I have a friend who's an engineer, ex-Formula 1. He has the most amazing mind - sharp as a tack, deep as a well, funny as hell.
Sometimes I'll ask him a question and he starts talking about something else. There was a time when I'd interrupt when he did this and try to bring him back to the question. But now I don't. Because I now realise what he's doing: he's filling me in on the particular background understanding I need first to form a better question, which he then does for me - and then sets about answering this new, improved question.
In between times he'll insert relevant anecdotes, some of them fantastically funny. The whole process can take 45 minutes or longer, but 30 minutes would definitely be a short answer.
If I were to ask him his take on the customer F1 car row, he might say something along the lines of this: 'If you think back to when the Berlin wall came down in - when was it? '89? Yeah, '89.
'I remember because I saw it on tv on the morning news just as I was getting back from an all-nighter at [BLEEP, name of famous F1 team deleted] trying to sort out that bloody awful hydraulic system they were messing about with, thinking they could do the same as [BLEEP] but without the sensors. I don't how [BLEEP] thought it was going to work - by osmosis or something. That was the year Ferrari were running the first semi-auto gearbox, so yes it was '89.
'Anyway, at the time we thought Berlin '89 was just about the disintegration of the Soviet experiment with communism. You know: everyone's equal because we've all got f***-all. But actually, looking back, we can see that something much bigger was going on, can't we?
'Because it wasn't just the Berlin wall that was coming down at that time, was it? It was all the information walls. Thatcher and Reagan had brought the free market back into fashion big-time, freeing up movement of capital between borders.
'Investors could now invest in foreign markets much more easily and countries' economies began to get linked much more closely. Shortly afterwards, credit became much more accessible because the banks could no longer be so conservative in who they lent to because there were a whole load of competitors getting in on their business.
The communication revolution was just beginning, with the onset of the mobile phone - and this sped things up enormously. No longer were you juggling with a set of nine-five office hours in different parts of the dateline. Very soon after that there was an information revolution, with the rise of the internet.
Sellers could no longer shield information from their buyers because it was generally available to everyone, so a lot of what had formerly been specialist products or services became commodities - that virtually anyone could provide, so the price came down. Then digital and cable tv became available all over the world.
'Information could no longer be shielded - by companies from rivals or customers, or by governments from their people. So all the walls of information came down, and those places that had relied on ignorance for their inefficiency not to matter suddenly came unstuck. The whole world had suddenly got sucked into the fast lane. There are downsides of course, aren't there? Like everything has become homogenised - not to mention what it's doing to cultures and the environment.
'But in F1 there are still information walls, aren't there? It's still a very secretive business. If you look at the performances of the cars in the first three races this year, you'll see Ferrari and McLaren have got a massive advantage over the rest.
'The third fastest car - the BMW - is over one per cent slower, a huge chasm. No matter how fast they develop that car this year, it's highly unlikely they are going to catch up, because the top two will be developing too, at maybe an even faster rate.
'The reasons why those two cars are faster aren't out in the open, but tucked away in the minds of a small number of key people in each of those organisations. Even very senior people will not fully understand, because they don't need to know and the fewer people that know, the less chance there is of the information spreading.
'I remember once, at [BEEP], the technical director, [BEEP], had gone off to the States for a few weeks, leaving me in charge. The boss was concerned that we didn't seem to have a new gearbox yet for next year's car and he was a bit scared to push [BEEP] about it, so taking advantage of his absence he came to ask me about it.
'I confirmed we hadn't done one yet. So he got me to do one in [BEEP]'s absence. I knocked it off in a few weeks. When [BEEP] got back he was furious. He always wanted to keep as much information to himself as possible, and now some of that had leaked.
'"Right," he said. "Now I'll have to get this 'box of yours down to the windtunnel and see how the aero is effected." And he stormed out the door. A few minutes later we saw his car coming back into the car park and I said to the boys: "I know what this will be about. He doesn't know where the new windtunnel is."
'Sure enough he walks back in, a bit sheepish, and says to me: "You better come with me." So at least I had one vital bit of information he didn't have - I knew where the tunnel was! 'But if you get a situation where you open up the market for F1 cars, no-one is going to buy a BMW or a Toyota or a Honda are they? They'd be mad if they bought anything other than a Ferrari or McLaren.
'Then, where would the others be? Nowhere. Ferrari and McLaren meanwhile would keep their advantage over their customers by their key people acquiring new secret knowledge.
'And soon you'd have a field full of Ferraris and McLarens, and nothing else - and you wouldn't have others discovering their own significant secrets because they'd just be race teams rather than constructors. It's what happened in CART isn't it? We need to keep F1's information walls up. We don't want it to be homogenised.'