of Suzie Somebody who claims the first ever F1 pole for a woman – Fantastic”.
Horner in denial but still spinning away
Christian Horner was notable by his absence on both the BBC and SKY F1 broadcasts following the conclusion of race in Shanghai. He usually pops up for an amiable chat with Johnny et al where his pre-prepared sentiments are given oxygen – often without challenge.
I noticed he has been grooming Suzi Perry too this weekend with a charm offensive and ‘open and honest’ profferings. Probably this is designed to make her feels safe in his presence and reduce the possibility of her ever having the tenacity to ask him a really tough question..
Yet the Red Bull shambles is not going under the radar, last night twitter was full of side swipes at the team from Milton Keynes. One of my favourites came from Fake Charlie Whiting. “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” – Napoleon Bonaparte & Christian Horner.
At the end of his regular post-race interview with the written media in Shanghai, it was put to Horner that some conspiracy theories were already doing the rounds. With a dismissive wave of the hand Horner cut off the questioner barking, “That’s complete rubbish. Forget conspiracy. We’re all about trying to get two cars to finish as high as we can. Anybody that thinks that there’s a conspiracy here against one, or either, or any driver doesn’t know what they’re looking at.”
What indeed are we looking at Christian? A team that currently is a shadow of its former uber efficient self? A team that used to say it valued the collective effort beyond the call of duty as the source of its winning edge?
Anyway, Christian quickly gathers himself and remembers chapter 3 from ‘The good manager’ is entitled – ‘Setting the agenda’. So he marches on regardless of any objections to give his opinions on how Mark will deal with the multiple humiliations heaped upon him by his team.
“I think he’ll be fine.He’s a tough competitor, he’s driving very well, and he was driving back through the field. We made some big changes overnight to gear ratios, downforce levels and set-up to assist him to do that and as we see with these tyres at the moment the way his strategy was going it was working well for him.
He was back in the thick of it. The contact was unfortunate and then obviously to retire the car was even more unfortunate. Our objective is to get both cars to the finish as high as we can.”
Was it really necessary for Horner to appear churlish and mention the driver contact with Vergne? What does it achieve? What was his point? Christian rarely utters anything without a pre-contemplated rationale – and if this was him winging it – is it another example of the loss of grip on a modus operandi that was once so successful?
There are people who communicate in a permanent corporate mode and marketing speak and it is most amusing when in times of trouble they cannot recognise how ridiculous they sound when the spin they are spinning is obviously only of interest to them.
One of my favourite sayings on responsibility is this. “You can fail many times, but only become a failure when you start to blame others”. Time for a new wheel gun supplier…. fuel bowser manufacturer… driver that doesn’t crash into others… anything else to add to the list Christian?
Perez under pressure
What I do like about the BBC covering F1 races live, is that I can flick over from SKY F1 when a certain “I add nothing to the discussion other than inane drivel” pundit of theirs is given the microphone. During the Malaysai weekend this was not possible and when I heard this ‘expert’ suggest Perez was fortunate McLaren’s car was rubbish as this would buy the Mexican some time – I flailed for the right button but none was available.
Anyone with half a brain cell of F1 knowledge is aware that no matter how pants the car – and F1 driver has a team mate who is a reference point by which they can be assessed and judged. TJ13 has so far been restrained in criticising Perez, however there are voices of concern beginning to mutter.
During yesterday’s race, Martin Brundle pulled no punches when he said, “I still don’t understand why McLaren didn’t sign this guy [Hulkenberg] up. His talent is abundantly clear and I would have signed him 10 times before Perez”.
Martin Whitmarsh’s observation of Perez in China is that “Sergio is not satisfied with his performance this weekend. He is a young driver and he had a difficult weekend”. If Sergio is taking comfort from his understanding boss then he shouldn’t as Whitmarsh adds, “he is not satisfied with himself and nor should he be.”
Okay, the stewards and common sense agreed that the incident with Raikkonen was one of a ‘racing nature’ but Whitmarsh suggests he thinks Perez has been too meek. “I think he has been very polite so far, and he needs to toughen up.”
Yet it’s not good enough to just be a junior rookie at McLaren. Some sign of a ‘special’ talent is required and at present many would argue we are not seeing this. A quick surf around the F1 websites reveals many are questioning again McLaren’s decision to appoint their Mexican driver.
Ecclestone urges SKY to give away free boxes
Never let it be said that F1 does not spawn innovation. Bernie Ecclestone is now brainstorming with the brightest minds in 21st century satellite and cable data communications. He has called upon SKY TV to distribute free decoder boxes to anyone who wishes to watch F1 in the UK.
Ecclestone has never been particularly well known for his ‘slowly slowly catch a monkey’ strategies preferring the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach or a philosophy of “do what I say or I’ll sue your ass” technique.
Cunningly Bernie he is suggesting to SKY that they donate hundreds of thousands of these pieces of kit with only the F1 race available free of charge. People will be intrigued by what else the magical box in the corner can deliver and say to themselves, “‘why can’t I watch the rest’ and they will sign up. Kids will say ‘my friends at school watch this so why can’t we?’ Sky are very good with that kind of idea. It would use Formula One to drive their subscriptions.”
Genius plan indeed. TJ13 has been told on the QT that Ecclestone did in fact want SKY to take a far tougher approach than this. Team’s of grufters were to roam the streets at night with armfuls of boxes. They were instructed to ‘ensure’ people accepted with joy the gift of a “Bernie Box” which in fact would take control all forms of media during an F1 race – making it impossible for anything else to be viewed on any kind of screen in the host property .
Apologies. We appear to be getting all Big Brother bothered here after that dead Pope rocked up.
Seriously, loss leaders are not a new idea – why not give it a go SKY? Mmmm. then again maybe it’s the cost of installing hundreds of thousands of satellite dishes with no guaranteed financial return that’s prohibitive.
In a desperate bid to prove Il Padrino was wrong about his fading faculties, Ecclestone demonstrates he is once again ahead of the curve and recommends SKY wait “for some sort of wireless system to come in where you don’t need a dish” – source PitPass.