Atlas F1 The Formula One Insider

MONZA - where bankers' hours
means the banks are never open
by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.


I'm sure that most of us macho auto-racing fans pretty much view synchronised swimming and ballroom dancing as sissy sports whose only purpose is to give our wives an effective way to punish us for watching F1 on Sunday mornings and football on Sunday afternoons. Turns out, though, that THEIR world champions may be just a little more emotionally robust than the fearless young lions that we've come to revere for their courage, ability and athletic prowess.

It is understandable that Mika Hakkinen has not read the F1 rulebook, which states that accidents that aren't somebody else's fault are always caused by mechanical failures, but surely he must have read The Guy's Handbook which states, quite clearly, several times, that crying in public is (a) not a sign of emotional maturity, (b) does not make you more attractive to women and (c) indicates that you are indeed in touch with your feminine side - which is probably not a good thing.

It is of course unfortunate for Mika that there just happened to be a helicopter hovering right over heartbreak hedge but there is a helicopter hovering over pretty much every square inch of a Formula One track so he really should've known that crouching behind a bush was not exactly going to ensure him any privacy.

I just hope somebody at McLaren reminds him to use a clean balaclava at the next race.


Back at the track, Frentzen went about quietly winning the race. Whilst Eddie Jordan looked pretty chuffed after the race, I'm sure he'll be hearing a few complaints from sponsors who got a total of about 5 seconds of coverage during the race. Apart from winning, neither Frentzen nor Hill did anything exciting. Conversely, Tora Takagi and Pedro de la Rosa garnered an enormous amount of coverage for Arrow's sponsors, whoever they may be. Takagi's attempt to behead Luca Badoer and de la Rosa's hour long rendition of the hokey-pokey - in, out, in, out, shake it all about - meant that they didn't even have to engage in a ridiculous pit-stop strategy to earn their 15 minutes of fame.

Ralf, Salo and Barrichello quietly went about the business of embarrassing Coulthard and Irvine who, presumably, are getting used to it by now. Both managed to avoid doing anything particularly stupid just as they managed to avoid looking anything like world championship contenders. It has been reported that Coulthard will now be instructed to support Hakkinen's title bid. Can it be long before Irvine is instructed to support Salo?

Over at Williams we had the somewhat peculiar situation of a team-boss complaining about team orders while his drivers were coming up with their own. Alex Zanardi was unlucky to finish out of the points after good performances in qualifying and the race, before mechanical problems slowed him down, and appears to have reversed his transition from donuts to no nuts. And following another respectable performance from Mika Salo, he revealed that he has received an additional 37 offers for next season and some of them aren't even wishful thinking.


Monza is a track of anachronisms. The most famous part of the track, the banking, hasn't been used for decades but hasn't been demolished because... well it probably has something to do with the fact that it's in Italy. It's a track dedicated to high speed and was the first to install chicanes. The track is designed to promote drafting duels which, given the design of modern F1 cars, are now impossible. And the first chicane after the start is so tight that they paved over the inside of the corner. Yes. They paved the inside of the corner where you are NOT supposed to drive.

This led many of the drivers to suppose, quite correctly, that it would be just as quick to cut the 'corner' as it would to follow the course that the track designer intended. While this does appear to be a better idea than the piles of tyres that they tried in 1996, surely somebody has realised by now that this is not a very well designed corner. I don't imagine for a second that this 'somebody' works for the FIA but wouldn't it be nice if he did?

And while we're on the subject of the FIA, seems somebody there is able to take quick, decisive action when necessary. Within 2.3 seconds of the finish of the Spa race, the FIA had announced a new provisional calendar for 2000. Guess what? A big glaring hole in between Hungary and Italy (no I don't mean Switzerland). Bernie just couldn't wait to get started on his game of Call My Bluff, so even before the last strung out nicotine junkie had been removed from the tobacco-free track, Bernie had thrown down the gauntlet to the Mayor of Walloon.

The Mayor picked it up and went to consult with all the other little... wallies? The little wallies liked Bernie and all the green folding stuff he always brought with him but the Big Bad Belgian government didn't like poor Bernie because of his disgusting habits. The Big Bad Belgians told the little wallies that they shouldn't take the green folding stuff from Bernie because it was dirty! Yuk! Dirty!

I'm sorry. I got carried away.

What I meant to tell you was that Bernie has now announced that Monza will be dropped from the schedule as of next year. Although Italy allows tobacco sponsorship, the wings on the cars are so small that it's impossible to read the logos. Monza will therefore be required to add at least another six chicanes and a further 17 grooves will be added to the tyres.


Seems like it only just began and the silly season is over. With announcements confirming Barrichello to Ferrari, Irvine to Stewart and Stewart to Jaguar, the only burning question remaining is will Olivier Panis drive for Arrows or UPS? And which will be faster.

And talking of Jaguar, (that's Jag-u-ar, not Jag-wahr) I've got to admit that my joy at the return of British racing green on a British car is out of all proportion to the actual amount of British-ness that is actually represented by Jaguar today. Since it was sold to Ford, Jaguar is about as British as Benetton is Italian but what the hell! My XJ6 (yes, the one that caught fire) was built when Jaguar was British and I haven't seen racing green on a F1 car since I got rid of my Scalextric. So I'll ignore the fact that Ford is American, that Stewart and Irvine are devolved and that HSBC is the leading bank in a colony which, like so many things British, is no longer British, and focus all my efforts next season on teaching Americans how to say Jaguar. And the really nice thing is that the next time I see a Jag going up in flames, I won't be sitting in it.


You'll have to indulge me for a while as I thank Fox Sports Net, one of our U.S. F1 providers, for quoting me and giving a mention to Atlas F1 during the Monza GP. I'm sure that the thrill of knowing your work has been broadcast to millions across the country can only be surpassed by the excitement of the royalty check dropping onto the doormat. Seriously, Fox does a nice job of covering the race but I think I should be given Peter Windsor's job as trackside reporter. I can't think of a single reason why. I just think I should.


Jensen Button should be given a F1 drive. Not just because he's British and quick but because I need some fresh pun material for my headlines. I'm going to start a campaign - anybody want a Button button?

Mitch McCann© 1999 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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