Not Such A Grand Day

Apparently, the F1 season started again at the weekend and I missed it. I can’t for the life of me work out why now. I really enjoyed the 2010 season and watched more or less every round live including those in the Far East and Australia which meant getting up unconscionably early. It’s not just the Australian Grand Prix which has failed to spark my interest, it’s the whole thing.

When I first started watching grands prix, the drivers were real men with moustaches. They had cars which looked like really fast fag packets. They were my heroes. They were all much older than me for a start. It’s really hard to have heroes who are younger than you. It’s probably why I don’t think as much of Vettel and Hamilton or even Alonso as I do of Nelson Piquet or Nigel Mansell, never mind the a real great like Mario Andretti. Even Michael Schumacher with his seven drivers’ championships will never be as good for me as Ronnie Peterson who never won even a single title. Today’s cars are so much quicker than the cars I remember from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties but are not as beautiful or cool.

Even the cars of my era with all their cigarette branding and silly wings are not as cool as the cars of the Sixties. A Lotus 79, as wonderful as it is, is just not as wonderful as a Lotus 49. It’s still much better than the Lotus Renault R31 or the Lotus T128, whichever is the real Lotus. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post, by the way, one for when I regain my F1 passion. The black and gold Lotus (it’s really a Renault) can never be as cool as the old car because fags are cooler than finance companies, oil companies or Ladas. They just are. Don’t try arguing with me. You’re wrong.

I’m also slightly fed up with races being held in places I have no real interest in. I don’t much care about races in Bahrain or Dubai, China or Singapore or Turkey. I barely even care enough about Hungary and they’ve had a race at the Hungaroring since 1986. I think it’s a travesty that there are two grands prix in the Middle East but no French Grand Prix. The British Grand Prix was under constant threat until last year. Grands prix are no longer about the racing and are more about making piles of cash for the commercial rights holders. That in turn means that races will be held in places which will front up the most cash for the privilege of holding a race. The governments in China and Singapore and Dubai and Bahrain will all give Formula One Management lots of dosh. Turkey probably can’t afford it any more because they have failed to attract sufficient tourists to the race. Unlike China and the Middle East countries, Turkey needs to make a return on its investment.

If anyone can inspire me to watch F1 again, it’s Mark Webber. More than Our Jense or Lewis or Fernando or the Boy Vettel, he seems not to have any nonsense about him. He has been alone among the drivers in speaking out on controversial topics. His Twitter stream @AussieGrit is full of his enthusiasm for sport and life. I think you could have a very good 2011 season following Mark on Twitter and ignoring the races altogether.

On Having And Having Not

I bought a car mag today, two of them in fact but I only intended to buy one. It’s Wednesday and that means that it’s Autocar day. I was in town this morning for a meeting and went into WHSmith, avoiding eye contact with the Big Issue seller who was standing in the shelter of the doorway out of the rain. I always feel that I should be buying a copy if all I want is something to read with my coffee in the morning. Instead, I’ll buy another car magazine or worse, carry around an old one. So, I ducked past the poor sod trying not to get wet in the pissing rain which was keeping most of his passing trade away.

I picked my copy of Autocar off the shelf and headed to the till to pay. My eye was drawn to the cover of another magazine which had a picture of the new McLaren MP4 12C and Nick Mason’s F1 GTR on the cover. I’m a big McLaren fan so I reached for it before I registered that it was the new issue of octane. octane¬†is just about my least favourite magazine. It’s better than Practical Caravan but not much and it’s down to the former editor. It’s not his writing which is clean and competent; it’s his attitude. The journalists I enjoy reading the most drive the cars we can’t and try to include us in the experience. Robert Coucher drives the cars we can’t and seems to revel in the exclusiveness of the situation.

There are other things I don’t like about octane. The column on watches written by Nick Foulkes is particularly precious and unpleasant. I don’t like to think about the rare exotics I like being investments and yet they made a special feature about an index they keep of the values of certain marques at auction. What finished things for me was their sponsorship of Salon Prive at the Hurlingham Club. I bought a few more editions because I thought I could just miss out the bits I didn’t like or which particularly annoyed me. I still enjoyed the rest of the magazine. The other writers are excellent as are the photographers and the layout and design. In the end, the things which annoyed me about it overpowered the things which didn’t and I decided I didn’t need to be spending so much on something which was getting on my tits. I could just buy the Daily Mail if that’s what I wanted.

This morning’s discovery of the McLaren story put me into a quandary. In the end, the draw of the story was too strong and I bought the magazine. I haven’t read it yet. I haven’t even opened it. I checked in¬†Smith’s that the story hadn’t been written by Robert Coucher. The magazine is still in the bag. I’ll read the story in bed tonight and hope that I don’t get too annoyed by the rest of it.

When Harry Met Sally. (Not Really.)

Because When Ford Sued Ferrari wouldn’t really have worked as a title. Well, I thought about it and then changed my mind. I mean, I wanted to do something about faking a spectacular orgasm but couldn’t work it in neatly enough. There was something about faking a spectacular toy ejection from an over-large perambulator but that doesn’t really work either.

Anyway.

Ummm, Ferrari F150, I think...

Ford is launching a lawsuit to protect its trademarked “F-150” nameplate which gets attached to monstrous pick up trucks against those well-known commercial vehicle builders in Modena, Ferrari.

And this is the Ford F-150, isn't it?

Ferrari has called its 2011 F1 car F150 in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Who wouldn’t want to mark that in some significant way?

Unfortunately, Ferrari’s evident patriotic pride has upset Ford to the point that in order to protect the investment they have made in the F-150 name, Ford is spending money on a lawsuit in a US District Court. The damages they are seeking will probably be less than the amount they have to spend on lawyers. Daftness, if you ask me.

It’s worse than that, in fact. Ford sells thousands of these things in a year and the business is very profitable for them. They will probably sell more of their F-150s in a few minutes than Ferrari will build in the course of the 2011 season, even if Alonso and Massa go on a bit of a banzai bin it spree all year and destroy a chassis each at every race meeting.

If the Ferrari turns out to be a dog this year, then at least we’ll all have a chance for some good pick-up truck jokes.

As with most things in business, there’s a long back story to this. Back in the early 1960s, Ford almost bought Ferrari. They fell out over how much control the Old Man would retain over his beloved racing team and the deal fell through. Ferrari sold a stake in his company to the Agnelli family and FIAT and Ford went on a spending spree to beat Ferrari at Le Mans. Ford, or maybe Lola, built the GT and won in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969. Ferrari hasn’t won at Le Mans since. This is an old, old family feud.

Ford has a history of winning but occasionally its lawsuits come unstuck. A British kit car manufacturer called Dutton was producing a faux-roader called a Sierra in the late 1970s. Ford wanted to use that name on its replacement for the Cortina. It sued Dutton and was forced into accepting a compromise; Dutton could continue to use the Sierra name as long as they referred to is as the “Sierra kit car.”

I like the F-150. If I were in the market for an oversized beer-hauler, I’d have one rather than the Dodge or Chevy alternatives. And Ford is a company with some momentum now. The new Focus is in the dealers and, slightly apologetic looks apart, is set for success. There’s an electric version of it coming soon to grab attention from the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf but this week, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. Shame.