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conversazioni fittizie: F1's Ecclestone on new track requirements

Bryan Edwards

What's the main difference between Bahrain and Melbourne? It's not the dust: there was plenty of that in both countries. We think Bernie and the FIA have a plan...

Bernie Ecclestone (Formula One Management) : Hi Jean, we need to do something about the crap racing and we can't expect the teams to pay for a whole new design to make up for the fact we buggered up the aero requirements.

Jean Todt (FIA): Absolutely. But Melbourne was OK, no?

BE: Kind of - but did you see how quickly Hamilton and Webber left Alonso after they eventually got past him?

JT: yes, there's no doubt that Ferrari are not the fastest car out there.

BE: True, but making sure Ferrari wins isn't the point just now. We'll find ways to do that later. It's OK if they can get in front, though: Alonso was fast enough to disrupt Hamilton and Webber for lap after lap. They couldn't get close enough because they lost grip in Alonso's slipstream.

JT: yes, we need to slow the racing down to reduce the advantages of the Mercedes and Renault engines then we can try to remap our, sorry... I didn't mean to say that.

BE: you are right. Ferrari winning is good for the sport - it's like Manchester United: there's a fan-base wearing red all over the world and that means more people watching so TV companies pay more. Fragmentation of support won't help me make more revenue from rights.

JT: so, what's the plan?

BE: we've tried racing at dusk, we've tried racing in a monsoon and we've tried racing at night. But the only thing that really levels the teams is damp and slippery and changing conditions.

JT: O...........K................

BE: so I want to put sprinklers around the tracks and to use a computer management system to randomly turn them on and off so there are constantly changing conditions. No one will know from lap to lap what the conditions will be at any one point on the lap.

JT: sorry, run that by me again...

BE: artificial rain. Not really heavy, just enough to make it slippery at different points around the track as the race wears on.

JT: artificial rain? Are you bonkers?

BE: no more than usual. They do it in speedway.

JT: that's to increase grip, not make the track slippery.

BE: Look, the cars only stay on the track because of downforce. Look at Vettel's qualifying lap in Melbourne - it totally defied physics. The cars can't overtake into corners because they are glued to the road until they come up behind another car - and then the downforce breaks and control is reduced. The cars won't even behave in a straight line if they are in the slipstream: the rear shifts about and grains the back tyres. That means that following cars are even less able to get into an overtaking position, much less actually make it. But changing conditions mean more pit stops, cars travelling slower so the slipstream isn't so difficult to manage and less tyre wear because there is less friction. And as a bonus, ultimate top end power is no use because in slippery conditions, the drivers can't put their foot down.

JT: it's got its attractions.

BE: Good, I'll talk to the circuit owners.

JT: what do you think the GP Drivers' Association will say?

BE: what can they say: the new drivers from GP2 are biting their behinds when all-out-pace isn't the ultimate decider. Look at Michael in Melbourne: couldn't pass a Torro Rosso and even got in a scrap with an HRT.

JT: yes, that was pretty poor. Was that all due to the downforce issue?

BE: mostly. And it would be good to get him up to the front - a Schumacher win would put F1 on front pages all over the world. But he obviously needs a bit of help.

JT. Look, mon frere, I don't think we can really do it this way. But I agree with your analysis. Melbourne was fantastic in the fantastic bits - and there were lots - but clearly some of the race turned in to a procession. It's just that there was so much going on that most people didn't notice. There's no doubt Hamilton and Webber should have found it easy to pass Alonso and he had, how you say, bon chance, when Webber lost front end grip and smacked himself and Hamilton into the gravel.

We need to do something so we don't get found out. It will rain in Malaysia - again we're running at the time of day it's bound to do so. But we are going to have to find out how to handle this before we go to another high-speed track in the dry.

BE: absolutely. There are four teams plus half of Renault that can run up the pointy end. Can you imagine the fuss if Ferrari get stuck behind that train at Monza?

JT: there will be riots. Yes, something must be done.


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