By Matt Bishop, England
F1 Racing Editor in Chief
What happens if the Ferrari F2005 is indeed only half a second a lap faster than the F2004M? What if World Champion Michael Schumacher finds himself, for the remaining 17 Grands Prix of the year, running behind Christian Klien (or Vitantonio Liuzzi)? F1 Racing's Editor in Chief Matt Bishop takes a light-hearted look into the future, and it's not necessarily all fictional...
When the new Ferrari F2005 makes its debut in Bahrain this weekend, a hell of a lot depends on its success. A hell of a lot.
If it turns out to be quick, and if its Bridgestone tyres allow it to translate that pace into lap-time, then - forgetting for a moment the ever-worsening atmosphere of ultra-political back-stabbing that has pervaded both the Melbourne and the Kuala Lumpur paddocks this year and looks equally certain to envelope Bahrain this week - Formula One's band of highly paid navel-gazers will continue to go about their business much as before.
If, however, the F2005 is disappointing - if, indeed, it is only the half-second a lap better than the F2004M that some Ferrari insiders reluctantly claim it is (which, using Saturday - i.e., low-fuel - qualifying at Sepang as a form guide, would put it somewhere between the Toyotas and the Red Bulls); and if it fails to close the gap on Renault and McLaren - then F1 is about to face a veritable cataclysm. Personally, I can't wait.
Why a cataclysm, veritable or otherwise? Because, since Michael Schumacher has now won more Grands Prix than Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Juan Manuel Fangio and Gilles Villeneuve put together, I find it inconceivable that he could cope psychologically with spending the next 17 Grands Prix eating Christian Klien's (or Vitantonio Liuzzi's) dust, that's why. No, if this year's Ferrari is an also-ran, or if this year's Bridgestone tyres relegate it to anything approaching also-ran status, then Schumacher will call it a day at the end of the year.
And the driver market will go bananas.
The fall-out, as represented on a fantasy 2006 Sepang grid of my own devising (the Malaysian is likely to be next year's first Grand Prix, remember), will look something like this:
1. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault R26 2. Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes MP4-21 3. Mark Webber Renault R26 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari F2006 5. Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren-Mercedes MP4-21 6. Jarno Trulli Toyota TF106 7. Jenson Button Williams-BMW FW28 8. Felipe Massa Ferrari F2006 9. Nick Heidfeld Williams-BMW FW28 10. Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull Racing-Honda RB2 11. Anthony Davidson B.A.R-Honda 008 12. Christian Klien Red Bull Racing-Honda RB2 13. Ralf Schumacher Toyota TF106 14. Alex Wurz Sauber-BMW C25 15. Rubens Barrichello Sauber-BMW C25 16. Takuma Sato B.A.R-Honda 008 17. Narain Karthikeyan Midland-Ferrari AS1 18. Jos Verstappen Minardi-Repco PS05 19. Alex Yoong Minardi-Repco PS05 20. Olga Yeltsin Midland-Ferrari AS1
Let me explain. Long before the end of Ferrari's disappointing 2005 season - let's say some time in July - Luca di Montezemolo will telephone Bernie Ecclestone. Their short conversation, which will spawn a hefty bout of telephonic activity at Princes Gate, will go something like this:
Luca: Ciao, Bernie. I 'ave biga problemo.
Bernie: Haven't we all, Luca, me ol' china? Haven't we all? ('China' is cockney rhyming slang for 'mate', as in 'china plate'.)
Luca: Si, biga problemo. Jean [Todt] justa calla me. He ina tears. He can 'ardly speaka. He say, "Michael, he wanna quit at enda of year." Then I 'ear no more. Just more tears. I justa senda my nurse round to Jean's 'ouse...
Bernie: Don't worry about Jean. Max [Mosley] will sort 'im out. Me an' Max 'ave 'ad it all planned for a long time. We'll give ol' Jean some posh-soundin' job at the FIA. As for the Michael thing, I'll 'ave a word with Flav [Briatore]. Leave it to me.
Luca: But Bernie...
Bernie: (Shouting to a secretary) Oi, mush! Get me Flav on the line.
Sharon: Right away, Mr Ecclestone.
Flav: Hey, Bernie! Ciao! Whassup? Say, you think I needa minka carpet ina my new Challenger, or brushed silver?
Bernie: Later, Flav, later. This is serious. You gotta give Alphonso to Luca.
Bernie: Alphonso... you know... whatsisname... Ferdinando... your Spanish chappie.
Bernie: I ain't got time for this, Flav...
Flav: Is okay, Bernie. I geddit. You mean Alonso? Fernando?
Bernie: Yeah, whatever 'is name is, yeah.
Flav: Luca wan' 'him?
Bernie: Yeah, big time. I tol' you this would 'appen at some point.
Flav: Si, Bernie, but...
Bernie: No buts, Flav. Anyway, you manage 'Alphonso, don't ya? So you'll get a cut. And you can run your Aussie lad instead. Okay?
Bernie: (Shouting to Sharon) Oi, mush! Get me that ol' wanker Williams on the line.
Sharon: Right away, Mr Ecclestone.
Frank: Morning, Bernie. Glad you called. Now, about your fax. I've spoken to Ron [Dennis], and...
Bernie: Later, Frank, later. Listen, you gotta give Mark [Webber] to Flav. Well, he's Flav's already, ain't 'e? Flav manages 'im, right? But I mean you gotta give 'im to Renault.
Frank: Can't do it, Bernie. No deal.
Bernie: Frank, don't mess me about. I'll 'ave a word with your Krauts, okay?
Bernie: BMW, Frank. Keep up, for Chrissakes. I'll call Mario [Theissen]. If you keep Heidfeld instead of the Aussie, I guarantee you Mario'll give you engines for 2006. You've got [Jenson] Button next year anyway, ain't ya?
Frank: Yes. Well... er... okay.
Bernie: Good. Ta-ta.
Frank: Hang on, Bernie! One thing, before you go. Mario wants to give a second engine supply to Sauber next year, as you know. Between you and me, I'm okay with that, because Sauber aren't that well funded and don't look that strong at the mo'. That's why I leaked the Sauber-BMW rumour in my pre-season press lunch.
Bernie: I know all this, Frank. D'you think I'm silly or sumfink?
Frank: Of course not, Bernie. But, getting back to Sauber, the [Jacques] Villeneuve saga has caused them a lot of trouble. So Sauber-BMW would be good for me. Above all, you see, I don't want BMW to supply Red Bull. Red Bull look a bit too handy for my liking, and I can't afford for Team Willy to be shown up by an Austrian fizzy drinks firm. Let Honda supply Red Bull. Let Nick [Fry] have that particular headache.
Bernie: Get to the point, Frank, will ya?
Frank: Okay. Trouble is, Mario's worried about drivers. Massa/Wurz doesn't really ring his bell [I am assuming that Sauber will have paid-off Jacques Villeneuve, replacing him with Alex Wurz, the only safe pair of hands available, long before July]. Can you get Mario someone better, Bernie? A bigger name? Gerhard [Berger, a great friend of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and his right-hand man Helmut Marko] is lobbying his old pal Mario very assiduously indeed. I reckon Gerhard's probably on a big whack from Dietrich if he can wangle a cheap BMW engine supply for Red Bull for 2006. I'm worried, Bernie, and...
Bernie: What the fuck does 'assiduously' mean? Speak English, will ya?
Bernie: (Shouting to Sharon) Oi, mush! Get me Montezemolo on the line.
Sharon: Who? I'm a temp, sorry...
Bernie: Montezemolo, you silly bint! Luca!
Sharon: Is that the one you just talked to a minute ago? The Italian bloke who sounded really upset?
Bernie: Yes it fucking is. Now get 'im on the fucking line.
Sharon: Sorry, Mr Ecclestone.
Bernie: Okay, Luca. Sorted. I've got Alphonso for you.
Bernie: Flav's boy. Jesus, why does this 'ave to be so difficult? Tell Phil[ip Morris] that everything's gonna be okay. The Alphonso's gonna be Champion this year anyway, so you'll end up with a nice big number-1 on the front of your jam jar ['jam jar' is cockney rhyming slang for 'car'] anyway, just like normal.
Luca: Ah, Bernie. Is fantastico. Grazie mille...
Bernie: Never mind all that. Just send me over two new F430s. Black, ox-blood leather. The way Slavica [Ecclestone] likes 'em. And make 'em both fully-loaded, you ol' cheapskate. Oh, and get that guy you know in Palermo - Franco sumfink, ain't it? - the one who fits out airplane cabins, to give me a bell.
Luca: Okay, Bernie, but why...
Bernie: Because you owe Flav one, see? And he needs his new Challenger fitted out. Tell Franco I'll give him an F430 for his trouble. Black, ox-blood leather. Least we can do, really, innit? [Whispering out of the corner of his mouth] And, that way, Flav'll owe me one, too. Lovely-jubbly.
Bernie: And there's another thing. You'll 'ave to let ol' Pete 'ave Barrochelli.
Bernie: Hell's bells, Luca, try to keep up! If you want Alphonso, you'll 'ave to give Ruben to Sauber. You can 'ave Phil instead, okay?
Luca: Phil? But I already gotta 'em...
Bernie: No! Not Phil Morris! I'm talkin' about Phil Massa! Should cheer Jean up, anyway. He manages 'im, right?
Luca: Well, 'is son manage Felipe...
Bernie: Yeah, right. Whatever. Anyway, call Jean and tell him. He could do with some good news.
Luca: Okay, Bernie. But Jean is okay. The nurse she justa getta there. She give 'im smell salts.
Bernie: Smelling salts. Jesus...
Bernie: Don't worry about it. Look, you can run Ferdinando and Phil next year, okay? That's it. Gotta go.
Luca: Grazie, Bernie. Grazie...
Bernie: One more thing. You gotta give Alex [Shnaider] customer engines for next year - and cheap. Toyota are playin' silly-buggers with 'im. I ain't havin' you fleecin' 'im like you been fleecin' Sauber all this time. Got 'it?
Bernie: (Shouting to Sharon) Oi, mush! Get me Sauber on the line.
Sharon: Right away, Mr Ecclestone.
Bernie: Morning, Pete.
Peter: Ah, Bernie. Guten tag. I need to you to talk. Jean just telephone me. He was - how you say in English? - crying...
Bernie: Not now, Pete - I've sorted him out. He'll be okay. Now, you want to run BMWs next year, don't ya?
Bernie: Okay. You know you once told me you thought Ruben was a pukka little driver?
Bernie: Well, you can 'ave 'im. If you run Ruben and that lanky Austrian geezer you got...
Sauber: Sorry. I should say: who?
Bernie: You know, the one you nicked off Ron a few weeks back, the tall one who Helmut can't stand...
Bernie: That's 'im! He can speak your lingo, can't 'e? That should please Mario. And I'll tell Mario you've done a brilliant job nickin' Ruben off Luca and he'll be well impressed. Got it?
Bernie: And about the other thing - you know, the little issue we were talkin' about last week? You know, that letter addressed to the Supreme Court of Victoria that that idiot Paul [Stoddart] wants you to sign?
Peter: Er, ja...
Bernie: Good. Well, now you know what you need to do about that now, don't ya?
Bernie: (Shouting to Sharon) Oi, mush! Get me Frank on the line again.
Sharon: Right away, Mr Ecclestone.
Bernie: It's sorted, Frank. Sauber'll run Barrochelli. Mario'll be well chuffed.
Bernie: (Shouting to Sharon) Oi, mush! Get me a sandwich. Cheese 'n' pickle. Proper cheddar. Mousetrap. None of your foreign muck. Go to that little caff on Exhibition Road. It's the cheapest. I'll pay you when you get back. Oi, Pasquale [Lattuneddu]!
Pasquale: Yes, Mr Ecclestone?
Bernie: These Paddock Club passes for Turkey - their lanyards are crap. Sort 'em out!
Pasquale: No problem.
Bernie: And make sure Stoddy doesn't do a deal with Cosworth or Mecachrome, okay? I know: he's a scrap merchant by trade, isn't he? He can find some old V8s in a scrapyard in Australia, can't he? He can buy 'em off Black Jack [Brabham].
Pasquale: Of course he can. I'll see to it.
Bernie: And tell Alex [Shnaider] to run a Russian bird in his second car next year. What about Boris Yeltsin's granddaughter? She's a looker.
Pasquale: Yes, I'll see to it.