Atlas F1 The Formula One Insider

JAPAN - A COUNTRY IN ASIA by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.


The championships have been decided. The cars have been packed in mothballs. The drivers are getting all Spring-like with their significant others. But the most important part of the Japanese GP remains. The gloating of those who correctly predicted the outcome of the final race.

Did I mention that I correctly predicted the outcome of the final race? I'm sure I'll get around to it sooner or later. Actually, given my track record in various prediction games (Pick 6, Pick 12, Pick N Mix) where it has been known for me to fail to accurately predict the day of the race, the fact that I got this one right is down to mathematical certainty, dumb luck or the fix was in.

So which was it? Mathematical certainty is out because nothing is mathematically certain until the FIA Court of Appeals rules on it (they're still examining Pythagoras' theorem looking for measuring errors). Dumb luck is also out because if I had any luck at all, my kids would be asleep by now, Arsenal would've beaten Spurs and the vacuum repairman would have understood what I meant when I said my vacuum cleaner sucks (I got a $100 bill and a 3-year guaranty of continuing suckiness).

If you've been following along, you'll realize that this just leaves "the fix." This may be just a little bit of a stretch unless you believe that Coulthard's McLaren is indeed fitted with a nobble button but given DC's record, this button is either permanently stuck in the on position or is rendered unnecessary by the driver's innate ability to stick his nose where it doesn't belong.

So who could've fixed the result? Who set pole and fastest lap but couldn't get by a back-marker going TEN SECONDS a lap slower? I don't know how Ferrari fans feel about their designated hero but I've got to say I'd be pretty sick to see him driving for a team I was passionate about.

Schumacher threw this race!

Montezemolo has stated that he had to order the poor soccer-playing invalid back into the car and there can be only one reason that was necessary. Schumacher did not want Irvine to win the championship. I said it before, lots of other people did too but I think Montezemolo's comments prove it. Schumacher may not have been able to pass Hakkinen but he was certainly capable of giving it a try. Do you think Eddie was wishing Salo was driving the other Ferrari half way through the race?

Oh and one more thing Michael. If DC holding you up for 2.5 seconds proves that he took you out at Spa last year, what does Jerez '97 prove about Adelaide '94? And if it takes a week to walk a fortnight, how many apples in a barrel of grapes?


There's 10 minutes left in qualifying. Your world championship contender has just crashed out with his 4th place time wide open to abuse. Seconds later your #2 driver sets provisional pole. Do you:
(a) hurriedly prepare the spare car just in case the session is red-flagged;
(b) grin like monkeys in a banana store;
(c) make sure that Jean's got a banana too, and that he's not just happy to see you, then grin like monkeys in a banana store; or
(d) try to pretend that you really do give a ^&*# about your world championship contender, just for the sake of appearances?

And did you hear that Ferrari offered Irvine a $1.5 million bonus for winning the championship? Now what was the point of that!? It wasn't Irvine that needed motivation to win the championship. It was everybody else from Schumacher down to Jean Todt. Of course a $1.5 million bonus wouldn't get Schumacher to turn over in his sleep but offering it to Irvine as proof of Ferrari's commitment to their "other" driver was about as transparent as a Spice Girl's nightie. (Not Sporty's).


Back at the track, Tora Takagi drove the race of his life. It must have been the race of his life because the cameras were on him long enough to film his entire biography including all the boring bits where he's just sitting next to a gravel trap waiting for the safety car. We certainly all became intimately familiar with the story of Takagi-san's retirement from the Japanese GP: slowing to a stop on the front straight, pulling into the end of the pit-lane, stopping, still stopped, sitting, some more sitting, quick whip-pan to Badoer sitting, pan to Takagi sitting, getting out, walking, slow motion replay of Takagi slowing down (I'm not even kidding), live shot of Takagi walking... ... ...

Bernie, I beg you! I'm sending you $10. Please give that Japanese director a goldfish and a new job description and please let me see 30 seconds of in-car footage from a car that has another car somewhere in the same area code. I'll do anything! I'll even buy the season review tape (or have somebody make a copy for me anyway). Just let me see one interesting in-car shot next year.

Actually, I can't wait to see how Fox reacts to the FIA's restrictions when they cover the U.S. GP next year. For those of you who aren't familiar with American motorsports coverage, it is standard practice over here at NASCAR or CART events to put cameras in every orifice of every car and driver. That's why Dale Earnhardt always looks so uptight. That ass-cam really binds up his Mr Goodwrench undies.

T H E   F I N A L   C U R T A I N

Well that's it kiddly-winks. Another season in the books. How will history record the 1999 season? Probably on VHS but I can get you a really good deal on a Beta.

1999 was a season that promised much but failed to deliver. Some will wax eloquent about a season of missed opportunities, of stars being reached for and dreams being dashed on shores of rocky fortune while fortunes rock on the dashy shores of dreams... ....??? Now you can see why I leave this stuff to Clive James.

So many in and around F1 covered themselves with muck that these 16 tapes will probably sit at the back of my collection for a while to come. Ferrari, despite all their progress in the four years under Michael Schumacher, proved themselves to be little more than the pathetic shadow of themselves that they were five years ago. What Ferrari is today is what Schumacher is and what Schumacher is, is nothing to be proud of. Irvine showed dignity and grace in defeat, things he must have picked up on his Marco Polo tour because they were sadly lacking for the rest of the season. When the going got tough McLaren were reduced to in-fighting, crying, crashing and snitching. Worthy champions indeed.

Bernie farted in the general direction of the millions that made his millions for him and we all sniffed and said it smelt of roses. Mosley stated loud and clear that the FIA was not the lapdog of FOCA, just like Bernie told him to. The FIA Supreme Court of Ultimate Appeals, Human Rights, Life the Universe and Everything thought they said 5 milliliters short and ordered another round of doubles.

And the nice guys finished last.

Will I be watching next season? Silly question. I'm decades younger than Bernie. I figure I can outlive him.

As with all things, Spring will bring a renewal. Jaguar will be fresh and young, Frentzen and Zanardi will have the same chance at the brass ring as Schumacher and Hakkinen. BAR will be re-vitalized, and re-colorized, and the Williams phoenix will rise from the ashes of a smouldering BMW. Arrows will actually work on their car and Minardi... ...well, Minardi endures. Minardi just is.

Minardi may actually be the embodiment of all that we, the suffering bastards, actually love about the sport. Minardi races for the love of racing. Their triumphs are small ones but perhaps theirs are the ones that we should be celebrating. Surely any idiot can spend $150 million and achieve some degree of success in F1. Isn't it more of an achievement to endure and to prosper in your own small way as Minardi has for years? Was Badoer's anguish at the Nurburgring any less justified than Hakkinen's at Monza? Was Minardi's triumph over BAR less momentous than Ferrari's over McLaren?

Here's to the spirit of Minardi and F1 surviving the Millennium and to nice guys finishing first.

Mitch McCann© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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