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Readers (all 20), trust me, next weekend’s F1 at the always pet-friendly Albert Park (3km from Melbourne, a thousand kilometres from sanity) will be bigger than Moomba (which was cancelled because the five million snowflakes that make up what passes for a population in Bleak City were scared by the sun coming out last week).

Of course, I’m not talking about the on-track action or lack thereof. The reality is, there is very little tarmac action for the global audience of 1.5 billion (must be true, the number comes from F1 owners Liberty Media). Last week the 22 lads hurtling around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia (which country may well soon pay north of $30bn to own the sport, which is a nice leg up from the $7bn Liberty Media paid for it in 2017) stayed in the prescribed formation.

Mad Max at the front. Thirteen seconds (or half a lifetime) behind was Checo Perez in another Red Bull machine, our own Oscar Piastri was 32 seconds further back, the Hamster was aimlessly dozing around ninth, 47 seconds behind Max (ie he needed binoculars to see the tail of MM’s machine), with our Danny and six others a lap behind. Even a telescope wouldn’t help them see Max’s rear. Talk about irony. Last year Red Bull had a very conventional design. Merc played around with side pods and gave away trying to make them work halfway through the season. This year Merc has a conventional car and Red Bull have the secret sidepods. Problem is Red Bull’s are working.

Now some readers and others (who don’t count) will say: ‘‘But F1 has always been like this.” One driver, one brand at the front for a few years and every other car a long way back. Yes, but that’s before F1 turned into prime-time entertainment with prime-time audiences and prime-time sponsors looking for more than an expensive procession of thin blokes of varying ages on racetracks in countries with very different views on human and inhuman rights.

Can I just put in a plug here for Ollie Bearman. Just before final practice in Jeddah, Carl Sainz was hauled off to King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital to have his appendix ripped out. Ferrari immediately plonked Ollie, 18, into the car and asked him to do his best. If you were unaware that Ollie has been racing competitively since he was eight years old you would have thought “Good luck young soap dodger”. But Ollie immediately came in seventh ahead of Lando Norris, the Hamster and Nick Hulkenberg. Let’s hope Carl decides to stay longer in the sanatorium and we see Ollie in action next weekend.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulaymaniyah has more issues than Vogue (part of our global multimedia empire with special sub prices for readers of this column) with the BBC reporting that an FIA ethics committee been investigating Ben for allegedly interfering with the outcome of a race at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Then there’s the issue of Ben approving Andretti Racing as the seventh F1 team, the other teams saying rude words to Ben about his decision – including having nothing to do with the American all-star team – and F1 then having to tell Andretti to go away.

Then there’s the whole issue of women in F1. The alleged behaviour of Christian Horner and the Red Bull investigation into it and the complete lack of transparency is a move back to the Mad Men of the sixties which depicted aspects of American society including ‘‘cigarette smoking (nothing wrong with that), drinking (ditto), sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia, antisemitism and racism’’. The old line of ‘‘this is an internal company matter’’ doesn’t work in a global sport with sponsors concerned about their reputation. So far only Ford seems to have stood up on the issue but let’s see what happens.

As F1 super commentator Joe Seward wrote this week: “I am not going to spend too much time on the current situation regarding the FIA President amid all the stories of whistleblowing, investigations and ethics committee meetings. All that we really need to know is that a lot of people are accusing the President of different things and despite what looks like a wolf pack of submarines attacking a battleship, the chances of success are limited. If an FIA President can survive a vote of confidence after being on the front page of a national newspaper in England pictured in a bizarre sadomasochistic orgy, then one can get away with pretty much anything. Such is the power of patronage.” A new version of Drive to Survive right there. Then there’s Ex-Ferrari driver Phil Massa suing F1 for $200m over his lost 2008 title.

The 2016 Koenigsegg Agera RSR

The 2016 Koenigsegg Agera RSR

Phil’s contribution to starving lawyers relates to the 2008 Singapore GP where Nelson Piquet Jr was told to crash on purpose to help out his then-teammate Fernando Alonso. As the Sun says: “Massa believes that if the crash was properly scrutinised, he would have been crowned the 2008 champion over Hamilton, who won the title by a point.” Phil’s plea peddlers issued a statement saying: “Recent events naturally demonstrate that issues of transparency and integrity in Formula One remain relevant, and it is clear that serious work is needed to restore its credibility and long-term future.”

Much more exciting is Mick Doohan and Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan (sorry reader, if you are not a petrol head: Mick and Jack are a father and son combo, Mick the Dad, won five consecutive 500cc world motorbike championships, and Jack the son is a reserve driver for Alpine and top F2 driver) racing each other around Albert Park as part of the F1 festivities.

In Dubai last Saturday, RM Sothebys sold some serious metal for serious prices, including a black-on-black, 2016 Koenigsegg Agera RSR with less than 1000km on the clock but with 853,178 watts in the middle of the car. Good for 447km/h.

Next week, what to do if your EV runs away with you, what is unintentional acceleration model and is your car going rogue?



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