Atlas F1 The Formula One Insider

AUSTRALIA - where 'down under'
isn't just Eddie's favourite past-time
by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.


This is going to be a fun season! Not even one week in and Ferrari and McLaren are sniping at each other. Following Sunday's tour de farce when Mercedes proved to the world that they are even more reliable than...well, Jaguar anyway, Ron Dennis reacted sharply to Michael Schumacher's claim that he had the race well in hand while trailing the two McLaren Mayflies. Apparently, if you believe everything you read, Schumacher was quite happy to be third because that meant he was going to win and Dennis was planning on hanging out the SLOW sign because his drivers had a good two or three second advantage.

Dennis went on to claim that Barrichello's second pit stop was required in order to fuel Schumacher's ego rather than the Brazilian's Ferrari. Now far be it from me to suggest that Ferrari would engage in anything less than sporting, but I couldn't quite figure out why making an additional 25 second stop for 3 seconds worth of fuel was a good thing. Nevertheless, whether you're a Ferrari fan or a Ferrari/Schumacher hater, there's something for you to get your teeth into. Either Ferrari's playing games with Barrichello already or Ron Dennis has started the mind games. Maybe by mid-season they'll actually start concentrating on the racing.

Actually, my theory on Barrichello's second stop is that Ferrari only called him in to make every F1 commentator in the world look stupid (especially Derek "there is absolutely no way Barrichello will be allowed to pass Schumacher...oh" Bell). Did anybody, anywhere listen to a commentator who actually had any idea of what was going on? Tell me what your local commentator said as Rubens reeled in Schumacher and we'll have a competition to see who got it most wrong. (Employees, relatives and homonyms of Murray Walker Inc., are not eligible for the grand prize).

And one more thought before we leave the Hatfiends and the McBoys: David Coulthard should really be given credit for raising the task of screwing Schumacher from a sex act to an art form. Lesser number twos would be content to simply crash into their adversary but DC has demonstrated a knack for being crashed into and now crashing himself at the most opportune of moments. It's just a good job that rear wing didn't land a few inches further back. (Is the dent made in the chassis by the wing called a wingding?)


When the big hand points to the twelve and the little hand points to the two, its time to start thinking about another career. I know many of you were eagerly awaiting a glimpse of Jos in action this weekend and while Jos' last minute qualifying trip through the gravel left most of us relieved that he's still got it, his failure to out-qualify his rent-a-drive partner stands as a testament to the skills we have so sorely missed in his absence.


The first race of 2000 started the same way every race has for the last five years - with Michael Schumacher cutting across in front of at least three other drivers who'd made a better start than him. Three seconds later, the first Jaguar broke down - as an ex-Jag owner, this brought on a pang of nostalgia that brought tears to my eyes just as the exhaust fumes in the car used to do. Herbert's cat will probably turn out to be almost as expensive to fix as mine used to be. (For those of you interested, I should tell you that after years of pain and suffering we did the humane thing and had my Jaguar cremated. Actually to be more accurate, it cremated itself).

But back to the race. Starting to look very American these days, isn't it? (Except for the right turns and the fact that sometimes cars overtake each other over here). Seems somebody in grandstand 28 was overheard to remark that the McLarens were pulling out a lead so they brought out the safety car. Obviously, as there was little reason to bring it out in the first place, nobody could quite figure out what should happen before they could bring it back in again. So they let it circulate just long enough to give McLaren an excuse, and then it was back to your regularly scheduled, whatever that was. Maybe they should just put these multi-million dollar paperweights on a big dirt track and let 'em have at each other - half the field would probably last longer that way.

By lap 18 it was pretty much all over bar the gloating and whining and it was around this point that I noticed a damp patch on the ceiling. I watched it for a while but it didn't seem to be getting any drier. Finally I realized that my looming deadline was not for an article about the damp patch on my ceiling so I turned my attention to the pit stops. The cars came in, all of them, at least once, changed their tyres really, really quickly (no, I mean really quickly), and re-fueled with enough gas to get them almost all the way to the end of the race. (I think the damp patch got a little bit drier during the pitstops but then again, I think the earth cooled a little bit during the pitstops).

With all the cars, well the 10 still running anyway, ready and eager to drive another 100 miles non-stop we returned to the procession which was only interrupted by the totally uncalled for overtaking of Mika Salo (for which he was quite rightly disqualified). Talking of Salo, I wonder if Mika noticed that the young, British driver who was not fit to eat his dust actually had a pretty damn good race. I'm sure he did notice because Button WAS IN FRONT OF HIM until his engine expired.

And that was about it.

You may think that I sound a little cynical for this early in the season, but I watched a lot of other racing in the off-season. F3, BTCC, NASCARRGGHHH, hell, even the World Rally Championship had more passing than your typical F1 race and most Funny Cars have a longer life expectancy. The FIA has to address the passing issue, even if it means taking the damn wings off. Five cars, running half a race, as close to nose to tail as F1 permits with only one pass does not make for exciting entertainment (even if the TV director does manage to figure out the painfully, bleedin' obvious).


This is not fair. It was my idea to get Button into F1 in the first place and already the British tabloids have used every single Button pun possible. So I hereby declare a unilateral moratorium on Buttonisms.

Will be reserved for when Jenson is disqualified and Williams appeals.


Cleaning out my drawer, I just wanted to mention the exclusive interview Thomas O'Keefe had with Bernie Ecclestone in the Feb 23rd issue of Atlas F1. I'm sure neither Thomas nor my editor will mind if I say what a great job that was securing the hardest interview in F1. Apparently, the way to do it is to be critical of Bernie which makes me wonder why I didn't get that interview years ago (seriously, Thomas put a lot more thought and effort into his great profile of Ecclestone than I put into a year's worth of my drivel).

Bernie appeared to talk pretty candidly but did not address the issues that truly affect the sport's fans. One of my pet peeves is the appalling quality of TV coverage on which our man says: "the blame for the apparently crimping down on in-car coverage cannot be laid at his doorstep: "the world feed producers have the right to use up to three in-car cameras . . . it is entirely up to the broadcaster."

This is like the captain of the Titanic saying the icebergs aren't his responsibility. The only product Bernie actually owns is the TV coverage of F1. He doesn't own a team, a track, a country (the deposit on England was returned). If the product you're selling sucks, don't blame the guy on the production line even if he is a screw-up. Fire him and hire somebody who can make a decent product. Bernie Ecclestone is not a laissez-faire kind of guy. To even suggest that he is not responsible for the product his company produces is downright dishonest. That said, I'll sit back and wait for my interview.


I normally finish with a one-liner.

But not this time. I just wanted to take a minute to thank the folks at CMS Trackdays who have enabled me to look Holland square in the eye and say "YEAH! SAYS WHO?". On a recent trip home to England (there's a real big whack with the clue-stick for those of you who still haven't figured out how to insult me based on my actual nationality), I got the chance to drive around a race track with a professional driving instructor who, by the end of the day, still hadn't made a final decision to quit motor racing. Actually, I did pretty well if I do say so myself (which I do because nobody else was going to). The gravel traps were left just the way I found them (many miles away on a completely different circuit) although that really big pothole on the front straight did have a strangely magnetic effect. (I won't mention the rides I got in a Lotus and a Porsche coz you'd only be jealous).

Seriously, a very big thank you to everybody at CMS especially Malcolm, Janice and Harvey (sorry about the tyres, Harvey) who do a really superb job and made me and everybody else feel very welcome. If you want the chance to drive your road or race-prepared car around some of the UK's great circuits, you can do no better than to call the folks at CMS Trackdays. (01992) 579191 or 579292. Fax (01992) 579393. (Tell 'em I sent you and they'll call you back as soon as they stop laughing).

Mitch McCann© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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