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Over the white line: put a quid or two on Felipe…

This week, in the midst of endless discussion of the British Grand Prix, new car launches and the retirement of a long-standing team principal, we were treated to the Thoughts of Chairman Bernie about what ought to happen in 2009.

“I hoped that Felipe would do something last year so let’s hope he does it this year,” he said. “Lewis had bad luck the year before and won. Felipe had bad luck last year so I hope he recovers.”


This is thought-provoking stuff from a man who may well be in a position to help create luck for Felipe Massa. Indeed, some people undoubtedly feel the Powers That Be had a pretty big hand in his 2008 season.

Our view is that Massa has proved he is superb racer who pulled a cracking 2008 season out of the hat to become Ferrari’s lead driver against all expectations. He’s also shown he is an engaging character and a really dignified and graceful loser, a tall order for anyone who lost under the circumstances he did.

We wish him all the best for 2009 (although not necessarily while enjoying *quite* as much success as Lewis Hamilton) and we think he could do with a clean slate this year, without Bernie stirring things before the season’s even kicked off.

Even so, it still might be well worth your while popping down the bookies and putting a quid or two on him if the prices are any good…

Here’s what else has caught our eye in the world of racing this week:

  • Proving that two can play at any game you care to name, news reached us that Silverstone has outbid Donington Park for one of the latter’s flagship events. The 2010 British MotoGP will now be taking place at the Northamptonshire circuit as part of a five-year deal. The first shot in a war of words was fired by Silverstone’s chief executive Richard Philips, referring in The Times to the fact that Donington isn’t necessarily the world’s best-appointed venue: “Both parties are,” he said, “extremely excited about the opportunity to take this world-class event to another level.” The Times also says: “Phillips added that Silverstone is one of the most easily-accessible circuits in the world.” Ouch and ouch again.
  • Donington boss Simon Gillett’s response to the above provocation was a masterpiece of passive-aggressiveness as he found the boot very firmly strapped on his other foot: “It’s very disappointing but given the need for a flagship event in 2010 to replace Formula 1, we understand the importance to Silverstone of gaining the rights to MotoGP from a business perspective.” He later begged Silverstone to take good care of ‘his’ event. Gentlemen, ready your handbags and set your alarm clocks. Surely there are enough flagship races for everyone?
  • Actually, maybe there aren’t, especially if you’re trying to flog debentures to, let’s say, finance a major time-sensitive redevelopment that can’t entirely be funded by ticket sales. What if, for example, the idea is to offer a package of privileged access to the cream of world-class motorsport events on two and four wheels in order to justify a spend of thousands by the punters in these harsh economic times? And then, let us speculate, one of those world-class events is no longer part of the package. That has to make said debentures just that little bit harder to shift, doesn’t it?
  • Also on the seemingly endless subject of the British Grand Prix, Ron Dennis made a heartfelt appeal for government support, saying that he had doubts about its future and that British jobs depended on it: “My argument is that England is clearly a centre of excellence for the automotive and motorsport world, so there needs to be government involvement.” But it strikes us that public investment has already happened – in the form of the infrastructure costs of new motorway junctions and dual carriageways to ease Bernie Ecclestone’s oft-expressed concerns about traffic congestion. If Ecclestone then changes the race venue, where is the incentive to spend it all again? Or to invest in other ways? Just asking…
  • And finally… on a subject that is thankfully not the British Grand Prix. We’ve been following the progress of the British Steam Car Challenge with a kind of bemused amazement at the speeds this vehicle is slated to eventually do. And apparently it has now had its first successful test, an important step towards its goal of eventually hitting 170mph across the salt flats of the south-western United States. Wired Cool Wheels (a blog well worth reading, if you’re not already) comes close to describing it as “the British Steampunk Challenge,” which we just loved. We’ll be following its progress with interest…


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