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Egmont’s Column: Secret Society

2009-09-11 09:29

Egmont Sippel

“Wow! Attaboy!” Luca M exclaimed. “What a drive by young Kimi at Spa!”

“Well, he’s not that young anymore,” Luca Brasi corrected. “Kimi is pushing 30 already. In F1, that’s ancient.”

“No, it’s young,” Luca No. 1 countered. “Michael Schumacher was 30 years and 9 months old when he won his first driver’s title for Maranello.”

“Which means that The Rai’s red period will be over at an age when Michael’s Maranellian days have not even turned purple yet?”

“Wow! You had me there, Luca No. 2. For a moment I thought you were going to say: ‘Michael’s Machiavellian days’. But yes, sadly, at the age of 29 years and 11 months the Kimster will be an ex-Ferrari driver. That’s if we can’t pull off this three car suggestion for 2010, and if I have the heart to fire Kimi on Sunday.”

“It will be tough, boss,” Luca Brasi said. “But you know what they say: the good die young.”

“Yes,” Luca M nodded. “Senna, James Dean, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . . .”

“That’s the guy who got killed at Monza in 1961, not so, this Wolfgang bloke, when he tripped over Jim Clark’s Lotus?”

“No, no, no!” Luca M exclaimed. “You’re thinking of Wolfgang von Trips. Mozart was the Michael Jackson of his day.”

Mozart and the Secret Moon Dance

“Could he moon dance?”

“Secretly, yes. Officially, no. But he wrote the Moonlight Sonata. Or was it that deaf fellow, the grumpy podgy German?”

“Norbert Haug, you mean? Perhaps not, boss. A deaf guy writing music is like a blind guy driving a car.”

“Ha! That’s Badoer. Blind as a bloody bat, that Italian miscreant. He can’t even see beyond his own miserable results. Now he blames the press!”

“Yes, and it’s not nice dealing with the prancing press,” Luca Brasi said. “In my alter ego role as Ferrari’s media officer I always oil my piano cord before I speak to them.”

“Luca Colajanni. Yes. Now we have four Lucas, as if three is not enough: Luca Montezemolo, Luca Badoer, Luca Brasi and Luca Colajanni. But as press officer it is your job, Colajanni, I mean Brasi – or whatever, whatever – to keep the journalists happy, even if you have to tell them the truth. And why not? Feed them cake. If poison can’t kill them, cake will be harmless!”

“Not necessarily,” Luca Brasi answered. “Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. The truth is a secret commodity in racing circles, in any case: cars, horses, bicycles, athletics. Marco Pantani, the king of mountain climbers, died from a cocaine overdose after years of performance drugs. Flo-Jo succumbed to steroids. Every single horse on a race track is doped. And don’t tell me Schumacher never held his steed back, to make others win.”

“Nope,” Luca M countered. “Apart from Indy 2003 Michael never held his steed back. Others had to hold theirs back for him!”

Secret engines

“No, boss. I’m referring to Willie Schumacher, the great equestrian, the jockey who rode Equus. I believe that somebody wrote a play called Seabiscuit on him.”

“No, no, no, Brasi, you can’t be Luca Colojani if you talk rubbish like this. Willie’s was actually called Shoemaker. Equus was a play written by the same guy who wrote Amadeus (and it has nothing to do with Von Trips). And Seabiscuit was a great horse never ridden by Shoemaker.”

“The horse whose head ended up between the bed sheets of Mario Puzo’s Mafia tales?”

“Who knows? As long as it’s not the Prancing Horse’s head. I’m already starting to feel like that French New Wave philosopher who wrote: Marx is Dead, God is Dead and I’m Not Feeling Too Well Myself. Which, in fact, is very true. Firing the Ice Man whilst the Ice Man is firing on all eight cylinders sickens me a bit…”

“What?” Luca Brasi, also known as Luca No. 2, alias Luca Colajanni, exclaimed. “The FIA didn’t give us permission to build a secret V10 for this year’s Monza GP?”

“Nope,” Luca M countered. “We won’t need two extra cylinders in the Ferrari. We’ve got The Button. Unlike Brawn, this is the Real Button. Before Spa, I was eyeing Trulli out for the second Ferrari seat.  But after quali Haug came over and said: ‘Look, Luca, we all know that the worst of the Merc powered cars are quicker than your Jaunty Jalopies, especially the one driven by your namesake – he had to say that, of course. So, to save you the humiliation of being beaten by a Force India – ‘with a Merc engine’, he added, of course – we will instruct Giancarlo to finish behind Kimi, if you’re prepared to boot Badoer and give the second Ferrari to Fisichella.”

“But why?” Colajanni asked, perplexed. “Why are Fisi’s fortunes so important to Benz?”

Secret frequencies and TCs

“A-ha. Because when Flavio Briatore sent Piquet the message to crash in Singapore, he accidentally used Benetton’s secret radio frequencies from 1994, when the car was equipped with illegal traction control. They never deleted the secret TC programme nor the secret frequencies, arguing that a leopard should never change its spots, especially not the bad – and the secret – ones. So, with Fisi being the last good driver besides Alonso to have piloted a Renault, Briatore accidentally forwarded Singapore’s ‘crash’ message to Fisi as well. Now, in order to keep Giancarlo quiet about the story behind Piquet’s misfortune, we’ve promised to organize him a Ferrari drive.”

“But why would Ferrari want to keep Fisi quiet about Piquet’s crash?” Luca B (or is it Luca C?) wanted to know.

“A-ha,” Luca M said. “Because Alonso might or might not be involved, that’s a secret. But we’d rather that he’d not be involved – or seen not to be involved – so that he can drive for us next year.”

“Good Lord!” Luca BC exclaimed.

“Wait, it gets more complicated, still,” Luca M said. “I sat next to Flavio in a FOTA meeting the other day. ‘You good?’ he grunted. ‘Not too bad,’ I said. ‘Kimi is on the wagon for a change, and driving well.’ ‘You mean, in the wagon,’ Briatore said, laughing so hard that I could hear his bad Italian upbringing coming through in the background. It was the worst insult to our car since Prost (in 1991) called the F643 ‘a bus’. My answer, in any case, was: ‘Rather in a wagon than in the dog box.’

“Flavio grunted. ‘That nothing,’ he said without verbs in his sentence. ‘We get out these silly crash allegations, even if true, if Todt FIA president.’

Secret accidents

“Now, in F1 we all want Todt, of course. Vatanen is far too level-headed and democratic, nothing like a true Roman emperor with an unbridled lust for spirited adventure, like Nero. Yet, like Brutus, we have to play a game of Machiavellian deceit before we strike with Todt. Therefore we pretend to support Vatanen. Ferrari did the same in 2005, pretending to support the GPMA, whilst signing secret agreements with the FIA on veto’s for rule changes, extra financial spin-offs, a say on matters technical, and all the other things that could unfairly advantage the Scuderia.

“Which is what racing people do, all the time. We cheat until we don’t know the truth any more. As a community of merry pranksters we slot in just behind politicians. Lewis lied. Michael lied. Max lied. Bernie lied. We all lie, all of the time – except Kimi. Kimi just lazily rattles off the truth in that monotone Finnish way, like a tractor ploughing lands, unperturbed. That’s perhaps why he should go somewhere else.

“Anyway, Renault’s plan was obviously hatched to get Ghosn off the F1 team’s back. ‘Now everybody is angry with us,’ Briatore said. ‘But what’s the difference between Piquet putting his car into a wall, so that his team can win, and Schumacher putting his car into a wall (during Monaco quali in 2006) so that Schumacher could win (by preventing Alonso from grabbing pole)?’

“Flavio’s point was that Renault should face the same penalty if found guilty of the same offence – trying to manipulate a race result by deliberately putting a car into the wall. Renault should therefore start the next race at the back of the grid, just like Michael in Monaco, and that should be that. He forgot to mention that they usually start at the back of the grid in any case. His opinion is furthermore that Ghosn won’t can the Renault F1 programme. Not if Todt becomes FIA President. Todt will speak to Ghosn, he reckons. They’re both French.

“But Ghosn is not French, of course. Ghosn is Logic. In a fit of pique – or make that a fit of Piquet – Flavio will throw his little tantrum when Renault F1 is closed down. Then the sport will move on without Honda, BMW, the Silver Diamond, maybe Toyota and hopefully even Briatore.

Secret deals, secret figures

“Which will leave Ferrari and McLaren as the established grandee teams. After some manipulation we’ll get another $100 million fine slapped on McLaren, which will leave Maranello with three cars and Alonso, Massa and Kimi (if I don’t fire him on Sunday) to win title after title.

“And then, at last, we can pay our drivers less so that we – you and I, Luca – can have more money for more fun. By Jove, if we kept up the Kimster’s salary of $40 million per annum for the next 100 years, we would have to spend $4 000 million on him. That’s a lot of pay-over to a sleeping partner. But Bernie only paid $350 million for an exclusive to F1’s commercial rights over the same 100 years!”

“Yep,” Luca Brasi said, stroking his piano cord. “Max’s cost cutting started when pal Bernie picked up those rights for nothing. The figures just don’t match. Something is secret in the state of Denmark.”

“Keep it that way, Luca No. 2. We need chaos. It’s big fun, especially over here in Maranello.”

“So, what’s gonna happen on Sunday? Will you give The Rai the boot?”

“I don’t now yet,” Luca M said. “It’s a secret. I’ll have to speak to the Godfather first.”

“The Godfather?” Luca B asked. “I thought you were the Godfather? And if not, who is?”

“Now that’s a real secret,” Luca M said.

So, Luca No. 2, also known as Luca Colajanni but really named Luca Brasi, got up to switch on some music and pour his boss a drink. Luca No. 1 sat back in his chair. The hi-fi started to hum.

“Girls just wanna have fun,” Cyndi Lauper sang. “Oh yeah, girls just wanna have fun, fun, fun…”


Egmont's column: The Sequel

2009-08-27 08:52

Inside Wheels24

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