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GP Week : Issue 129
19 TIME TO CALL IT QUITS GPWEEK OPINION >> demands of racing that they don’t have much mental energy left to think clearly about issues that don’t involve tyre grip, engine response or suspension performance. Their refusal to take informed opinion on board can be indulged. What surprised me at Brno was how much other racing folk, the guys who work in the pits, are terrified of the prospect of a four-day visit to an area that has been declared safe. They have no excuse for not taking a grown-up view. I was being harangued by Rossi’s Ducati guys over the weekend. The strength of the invective was impressive. My mild observation of surprise at their timidity sparked off fresh waves of insistence: that the independent report that gave the track a clean bill of health was no more to be trusted than any other favourable reports, such as those from the World Health Organisation. Anyway, they said, the Japanese government was notorious for failing to keep its citizens fully informed. In any case, who could say that Fukushima might not go right out of control while MotoGP was in residence? (Or, to quote Chicken Little, that the sky might not fall in.) Elsewhere in the paddock came reports that teams would take not only all their food for the race meeting with them, but also all their drinking water. More alarmingly still, some had been advised not to shower while they were there. I’m not so sure that their words are to be trusted any more than those of the WHO. The real truth is that the trip to Japan is exhausting and far from pleasant. Everyone is half-mad with jet lag, just for a start. Then there’s the sterile atmosphere of a dull race-track. And the fact that there is hardly any accommodation nearby: it’s an hour’s drive to work in the morning, and home again in the evening. I wonder if these are not more tangible reasons for the continuing pressure to have the race called off. of races, a limited commitment, and the chance to help friends in the time of need. Everyone was excited, and no one more than Michael who, with the chance to jump back in a Ferrari, started to entertain thoughts of adding to his 91 wins. Of course, the doctors had bad news and the plug was pulled. Michael was gutted, as we all were. With reflection, one wonders if he’d have done much better than Luca Badoer (subsequently dubbed ‘Look How Bad You Are!’ and sacked) and Giancarlo Fisichella. Michael’s ego said otherwise, and I’d have agreed with him before he tried racing a Mercedes-Benz alongside Nico Rosberg. The offer came when Michael was still upset with his missed opportunity with Ferrari. How many 40-year-olds would get a second chance with the reigning champions? Only Michael. He was also getting under his wife’s feet. He needed to get out of the house, and here was a three-year contract offering adrenalin and the spotlight, which he has admitted he missed. Also, a lifetime ambassadorship with Mercedes, which Michael will surely be granted, is more valuable and higher profile than one with the prancing horse. He’ll be starring in adverts for years to come. Talk to Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and Boris Becker about the Merc gravy train – it’s easy money. They were wheeling Fangio out till the day he died. The trouble with Michael’s motivation – to battle boredom, to get out at the weekends and get his heart racing – is that it’s not enough. He’s not hungry. Sure he’d like to win, but is he going to work every hour of the day on his training and mind management, with his engineers, and take risks pushing through every corner? Apparently not. It’s alleged (though denied by his press officer) Michael admitted last week that his “relaxed mindset” is costing Mercedes GP: “I arrived at Mercedes with a specific task: not winning at all costs, but to grow the team”, reported a leading Italian newspaper. Meanwhile, Hamilton, Vettel and, yes, Rosberg do perform at all costs. Michael is about as committed to the corners as a Safety Car driver. No wonder he’s being outclassed. Formula One isn’t fun, it’s war. You don’t do it for a laugh, you do it because you can’t imagine doing anything else. And there’s lots Michael can imagine doing, like posing on back covers beside an E-Class. Paul di Resta is primed to replace Michael at the end of the German’s contract in 2012. Clearly it’s in everyone’s interests to bring that forward a year. Give Michael a headset and a gold watch. He’ll thank you for it. Why nobody wants to go to Japan