Editorial, November 2002



Ostentatious displays of pomp and circumstance leave me cold. That is not to say that I am totally agin tradition. Not 21-gun-salute tradition, but the neat touches of style and behaviour that make the world a better place. Little things can mean a lot — even in our global sport

For instance, it was clear that the Brickyard’s bricks would have to be ripped up if the track was to maintain its prominence. But how apt that a slim section of them should continue to act as the start/finish line of the world’s most famous race.

Another ‘for instance’. It was obvious that the sprawling Safari Rally would have to pull its horns in if it was to remain part of the burgeoning WRC. But how apt that it was allowed to keep some of the quirks that made it stand out from an increasingly homogenised series. Until now.

The world’s most famous rally has just been dropped from the championship. The organisers have been blamed for not coming up with enough assurances about this, that and the other. That may be so, but it had become increasingly clear that the hard-to-televise event was not exactly atop the new regime’s Christmas card list, and that the smallest excuse would suffice to see it erased from said list.

It has been replaced by the Rally of Turkey. Whoever wins this event next year will have driven hard and well in what is a very competitive series, and will collect just as many points as this year’s Safari victor. But will he receive the same acclamation and sense of satisfaction?

‘No’ is the answer. We have lost something precious. Another brick has been dislodged.

As was the case in the American GP. Those bricks were not something to be celebrated, they were simply something slippery to be avoided on a racing start, which is why the official timing beam was moved back, which is why a confused Schumacher lost a win he deserved.

The up-in-arms response to this hamfisted finish has left me cold, though. After all, photo-finishes between team-mates are a tradition in motorsport. Plus, this one did not stem from a Ferrari diktat, but from a genuine, if bungled, attempt by Schumacher to let his hardworking team-mate in on the action. (That’s not to say he planned to let him win, of course.)

But this is where we get to behaviour. How refreshing it would have been had Michael (or anyone at Ferrari) admitted publicly to the mistake and made a joke about it. ‘See, we’re human’ might have been a good spin, no matter how cheesed off you were in private.

But Formula One’s public face is far too serious, uptight Dawdling backmarkers get the fist, V or finger. That’s a tradition, too. But what happened to the courteous wave to an observant backmarker?

Not super-vital, I know, but super-indicative nevertheless.