Given that external reality is a fiction, the writer’s role is almost superfluous. He does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there.
So said JG Ballard, arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and certainly one of the trade’s most significant thinkers.
How right he is. Watching events unfold over the last month or so, you might be forgiven for thinking you had somehow been transported to another planet. This is a planet where drivers deliberately crash cars into concrete walls to facilitate the team winning a motor race.
Not only that, but the team remains virtually unpunished. Yes, the boss has gone, and so has the technical chief, but a ban on the team was suspended for two years. Not as harmful, or draconian, as the monstrous fine to which McLaren was subjected in 2007.
Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, to quote Ballard again, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time.
Oh yes, it’s commercial alright, and now it has got nasty. Nothing that happens in Formula 1 will ever again be surprising. That’s a shame, because Grand Prix racing has always been full of surprises.
This may not be at all ‘appropriate’ or ‘correct’ right now, but I’ve always considered Flavio Briatore to be a man whose heart is in the right place when it comes to F1. He does not pretend to be an expert, or to understand the inner workings of a racing car; rather he is, or was, a figurehead. Briatore understood the importance of showmanship and entertainment in sport, the need to put on a great race for those who come to watch. He knew there should be more excitement, more overtaking in a sport that is being inexorably strangled by technology. Shame then that what happened one night in Singapore was neither entertaining nor exciting.
Another man who has his head screwed on, in a very Italian kind of way, is Luca di Montezemelo, the president of Ferrari. A few days ago, in an articulate and typically clever statement, di Montezemelo pointed out that nobody talks about the races, or the racing, in F1 any more. All they talk about is the scandal, the skulduggery and the general malaise that appears to be descending upon the business.
Now, this may not be ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’, but I take account of what is said by this admittedly political but highly perceptive Italian aristocrat. Yes, there is often a hidden agenda, and yes, the interests of the Scuderia are often uppermost in his thoughts. But on this occasion I believe that di Montezemelo was sincere in his rallying call for F1 to put this latest horror behind it and get on with some good racing. No, the man is not above turning a trick or two, but he is a passionate racer. And Ferrari lives by racing. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
So, a pause for breath, and a time for new leaves to be turned over, before everybody loses interest, gives up in disgust and turns to something with a little more credibility. Not to mention scrapping their Renaults. Some do say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, that front-page headlines are what any sport or business lives for. This is utter rubbish. There is such a thing as bad publicity and what occurred on lap 14 on the night of September 28, 2008 was an example. Ask any member of the board of Renault SA. They make family cars, and families watch motor racing.
Here’s to a good, clean and exciting race on Sunday. You have to fancy Hamilton and/or one of the Brawns, I think. But we don’t know, and that’s the joy of it all.