Atlas F1

The Formula One Insider

Better late than laterby Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.

Interlagos - Portuguese for "between beers"

Friends, race-fans, Dutchmen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Jos not to praise him.

Well I guess a lot has changed since my last column including the fact that future world champion Jos Verstappen is still a future world champion. Perhaps he should drive for Ferrari. Much else has changed. The cars are now much slower due to the lack of tyre competition and the extra groove. Funnily enough, lap times this season are still going down which is therefore clear evidence that the tracks have been secretly shortened. With another three weeks testing before the next race, I'll bet a lap of Imola will consist of down the pit-lane, round the back of the garages, first one to kick the can wins.

I should point out that I've been horribly out of touch over the off-season. Having bought a nightclub I've discovered that (a) it's an awful lot more work to sell a beer than to buy one and (b) living your life based on Japanese Standard Time when you live on the east coast of the United States leaves little room in your life except for work and wandering around stupefied in the early hours of the morning wondering how McDonalds could've gone out of business without you noticing.

Having said that, it has been interesting to observe some of the developments since we last spoke. Craig Pollock took on the Bernie Ecclestone in a life or death struggle that lasted until about 5 seconds after Bernie put on his game face and showed Pillock his list of lawyers.

Mercedes has changed their tune from a couple of years ago and instead of wanting to dump McLaren, they now want to buy them. I wonder what made them change their minds. Must be that whole Silver Arrows mystique thing. And talking of coloured arrows, what was Arrows thinking? The only thing that can be said for their livery is that it makes BAR look sophisticated. So much for tobacco money being a thing of the past in F1. Bernie may have to drop the 107% rule just so there's enough teams to carry all the cigarette brands out there.

Things continue to change for Williams too as they go from bad to worse. Frentzen must laugh all the way to the podium. (I'm not going to say anything about him running out of gas because I've got a new car and I've been experimenting with the fuel gauge to see just how many degrees of separation there are between 'E' and really, really empty - I feel my time is coming).

The entire Formula One fan base in the U.S. (well at least two of us, I'm not sure about John) was thrilled to discover that there will finally be a U.S. Grand Prix again. Of course, the fact that both Tony George and Eccles are dedicated to nothing but the good of motor-sport leaves us trembling with antici..........

pation. (Sorry. Love that line).

Some things never change though. Herbert, Alesi, Diniz and Minardi continue to trundle around, making up the numbers, never threatening to do anything more interesting than hit each other occasionally or hold up the leader for a corner or two. I hope these boys aren't just racing for the thrill of victory. Villeneuve continues to act like a petulant prima donna and is completely unaware that nobody cares any more. I do need to pick up an extra ticket or two for Montreal this year but right now I don't think that's going to be a problem.

And so as this season winds to a close it just remains to be seen exactly when Hakkinen will wrap up the championship, who will announce that Jean Todt has been fired and will this be done before or after he guarantees that Ferrari will win the championship next year and when will Coulthard announce that he has decided to leave McLaren due to the fact that their future plans were taking them in different directions - Coulthard wanted to go clockwise around the track, Ron Dennis wanted him to sit and spin in any grandstand seat that took his fancy.


McLaren got it back in gear, most of the time, and took their first win of the season despite handing Schumacher a head start just to make it interesting. Mika Hakkinen remained his cool, calm, collected self throughout the race and Coulthard remained the world's biggest number two. Barrichello had Brazil and half the world's fans holding their breath for a while but in the end Stewart's tactics proved to be wrong and the 99 Ford then went on to do its best impression of the 98 Ford.

Schumacher took an uninspired weekend and translated that into an uninspired race performance. He may be a superb competitor but driving an out-classed for Ferrari for so many years seems to be taking its toll on him. Frentzen showed that the Jordan is at least a genuine contender for permanent inclusion in the Big Four but unless McLaren's 25% reliability pattern continues, the Big Four is quickly going to become the Big One.

Very little passing, none for the lead, the race decided in the pits and the last half a snoozer - can anybody remind me why I got up early for this?


Does anybody know who Eccles' marketing director is and is he out on day release or does he have an office available within the institution?

Despite the fact that the rules and the financial structure of the sport, not to mention the sheer bloody-mindedness of the administrators, have combined to provide us with a spectacle which week by week looks more like a pageant than a competitive event, the powers that be have decided to deliberately downgrade the quality of the TV coverage provide to its 16 trillion viewers (or whatever the stupid number is that they claim).

For years, F1 has had the worst TV coverage of any sport I can think of. I can't imagine how many hours I've spent watching qualifying in-laps, home country back markers, third rate teams performing fourth rate pit-stops, reflections in pit crew visors and super slow motion replays of left front wheels. All of this while something truly interesting and or exciting was happening elsewhere on the track.

One of the highlights of any F1 race, no matter how dull the competition, were the on-board shots from any one of a number of cars. Not only are these shots thrilling in and of themselves, especially on the rare occasion when both audio and video are working, but they often provided the best shots of action that was missed by the trackside cameras.

Now apparently, it has been decided that we mere mortals, who do nothing more for F1 than buy the tickets, read the magazines, wear the T-shirts and make up that damn 16 trillion, are not worthy to watch on-board shots. I don't know how much the digital service costs in those countries where it is available, but it isn't even available here! Nor, I'm sure in most of the rest of the world.

Who the ____ (insert your own expletive here - I know which one I'm thinking of) came up with that idea?

I'm a businessman. I'm going to run this one by my staff and see if we should implement a similar scheme. We're going to reduce our level of service from poor to lousy but some of our customers will have the option of paying extra to upgrade to poor!

My next column may be late because I'll be counting my millions.

Mitch McCann© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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