– F1 in crisis – but it need not have come to this
– Surtees’s GP assessment still resonates today
On Wednesday, December 3, I was due to attend Honda’s traditional end-of-season lunch, but on the Monday a letter, signed by Nick Fry and Ross Brawn, arrived by e-mail. In light of the prevailing economic situation, it said, and the fact that the company’s English plant was down to a four-day week, the feeling was that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to go ahead with a lunch for the press.
That seemed entirely reasonable, and I was surprised only by the last-minute aspect of the change in plan. The credit crunch, after all, had been well underway when the invitation was originally sent, so… might there be something more to this?
There was. Soon it transpired that a few days earlier, at a board meeting in Tokyo, the Honda directors had voted to terminate the Formula 1 programme, a decision which not only poleaxed Fry and Brawn and everyone else in the team, but sent convulsions through Formula 1 as a whole.
In one way you couldn’t be surprised by the news from Japan, for over the last few years Honda had poured an avalanche of cash into F1, yet achieved three-fifths of damn all. For a manufacturer whose reputation had been built on engineering excellence, whose engines had epitomised power and strength during the glory years with Williams and McLaren, the contrast was stark, and to be endlessly humbled on the very public stage of F1 was hard to bear.
On the other hand, there had seemed to be clearing light on the horizon. If Brawn had come on board, as team principal, too late to have any influence in the design of the 2008 car, he had played a crucial role in the forthcoming RA109. Having swiftly comprehended that the RA108 was yet another dog, Honda abandoned its serious development at an early stage, preferring to concentrate on the next car, for which hopes were high. As the end of the year approached, indeed, the main topic of Honda debate concerned the second driver for ’09: would Rubens Barrichello continue to partner Jenson Button, or would Bruno Senna, following a promising Barcelona test in mid-November, replace him?
As of the 28th of that month, however, suddenly all that was irrelevant. And as Brawn and Fry applied themselves to finding a buyer for the team, the rest of the F1 community took stock. He would have been a halfwit who believed that F1 would have any kind of immunity from the catatonic mess in which those adorable bankers and traders and politicians have landed us all, but still the departure of one of racing’s most hallowed names sent shockwaves through the sport.
Some at once began to murmur about a ‘domino effect’, to suggest that now Honda had taken the big step, the way was clear for other manufacturers to follow suit. It was not, after all, as though they were having a fine time in the marketplace, either. On the news we hear daily of GM and Chrysler and Ford, having built absurdly obsolete cars for countless years, being reduced to making cap-in-hand trips to Washington, but the companies which have usurped them in the US, notably Toyota, have also taken a very significant hit. Simply put, people aren’t buying cars, and it may well be a long time before that situation changes very much.
Still, in the wake of Honda’s departure, Toyota came forth with a statement saying that the company was ‘currently committed to succeeding in F1, and to reducing costs’. Encouraging on the face of it, but perhaps the word ‘currently’ leaves scope for some unease.
Whatever, the stress on ‘reducing costs’ was something new for Toyota, which some time ago raised the bar on spending in F1, and had given the impression, prior to the credit crunch, of not favouring draconian cost-cutting measures.
At the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco, a week after the Honda announcement, the atmosphere was understandably downbeat, but I detected a strong will to come through this period of strife.
The opening speech was by Max Mosley, and reminded me very much of an occasion, also in Monaco, back in 1994. A fortnight earlier, at Imola, Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger had been killed, and only the day before, in first qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, Karl Wendlinger was critically injured. It was as if suddenly it were impossible to escape unhurt from an F1 accident, and in trashy newspapers across the world there was evidence of wild overreaction.
The morning after Wendlinger’s accident, an emergency press conference was called by the FIA, and Mosley was never more impressively statesmanlike than when he announced immediate safety changes in F1. Cometh the hour…
It was not unlike that at the business forum, in that Max’s tone, while calm, was again resolute. In truth, one had the impression of a familiar speech re-read, for much of its content I had heard before – cutting costs in F1 has, after all, been a Mosley mantra for some years. Now, though, Honda’s withdrawal had added grist to his mill, and there was added urgency in his message.
Later that day Mosley had a lengthy meeting with FOTA (the Formula One Teams’ Association), and when they emerged from it all parties were smiling. It had been, by all accounts, a meeting of unprecedented goodwill and cooperation, rather than the usual mix of nitro and glycerine. A variety of cost-cutting proposals had been discussed and agreed, and it was hoped that everything would be rubber-stamped by the World Motor Sport Council the following day. Which it duly was.
The changes, while indeed far-reaching, stopped short of imposing a ‘standard engine’, and that, for anyone who takes F1 seriously, was a mercy. It had been one of Mosley’s ‘Armageddon’ proposals (such as he had used many times in the past), aimed at bringing the teams and manufacturers to heel, at persuading them to accede to an alternative proposition which, although less austere, might in isolation have proved unacceptable.
When Max first floated the notion of a ‘standard engine’, perhaps built by Cosworth, the response from Maranello was swift and to the point: if such a thing were to be imposed, Luca di Montezemolo said, Ferrari would have no interest in continuing in F1.
No surprise there. To Enzo Ferrari, motor racing was engines (preferably with 12 cylinders), and the very idea of being lumped in with the garagistes he so loved to belittle would have given him the vapours. The Old Man may have been gone these 20 years now, but his spirit abides, and Mosley will have well known how his proposal – ‘threat’ is such a pejorative word – would be received.
Of course, it hadn’t been his only suggestion. Another was that if the manufacturers, including Ferrari, could see their way to accepting rigorous restrictions on engines – and, crucially, to supplying them to the independent teams at a small fraction of the current price – there would be no need for everyone to use an ‘off the peg’ engine from a single supplier.
As I read through Max’s proposals, I thought back to an interview I had done in 2004 with Flavio Briatore, a man often reviled by some in the paddock, yet one, as far as I’m concerned, with more common sense than most of his colleagues put together.
Briatore was talking about the forthcoming engine change (in 2006) from 3-litre V10 to 2.4-litre V8. “I’m not happy about it,” he said. “I want a lot more restrictions than the FIA want. I want somebody like Cosworth or Mecachrome to have the possibility to make affordable engines, and not be 80 horsepower behind the manufacturers.
“That way, if Frank [Williams] lost BMW, or Ron [Dennis] lost Mercedes, or whatever, they could make a commercial deal with Mecachrome or Cosworth, at the right price, and they could carry on racing. In 1998, when Renault had pulled out, and Frank’s deal with BMW was still two years away, what would he have done without Mecachrome? Right now nobody seems to be thinking about that – and they should…”
Suitably spurred, on December 10 2008 finally they did, and the following day their agreed proposals were ratified by the WMSC. For 2009 the cost of engines supplied to independent teams is to be approximately half the price charged in the season just past. Engine life is to be doubled, and a unit is required to do three consecutive Grands Prix (rather than two), with each driver limited to a maximum of eight engines for the season’s races. Revs are henceforth limited to 18,000 (rather than 19,000) and no internal re-tuning is permitted, adjustments being confined to trumpets and injectors. Other changes, with immediate effect, include a ban on in-season testing (save during scheduled practice at race weekends) and on wind tunnels of more than 60 per cent scale.
For 2010 the changes are yet more profound, and this is when Mosley’s ‘engine plan’ really bites. Engines will be available to the independent teams for less than five million euros per season, whether they come from an independent supplier or from the manufacturer teams backed by guarantees of continuity. This same engine will continue to be used in 2011 and 2012, and – subject to confirmation of practicability – the same transmission will be used by all teams.
A number of chassis changes are also under study for 2010, and there will be several differences in the way a Grand Prix weekend is conducted. Most of these amount to no more than common sense, and might usefully have been introduced long ago. Tyre warmers, without which the rest of the racing world has always managed to survive, are to be banned, and so – Saints be Praised! – is refuelling.
An artifice introduced in the hope of disguising the lack of overtaking in F1, refuelling has served only to exacerbate the problem, for inevitably it encouraged the practice of ‘waiting for the stops’, rather than actually trying to pass on the track. Quite apart from that, one shudders at the thought of how much money has for years been wasted on schlepping all that cumbersome equipment around the world.
It’s interesting now to reflect on those years of plenty, when the dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari threatened to kill off GP racing simply by putting it to sleep. I remember saying something like that to Eddie Jordan, and remember, too, the response it elicited: “I know – but don’t tell anyone!”
Michael and his team could hardly be blamed for the degree of superiority they exerted over the rest, but as he flashed metronomically around, weekend after weekend, the sport was dying on its feet. On the surface it didn’t look that way, for there was plenty of money in evidence, even after the enforced end of tobacco advertising, but growing gaps were apparent in grandstands, and TV viewing figures were in free fall.
“For the event we are putting on,” Briatore said, “we spend way too much money. And there’s only one reason for this: we have a situation in F1 where you need agreement from everybody if anything is to change. I never saw a company run with 100 per cent of the vote – Jesus Christ, you don’t manage a condominium with 100 per cent agreement!
“Most people wouldn’t believe, when they see two cars on the grid, that 800 people have been working to get them there. Our product is ridiculously over-expensive – and the customer doesn’t understand why all this money is spent on technologies that only make the race more boring!”
Most in the sport – and not least its governing body – seemed to me complacent in those days. When it was put to Mosley that F1 had achieved the impossible, and somehow contrived to make the racing of 900-horsepower cars tedious, the FIA president’s facile response was that we should think of a Grand Prix in terms of a chess match, that it was all a matter of strategy, as if the concept of racing had become somehow outmoded.
Finally, when an FIA-commissioned fan survey confirmed – surprise! – that people did indeed lament the virtual absence of overtaking, the governing body began to take notice, actually setting up an ‘overtaking group’ to study the problem – rather akin to FIFA’s creating a ‘goal scoring group’, if you think about it.
Thus, even before the advent of the credit crunch, a radically different F1 car was decreed for 2009 – larger front wing, but much smaller rear, the removal of bargeboards and other unsightly aerodynamic appendages, slick tyres, rather than grooved – and the aim was to create a vehicle which could more easily overtake. A racing car, in fact.
It was not a moment too soon to take action of this kind, even though, mercifully, the FIA had long before taken steps to keep electronic technology from getting completely out of hand, and more recently introduced a standard ECU, which finally made possible the banning of dread traction control.
Personally, I think it not impossible that F1 will be in many ways significantly improved by the technological, and other, changes dictated first by dissatisfaction among the fans, and now – overwhelmingly – by the disastrous financial situation. In recent days much has been made of the £800 wheelnut, but a dozen years ago Patrick Head was given to musing about the ‘use it once and chuck it away’ mentality prevalent in some teams.
“As we’ve seen in so many cases,” said Patrick, “a team will always spend as much money as it is able to get in. So if you limit expenditure in certain areas, then more will go on drivers’ salaries, or whatever…”
Three years ago I talked to Bernie Ecclestone about costs. “When you think,” he said, “that today these people’s gear ratios last for 400kms… it’s a bit cranky, isn’t it? You take one of those gearboxes to bits, and it’s like a Swiss watch. But the guy sitting in the grandstand hasn’t got the slightest idea about that – and if he did, he wouldn’t care. Probably, if you went into the grandstand, and asked them, ‘Do the cars have automatic or manual gearboxes?’, most of them wouldn’t know. If you asked them about most things like that, they wouldn’t know – all they do know is that, at the moment, the racing isn’t as good as it should be.
We have to change the cars, so they can race better – and we have to save the teams from spending astronomical amounts of money to be competitive…”
Part of the problem, Mosley pointed out in his Monaco speech, stemmed from the fact that the F1 rules had remained unchanged for so long. This not only thwarted innovation, but also meant that the tiniest performance gain cost a quite disproportionate amount of money.
“What’s wrong with F1 today,” Max said, “was wrong before any of the present economic problems cropped up. Essentially, it’s the rules, which have become ever more restrictive, thus compressing the work of the engineers into an ever smaller area. As such, success in F1 today consists of optimising every single part of the chassis to the ultimate degree, and that is both extremely expensive and utterly pointless.”
True enough, but one can only wonder why this thought wasn’t acted upon long ago. Back in 1998, after all, Frank Williams spoke of, “An astonishing rise in our car-build costs. To find one tenth of a second, you spend 10 times more than you did five years ago. I’m not saying it’s only because the regulations are too tight, but I do think it’s one of the factors.”
Now, though, expediency appears to have won the day, as invariably it does. Clearly, at the FOTA meeting with Mosley, there was a genuine wish to agree, a common accord, and out of it came a raft of changes – earth-shaking by F1 standards – which appear to address the crisis facing the sport. The era of 70,000 or more kilometres of testing a year, of full-scale wind tunnels crunching numbers round the clock, is apparently over.
Many have said that Mosley is the right person to see us through this daunting period in the sport’s history, and that may well be the case. There again, if the opinion polls be accurate, many apparently believe Gordon Brown to be ‘a safe pair of hands’ during our country’s economic meltdown.
There are, it seems to me, parallels to be drawn here. Brown’s profligacy, during his 10 years as Chancellor, has left us with no fighting fund to fall back on in a time of crisis, while Mosley, in the eyes of many, will stand for ever condemned not as the man who made the front page of the News of the World, but as the FIA president who sold off the family jewels – the commercial rights to F1 – to Ecclestone not only for a preposterous 100 years, but also for a small fraction of their worth.
Mosley’s much vaunted ‘Don King clause’, giving the FIA the right of veto over Ecclestone’s selling on of those rights to parties with perhaps other than the sport’s best interests at heart, was not invoked before the deal was done with CVC Capital Partners, and one has always wondered why. F1 is now effectively ‘owned’ by a venture capitalist outfit which apparently knows little of the sport – forgive me, the business – and cares less. In the fullness of time CVC will doubtless depart from F1 greatly enriched; less certain is what it will leave in its wake.
As the company concentrates on paying off the enormous loans (and eye-watering interest payments) it took out, from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lehman Brothers, to buy the commercial rights, its only concern is the bottom line. This, in part, explains why the World Championship is already top-heavy with races in the Far East (where most of the local populaces couldn’t care less, but the governments are bountiful), why North America, that vital marketplace for the manufacturers, has disappeared from the schedule, and why classic Grand Prix venues like Imola and Silverstone (where the local populaces care very much indeed, but the governments do not) are strictly expendable.
It also helps to explain why, in this time of financial trauma, when the F1 teams are in dire need of a far bigger slice of the financial cake, such a thing is not readily on offer to them.
Long ago, in December 1994, Frank Williams said to me, “F1 was hijacked a couple of years ago by Max and Bernie, and that’s it. There’s nothing we can do about it. They’ll run it exactly as they want to run it, and we’ll have to live with it.”
In recent weeks a large number of measures have been put in place to safeguard the future of F1, and we must hope they have the desired effect. At the same time, though, it should not be overlooked that, as with G Brown, the chief fire officer is also one of the arsonists.
By the time this is read, the Formula 1 launch season will shortly be upon us – or maybe, in deference to the financial situation, not. For a while now, most of these affairs have been pretty low-key, but time was when the launching of a new Grand Prix car was a prime opportunity to remind the world that the wealth of F1 was almost boundless.
At one time, after all, it was so. Even a middling team would hire some upmarket venue for the day, and amid great fanfare and clouds of dry ice reveal yet another four-wheeled wonder that all present knew hadn’t a hope in hell of winning a Grand Prix. Well, apart from the sponsors, anyway. And, never mind, they loved it all, for it got their logo into next day’s papers.
In more recent years, though, over-the-top launches have become the exception to the rule. More usually you will get an e-mail from a team announcing that the new car will run for the first time at Barcelona or wherever on Thursday week, and if you want to get yourself down there the leading personnel, including the drivers, will attend a press conference. No ‘one on ones’, of course.
If much of the glitz has been shed, therefore, the formality abides, but it wasn’t always so. At the ‘launch’ of the Ensign N176 in the early spring of 1976, for example, precisely three people were present: team owner Morris Nunn, driver Chris Amon and myself. Chris and I drove up to Walsall, and parked outside a little garage, whereupon Mo opened the doors and rolled out this gorgeous red car.
Ah, sweet innocent days. In the middle of the ‘launch’, I remember, his wife rang to ask him to get some frozen peas on his way home.
I had a camera with me, and suggested that Nunn and Amon pose with the car, at which the proprietor, seeking to fend off the arctic cold, went to find a jacket. The only one to hand bore the logo of a previous sponsor, Duckham’s.
Even 33 years ago, when PR was still on the far horizon in Formula 1, I could see a potential problem here. “Morris,” I said,
“I don’t think you should wear that.” He wanted to know why. “Well, because I’m going to put the pictures in the magazine – and the only sponsorship on the car is Valvoline…” Nunn was bemused: “D’you think they’d mind?”
Although, when he went off to the New World, and made his fortune in Indycars, Mo became rather more worldly, to this day he remains endearingly unpretentious. “I’m the only F1 team owner,” he says, “who came out of it with less money than he took in…” It’s one of his favourite lines, and he laughs when he comes out with it, but that doesn’t mean he remembers with affection all the other team owners of the time – indeed, one ‘patronising bastard’ he will abhor to the end of his days.
Back then everything about F1 was far less ceremonious than now, as I was reminded recently when driving past St Thomas’ Hospital on Westminster Bridge Road.
In November 1978 I had a call from John Surtees’s secretary, asking if I would visit him there the following day.
It hadn’t been known that John was in hospital, but I did as bidden, and when I got to his room he told me he had been admitted for treatment to his legs. “I’ve been in here for a month, but we’re still not really certain what the problem is yet. It goes back some years, and I think maybe it’s a combination of the injuries I got in the Can-Am shunt at Mosport in ’65 and some fuel burns from the Cooper-Maserati in Mexico the year after.”
You won that Grand Prix in Mexico, I said. “Yes,” he replied, “and bloody uncomfortable it was!”
During that 1978 season he had adopted a moustache, which I was glad to note was now gone, so that he looked like John Surtees again. And, in spite of his incarceration, he was plainly in fine spirits. “I’ve had this problem for ages now, and it finally reached a point this summer when I couldn’t test the cars any more, and I really missed that. So here I am…”
It was a pleasure to see John, but still I wasn’t sure why I had been asked to visit him. “Well,” he said finally, “as long as you’re here, I may as well give you some news about the future.”
Ah, so that was it. Presumably he was going to tell me who would be driving for Team Surtees in 1979. What had he decided about next year? “Nothing,” he said. “That’s the news. We’re stopping…”
I was more than a touch nonplussed, and asked if he would be making any formal announcement. “No,” he said. “I’m telling you, and you’ll write about it, and then everyone’ll know, won’t they?”
In those pre-website days, before the concept of ‘rolling news’ took hold (in racing, as in everything else), scoops were still the province of the magazine, and thus, when the story appeared a week later, it was news to the world. My phone rang off the hook that day.
It had indeed been a turbulent season for Team Surtees. In this era it comes as a shock to look back three decades, and to be reminded of just how busy F1 was in those days. A typical Grand Prix entry comprised at least 30 cars, with the fastest 26 to start. In only three of the 16 races did both of Surtees’s cars make the grid, and by year’s end the team had but one championship point to its name, scored by Vittorio Brambilla at the Osterreichring.
As he began to talk about the season, John’s expression was cheery, as if he were feeling overwhelming relief at being out of it all. “All my life,” he said, “I’ve gone racing for pleasure and satisfaction, as well as making a living. And there is no pleasure in hovering around the back of the grid.
“We started off with the TS19, and went slower with it than we had the year before. So we brought out the TS20, which was a second a lap quicker in testing – and we then went slower with that than we had with the TS19! Ludicrous…”
Surtees had begun the season with Brambilla and Rupert Keegan as his drivers. “The first race was in Argentina, and for the first half-hour of practice Vitt was up in the top three or four. Then he had three crashes in a row – and just switched off. He didn’t crash much after that, but he never went quickly again – partly, I think, because the Alfa Romeo F1 deal was coming up, and he lost interest in everything but that.
“As for Rupert, I knew what I was taking on – someone who was pretty brave, blessed with fairly good car control, but also inexperienced. I thought, with the right example, he could go quickly, but at the same time I knew that if enough people told him he was wasting his time with the car, he would start to believe it. He was obviously immature and vulnerable.”
By the middle of the season Surtees had concluded that he had to have a number one driver whom he chose to employ rather than one who ‘brought money’. “We knew we couldn’t get an absolutely top-line driver, but we reckoned we could find a good one. Then we had to find a second driver with promise who could maybe bring some sponsorship with him.
“The fact is,” John said, “that we’ve never had big sponsors – my holding company has always sponsored the team more than the companies whose names appeared on the cars. And it had got to the point that I was holding back my commercial interests, and going down an unending road where all you did was get kicked.”
As the season approached its end, different Surtees drivers began to appear. At Monza one Carlo Franchi (who ‘raced’, something of a misnomer in this case, under the name of ‘Gimax’) was brought in to partner Brambilla, but he was seven seconds off the pace, and failed to qualify. In the race, Vittorio was seriously hurt in the multiple accident which took the life of Ronnie Peterson, and although he later reappeared in F1, driving spasmodically for Alfa, his days with Team Surtees were done.
At Watkins Glen John had René Arnoux and Beppe Gabbiani in the cars, and at last had some reason to smile. “The Italian lad was very immature, and never going to set the world on fire, but Arnoux was a different matter. I’d known René for some time, and we always got along well. In fact, when he was under contract elsewhere, he worked for us in the stores! I’d wanted him to drive for us for a long time, but his option with Lotus wouldn’t allow it, and then French fuel companies wouldn’t allow it – until the end of this season.
“We put him in the car, and he liked it. Liked the car! And, more to the point, he drove it quickly! If we could have kept him, that might have influenced my decision to pull out, but of course he’s hoping to go to Renault, and who can blame him?”
There were other reasons, too, for Surtees’s decision, some of which resonate to this day. He was unhappy, for example, about the tyre situation in F1. Through that season two teams, Renault and Ferrari, had been supplied by Michelin, the other 19 – count them, Arrows, ATS, Brabham, Ensign, Fittipaldi, Hesketh, Ligier, Lotus, March, Martini, McLaren, Merzario, Shadow, Stanley BRM, Surtees, Theodore, Tyrrell, Williams, Wolf – by Goodyear, which decreed that eight leading drivers would receive the company’s very best tyres, plus the two quickest on ‘standard’ rubber in the first practice session.
For as long as I can remember, folk have complained about companies producing ‘tyres’ and ‘quick tyres’, so you could say that at least Goodyear was being upfront about it, and Surtees was not unsympathetic, given that it was supplying so many teams.
“I would, though, have liked it not to have been necessary to go up and down the pitlane to see what fiddles were going on. You had to have doubts, and you ended up with very little faith. Fair enough, you try and ‘win’ those quick tyres in the first session – but the fact is, at times people less deserving than us were getting them, and it was upsetting, particularly in the case of Arnoux, to see a lad hitting his head against a wall, losing a second a lap just because of the tyres he’s got on….”
Then John got on to the subject of the governing body, which was in those days the CSI. “Weak, pompous bullies is what they are…”
Can you imagine in 2009 an F1 team owner daring to say such a thing on the record? No, nor I.
“If we hadn’t had such a pathetic governing body,” Surtees went on, “outfits like FOCA (the Formula One Constructors’ Association) and the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) would never have come about, never been necessary. Each has done a lot of good, but as in everything there needs to be a balance between the two sides of the game. I think you need someone finally sitting in judgement. You can’t just have one side running the whole show. Motor sport could probably benefit from having a Board of Directors, purely business people.
“Unquestionably, for example, there was a need for better circuit safety at one time – for years the circuit owners had run their Grand Prix, made an enormous amount of money, and not ploughed any of it back. They were allowed to get away with it, thanks to the CSI’s weakness – which then allowed the GPDA to go way beyond the areas in which it should have been involved. Look at this ridiculous situation where every circuit had to be lined with guardrails. Vast sums of money were spent, and there was no question of careful appraisal. One of the reasons I lost interest in driving was that I didn’t like driving on ‘tunnel’ circuits, but now, of course, the movement is totally away from that, because in the end there is no safety precaution as effective as space.
“That’s an example of how a power group can manipulate things. I still enjoy the technical side of motor racing, but I think the human side of the sport – the morals and standards which people observed at one time, the whole spirit of the thing – is deteriorating very badly, both on and off the track. It’s become rather deplorable, but still there’s a real hard core that doesn’t change. The average mechanic, for example, does a bloody good job, and it’s particularly obvious these days when there are so many overpaid parasites around, who contribute nothing whatever…”
Let we forget, this was Surtees speaking his mind 30 years ago, when he was 44. How long ago, I asked, had he decided to wind up his F1 team? “Yesterday,” he replied. “I finally concluded that enough was enough, rang to tell my secretary, who then rang you…”
Different times, weren’t they? When the gentlemen of Honda decided to pull the plug on their F1 operation, it made the headlines on the Six O’Clock News.