Atlas F1 The Formula One Insider

SPA - where you can eat beans
before bath-time and nobody knows
by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.


I guess Ron Dennis wasn't blowing smoke where the sun don't shine when he claimed that McLaren did not have any team orders. Did anybody believe him before Spa? Now that I think about it, the couple of close encounters the McLads have had, including the first time through La Source, should've been a dead give-away but it wasn't until Hakkinen banged in a couple of quick laps and Coulthard responded with a couple of his own, that I realized that the owner of a Formula One team had actually told the media the truth.

I must admit though that I was kind of surprised to realize that Coulthard really does have some sort of a shot at the title. When considering the championship race, one doesn't normally look as far down as Frentzen for the contenders and that's exactly where Coulthard has been all season. After the race, when I realized that he's only a win and a Hakkinen DNF away from being right back in this thing, it made a little more sense. Not that Coulthard has exactly given the impression of being a title contender. Consistently slower in every session, except for his trademark fastest lap three laps from the end, poorer starting, more error prone and plagued by what can only be described as the luck of the Scottish, Coulthard would be hard pressed to make it onto anybody's top five driver list this year.

Nevertheless, he won this one fair and square and if he recovers his starting form of a year or two ago, he could actually make a race of this despite the fact that he can't out-qualify Hakkinen for love nor tons of money. And remember, every race at the current Spa circuit has been won by a former or future world champion. Makes that each-way bet look a little cautious doesn't it, Jock?

And talking of fair and square, the incident at La Source was a racing incident at best and Hakkinen's fault at worst. I haven't checked the bulletin boards but I'll bet there's a lot .fi e-mail addresses calling for a declaration of war on Scotland. (Not to mention a lot of .uk addresses complaining that their addresses should be .sc). And the fact that Hakkinen looked like Grumpy with an ulcer at the press conference won't have helped things. David Coulthard of course looked like all six of the other dwarfs. Only taller.


You've gotta give Jacques Villeneuve some credit after qualifying at Spa. I'll bet he'll be driving a Mercedes at Le Mans next year. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether it was driver error or not but I can tell you, if that was me the only driver error would be getting into the spare car. And that whooshing noise you heard on Saturday as soon as qualifying was over? That was Eddie Jordan's wig flying off as he raced over to the Honda motorhome where Honda lawyers were going over next year's contract with a fine toothcomb and a samurai sword. Following the race Diniz was seen hanging around Craig Pollock saying: "Gi'us a job. Gaworn. Gi'us a job."

(I don't normally do this but just this once I'm going to take it easy on you. Being English and living in the States, there are very few people in the world who understand all the obscure references in this column. I kind of like it that way. Sorry but it's the sadistic streak in me. And at least there are very few obscure Finnish references so it could be worse. The above reference however is not only obscure, its incomprehensible to anybody who doesn't live significantly north of the Watford Gap which, incidentally, is nowhere near Watford - we Brits just do these things to confuse foreigners. So, in the interests of d'etante I will tell you that: "Gi'us a job. Gaworn. Gi'us a job" actually means, in English that an American would understand: "Give me a job. Oh, please. Give me a job." It's a line from TV that, for no apparent reason, became a popular phrase in the 70's just like: "That's 'andy, 'arry. Stick it in the oven." You'll have to look that one up yourself).

And talking of Diniz, which I was a couple of hours ago (you wouldn't believe how long it takes me to write this garbage), it seems he's actually going to get paid to drive next year. Can you imagine how that job interview went?

"I'll give you 5 million."

"No. I'll give YOU 5 million."

"No, no, no! I'll give YOU 5 million."

"OK. You drive a hard bargain. I'll give you 6 million."

Meanwhile, Parmalat's banging on the door screaming: "I'll give the first person to bring me a wooden cigarette lighter 5 million."

And what is Diniz gonna do with the money anyway? ... ... ...

Does anybody have Pedro's phone number?


May I call you sir? You don't know me but I know you. I sit at turn 1, sometimes turn 12, every year. I buy a 3 day ticket. I'd buy a 4 day ticket if there was one. I keep my programmes in ziplock bags. I only wear my F1 T-shirts to formal occasions. I tape every race because the off-season is too long. I prefer the coverage of CART and NASCAR but I can't help it, I was raised on F1. The only reason I don't pay for your digital service is (a) it's a stupid idea and (b) it's not available here.

I'm writing because I hear that 1999 may be the last year for Spa-Francorchamps. Apparently they did something so heinous that ostracism is the only appropriate sanction. They banned tobacco advertising. Now I know that the whole world revolves around tobacco, I myself am an ex-reformed smoker, but surely there are some elements of the sport that are above and beyond the control of immediate commercial expediency? Aren't there? Really? Aren't there?

Now I know that many of the millions that flow into F1 come from tobacco companies but you must surely realize that the only reason that this is so is because tobacco advertising has been banned in every way in many parts of the world. You must surely realize that this is part of a worldwide movement towards the outlawing of smoking altogether. I can't believe that your strategy for the survival of F1 is to follow tobacco to whatever global backwater allows tobacco advertising.

By the time my son can read this, he may wonder how his Dad could've become so involved with a sport that is centered in Malaysia, with rounds in Albania, Slovakia, Nigeria and El Salvador, has 3 teams and 5 races a year.

By the way, my son finds F1 boring. You may want to examine your own product more closely before you look at anybody else's. I think my son may be smarter than me.


Racing three-wide. Is that allowed? Are they practicing for Indy? Kudos to Alesi, Wurz and Barrichello. And talking of Barrichello... Gonna be real interesting to see him race Michael Schumacher as an equal. Remember Brazil last year? I'll bet you that pairing will only last a year. One of them will walk in 2001. Salo held up Ralf to protect Irvine's 4th place. Does that speak well for Irvine, Salo or Ferrari?

And talking of Indy, some mistook my comments about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in my last column. To set the record straight, I am thrilled that F1 is returning to the U.S. and I can't wait to see F1 cars negotiating a banked corner. I do, however, have tremendous reservations about what will happen when an F1 car, which is much lighter than its Indy/CHAMP counterparts, has an encounter with the wall at close to 200 mph.

The Schumacher watch continues. At this point, Irvine is much too close to contention for Schumacher to even consider coming back. A Hakkinen win and an Irvine DNF at Monza might tempt Michael back but I wouldn't bet on it.


A serious comment. Kudos to my F1 provider, Speedvision. Their pre-race show included exclusive interviews with Coulthard, Zanardi, Pat Symonds of Benetton and Mike Gascoyne of Jordan. I don't even mind that the half-hour show includes 14 minutes of advertising. This was an idea I proposed several years ago in the bad old days of ESPN when they saved up all the ads for the last 15 minutes of the race when they figured it was like a Sunday Night Movie and if they got you hooked in the first 20 minutes you'd stay till the end.

Mitch McCann© 1999 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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