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GP Week : Issue 69
GPWEEK OPINION >> of rivals that made 2009 into a classic championship battle; but it is Valentino that the people come to see. He seems blessed in a way only a very few sportsman achieve: people never tire of seeing him winning. To die-hard fans, it's because we appreciate his extraordinary motorcycling and racing gifts. Dorna's ever-improving on-bike coverage gives us a superb insight into the precision of his brutal art: the way he caresses the clutch lever into the corner, balancing rear wheel adhesion with engine braking, the finesse of his throttle control ... But almost all the record crowd of almost 60,000 at Sepang were there because of who he is rather than what he does. He must be oppressive to his rivals, but at the same time inspiring. They are lucky to be racing at the same time, even if it means getting beaten up sometimes. As we fans are lucky to be involved in racing at such a time. How much longer can it go on? Rossi is keeping his options open and keeping everyone hanging on. Strong rumours of a move to Ducati in 2011 keep on gaining strength. Well, Rossi likes these café rumours: in the same way he enjoyed those about a Ferrari future in F1. At the same time, yet another World Rally Championship outing in Mexico in the close season shows he is more than merely semi-serious about that as well. All depends how much he keeps on enjoying it. Because it is enjoyment that drives him, as much as the killer instinct, and all those other facets. "In the past the situation was the opposite and I was a lot younger than my rivals and it was also easier. "Now I'm the eldest of the first four guys and it becomes harder. I have to train more and be more focused. But it is always a great pleasure." Long may it stay so. For all of our sakes. While I know from first- hand experience that many fellow Brits failed to warm to Lewis, Jenson is the kind of chap that I think most will feel something for. He's been around a decade, done his time, been through the shit and come out smiling. His is a lesson for us all and the sport will only gain fans and regain respectability for having as its spokesperson, posterboy and ultimate ambassador a man who is such a great guy. The future of the sport however will have relatively little to do with him. While his race performances, and those of his rivals will make up the core of what we are able to report and enjoy, there is a new man at the top, a new decision maker, a new President. Some say he reflects the ways of old, that he will be a puppet for the ideology of the Max Mosley regime. But I don't quite think that's true. Jean Todt is his own man. That much he has proved wherever he has been employed and whatever he has done in his career. He is nobody's puppet, and so when he says that it is his intention to iron out the creases in the FIA rather than to chop great chunks out of its operational structure, I can only take it at face value and hope and pray that the wheels of power within the body allow him to do just that. Ultimately, initiating change in a body so regimented and entrenched in its ways will never be easy. Perhaps the little-by-little approach promoted by Todt really is the best way forward. Perhaps Vatanen's wholesale disruption would have done more harm than good. This much we know. Todt has never failed at anything he has done. He is a brilliant manager and understands the sport. His departure from Ferrari was also such that we should not fear that he will give any favours to his former employers. Let's just say there was no love lost. And so it is that we arrive at the final race of the season with much to look forward to and many questions left to be answered. It's the start of a new era for the sport. A new track, new champions and a new President. It's going to be very interesting to see how this brave new world plays out. n; great championship 23