Atlas F1 The Formula One Insider

THE INSIDER - Y2K compliant since yesterday by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.

The year, the century and the millennium have come and gone (oh, come on, there's nothing sexy about the calendar rolling over to 2001) and the comings and goings in F1 continue. Benetton's team manager Joan Villadelprat is leaving, Michelin are arriving and Repsol's staying with Arrows - must've missed out on that billboard next to I-93 downtown. (Oh yeah - de la Rosa's staying too - hmmmmm!) Zanardi has received strong assurances from Williams and he will therefore be staying unless there's an 'R' in the month - in which case he can go shuck himself.

Incidentally, Joan Villadelprat's resignation announcement was released to the press with sub-titles:

"I have really enjoyed my 10 years at Benetton [well two of those years anyway] but feel that, in spite of the [fact that Briatore's gone] excellent relationship between myself and the management [Daddy's boy], the time has come for me to [quit before I'm fired] move on to new projects [the dole]. There are many talented people in the company [unfortunately they're all in the accounting department] and I know that the team has the capability [a one-armed dishwasher called Chuck] and resources [three second hand PCs and a coffee maker] to get back to the top [of the knitwear and home fashions industry]. I wish everyone at Benetton Formula One the [same as they wished me - with knobs on] very best of luck in achieving their goals [beating BAR] next season. [Bite me]."

Rocco Benetton responded:

"Joan has been a strong [don't stand downwind of him] and committed [he certainly should have been] member [too bloody right] of the Benetton Formula One team for over a decade [just seems like longer] and as such has had a valuable part to play in our history [and if he'd actually played that part our history might have been better]. I would like to thank him [but I'm not going to] for his dedication [to finishing the Sun crossword puzzle during his interminable bathroom breaks] and wish him all the best with his [prostate surgery] future."

What else is new? Jaguar is turning various shades of green trying to find a hue that doesn't clash with Eccles' wallet while Jordan is trying to emulate Ferrari by adopting a numbering system that makes perfect sense to Melissa Messenger and Europols with expense accounts. Hockenheim will be shortening their circuit to take out all the straights leaving one 3-mile long chicane and, as a result, Eccles has verbally agreed to extend their contract until 2008 - I hope they got that verbal agreement in writing. Ferrari held their annual Christmas party but Eddie Irvine did not attend due to illness - he was sick of Ferrari.

Rubens Barrichello has undergone an operation to remove some tissue from his ribcage - reports that this was required by Ferrari management in order to counter Jaguar's weight advantage from their new paint have been denied by a spokesman as have rumours that both Ferrari drivers were being required to adopt right foot braking in order to facilitate the removal of their left feet.

Darren Manning and Jensen Button have both been testing with F1 teams, which means..."THE BRITISH ARE COMING. THE BRITISH ARE COMING." Jacques Villeneuve got married in Australia at midnight on New Year's Eve - do you think he thought the fireworks were for him? I don't know much about his wife, Dannii Minogue, but I am familiar with her sister Kylie's work. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Most F1 teams have now announced the launch dates for their new cars except for Ferrari who said, and I swear Dave Barry wouldn't make this up, "Any time between January 25 and 30 is possible." And they're almost positive it'll be before March 12th. (Claims that Ferrari will win the championship next year must be postmarked no later than April 1st.)


So Santa's been and filled your stockings but for the Insider he left pretty slim pickings. Even the normal bout of off-season inactivity, known as testing, came to a halt so that the teams could go home to see if their girlfriends had been naughty or nice and if they'd be naughty again. But what's a cynical scribe like myself to do when nobody's doing anything at all let alone anything stupid, funny or controversial. Even the FIA has failed to do anything FIA-like for a couple of weeks now. In fact, given that they were originally were based in France, they've probably got another two weeks of la vacation left before they get back to thuggery, skullduggery and ...buccaneering.

Throw in the Millennium and a four-day week and the FIA may not be back to work before they ban somebody. (Its a little known fact that the fireworks in Paris were not actually a celebration of the Millennium or even of the year before the Millennium but rather the fact that its still almost seven decades before people start joking about going to France for soixante-neuf).

So for now, I'll rest my acerbic wit in the sure and certain knowledge that Eccles' new year's resolution was not to make F1 better for the fans and that the FIA Court of Appeals will reconvene sometime this century once they all sober up and figure out how to make a Bloody Mary. The championship will renew in a few short weeks and produce the finest crop of losers this side of Vegas and the Senna trial will be re-opened as soon as the Italian prosecutors find the appropriate loophole.

Pitstops won't stop and Arrows won't start. Stewards will drive the drivers to stew and points will make prizes - what do points make? Prizes! FIA regulations requiring four wheels will continue to be ignored and drivers will still refer to themselves in the plural. (Having started the F1 trend towards the American standard of the first person plural, Villeneuve will push the envelope to the second or even third person plural. In fact, his Barrow's performance may well justify the exclusive use of the third person plural). The Show will go on but the sport? Who knows.

The first F1 news of the Millennium was the knighthood for Stirling Moss. Surely nobody in this or any other sport deserved it more. Widely regarded as the greatest driver never to win a championship, Moss epitomized skill, grace and sportsmanship and to this day has never uttered a bitter word about fortune, the fates or the circumstances that denied him a world championship. Maybe this is a good omen for F1 in the new millennium.

And my personal resolution for the New Year? Never again to watch a man die on live TV. I may not be able to quit smoking but I pray I can stick to this one.

Mitch McCann© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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