Over the White Line: Black is the new black at the Beeb

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, March 6th, 2009

 
 

You can tell the F1 season is less than a month away, that a new broadcaster has the rights to screen it, and that other big, important things are afoot.

And how? By sitting down at your computer with a nice cup of tea to peruse the morning’s sporting headlines, and clicking through to the BBC’s F1 pages, as you are accustomed to do.

Imagine the shock and the puddle of spilt beverage when the aforementioned site is not the clean, white, easy-to-read design which you are expecting, but a white-on-black monstrosity with neon yellow headers and actual go-faster stripes.

What for the love of God are they thinking of? It looks like nothing so much as a radical aftermarket job on an otherwise fairly staid Ford Focus, complete with kerb-scraping bumpers and underfloor neons. And a large advert for a stereo across the rear window.

Fortunately the pages at the next level down are a bit easier on the eye and a bit closer to the broader website branding.

Because, to mix our motoring metaphors for a moment, visiting the front page is like bumping into an old friend going through a towering mid-life crisis who woke up one morning and decided to swap the Volvo for a Lotus Elise that they can hardly squeeze their portly frame into.

Gawd knows what we can expect from the TV coverage…

Here’s a selection of the racing and automotive coverage that didn’t give us a nasty early-morning shock this week:

  • Singapore is on the skids, according to a rather interesting article from the Washington Post. It describes how the city state is “a window into the reversal of the forces that brought unprecedented global mobility to goods, services, investment and labor. With world trade plummeting for the first time since 1982, the long-bustling port has become a maritime parking lot in recent weeks, with rows of idled freighters from Asia, Europe, the United States, South America, Africa and the Middle East stretching for miles along the coast.” How will this new-found hardship affect the flagship grand prix and the ability of the Singaporean government to pay for it? Only time will tell…
  • This week’s worst moment of veteran embarrassment was provided by Nigel Mansell OBE deciding to celebrate Lewis Hamilton’s being awarded his lesser MBE by reminding the youngster: “I’m the boss of you.” Our Nige points out in The Telegraph that his world title is “more credible” than Lewis’s because he had to race more people to get it. Or something. Or view is that Mansell is a figure worthy of great respect for having had a top-flight Formula One career and for achieving the feat of winning the CART world championship as well as the F1 title. He may have a point about the 2008 F1 field. And Hamilton still has a fair bit to prove – but it’s still a bit graceless to point it out so publicly, even for someone who’s not always been known for his sunny temperament.
  • And Mansell’s not the only one engaging the popular prints to get his point across. Racing car manufacturer Lola’s having a very public spat with Aston Martin over the design of its recently-announced Le Mans LMP 1 entrant. Aston chairman David Richards told Autosport at the end of February: “The perception is that we have dusted off a couple of old Lolas, but this is a radical redesign. The tub and the crash structure is Lola, but everything else is ours.” This has gone down like a lead balloon and Lola has rushed out a furious riposte. Quite where this leaves the disputed car’s chances of winning its race is the more important question, we feel.
  • Class war is alive and well in Germany, according to the Wired Autopia blog, which catalogues a series of luxury cars that have been torched across Berlin. Most of the vehicles are BMWs and Mercedes and someone cares enough to plot all the incidents on a Google map. Apparently this is a possible act of political protest against the parlous state of the German economy and the gentrification of east Berlin – in which case Britain’s SUV’s drivers who have to put up with being sneered at by the rest of the populace and taxed to drive their gas-guzzlers should breathe a sigh of relief that we do things differently here.
  • Or do we? The latest celebrity Ferrari casualty belongs to noted petrolhead Jason Kay of the popular beat combo Jamiroquai. Windows were smashed in the £1 million black Enzo, one of just 399 ever made, outside the owner’s hotel room in the usually staid Suffolk resort of Aldeburgh. While mindless vandalism is just as infuriating if you drive an old banger – more so, in fact, as it will probably involve the write-off of the entire vehicle – you still can’t help but feel that this is a particularly nasty bit of destruction. Does the Wired story, above, give us a clue to its purpose?
  • We can’t decide between our two top contenders for quote of the week this week, so we are forced to announce a tie. The original choice was from Wired Autopia’s review of the quite insanely beautiful £1 million new Aston Martin supercar – something you should really check out in its own right – as follows: “It is to cars as John Steed is to civil servants — a proper English gent quite capable of kicking your ass without so much as breaking a sweat.” But then we came across the long interview in The Guardian with Felipe Massa in which, on being asked for his reaction to losing the Formula One World Championship in the last seconds of the race, having crossed the finish line first, he says: “I went out and got pissed — in the circumstances what else are you going to do?” What is there not to like about this guy?
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