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"There's a lot of junk out there today. If you want it straight, read Kirby." -- Paul Newman

The Way It Is/ F1's rogue's gallery

by Gordon Kirby
It's always both amusing and fascinating to see them at work in the Formula 1 paddock. F1's power brokers are a consummate group of expert game players led by Bernie Ecclestone. Included are Toto Wolf and Niki Lauda on behalf of Mercedes-Benz, McLaren's Ron Dennis, Red Bull's Christian Horner and Helmut Marko, and Ferrari's new F1 boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

In Montreal the weekend before last they were plying their trade at le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as the eternal debate continues about what's right and what's wrong with F1 and how it should be improved, changed or 'fixed'. On Sunday morning there was plenty of excitement for F1's thriving media corps as Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne arrived for his first visit to an F1 race.

A few minutes earlier I was chatting outside the media center with Jackie Stewart and my friend and colleague Nigel Roebuck. Jackie shared a story about the role the Wood Brothers played with their rapid pitstops in Jim Clark's historic Indy 500 victory half a century ago. We were all grinning about it when Jackie changed expression.

© Gary Gold
"By the way," he said almost nonchalantly. "Sergio Marchionne is due here any minute for a crisis meeting with Bernie."

JYS said he believed Marchionne was going to push once more for refueling to be re-introduced to F1 but he added pointedly that there was sure to be more than that to the meeting. For his part, Stewart is adamantly opposed to refueling because it would increase costs and add safety concerns.

As JYS made his point on refueling Marchionne arrived with a small entourage at the paddock pass gate. After entering the paddock Marchionne turned to say hello to Stewart. They had a brief conversation and then Marchionne was off to the Ferrari compound and thence to meet with Ecclestone.

© Gary Gold
JYS was also off in another direction to attend to his own business while Nigel and I were left on our own, smiling in amusement as the younger, more energetic F1 newshounds emerged from the media center to chase Marchionne and the story.

This kind of stuff is great theater and grist for F1's media mill as well as being essential to maintaining the myth and brand value of F1's lofty role in motor racing. Ecclestone and his mates have played the game masterfully for decades and the current collection is as accomplished at the art as any who've come before.

Toto Wolf and Niki Lauda form an unlikely leadership combination for the dominant Mercedes-Benz team. Wolf is a smooth talking, corporate-speak man while Lauda provides the perfect antidote with his signature brusque responses and caustic humor.

Deitrich Mateschitz's interests at Red Bull Racing are managed by Christian Horner and Helmut Marko. A former driver and F3000 team owner Horner forged the Red Bull team into first a race winner, then a multiple champion, while the terse, utterly pragmatic Marko has made sure Mateschitz and Red Bull's needs are best served.

© Gary Gold
Former Marlboro man Arrivabene seems to have arrived to take over the reins of Scuderia Ferrari at exactly the right time after the purging of first Fernando Alonso and then Arrivabene's short-lived predecessor Marco Mattacci. With James Allison's new Ferrari looking good and Sebastien Vettel ensconced as Alonso's replacement Vettel and Kimi Raikonen appear to be the only drivers capable of threatening or beating Lewis Hamilton and Keke Rosberg's Mercedes this year.

Meanwhile Ron Dennis is enduring a contrastingly tough time with his team's new McLaren-Honda combination. Neither car nor power unit are up to par. Although some progress has been made a long road lays ahead before either Alonso or Jenson Button are likely to look like the world champions they once were. But Dennis remains optimistic insisting to my colleague Roebuck in Montreal that one of his cars will win a race before the end of the year.

Of course, all of the aforementioned gentlemen have their own interests first and foremost at heart and in mind. Any sense of working for the common good is simply not part of their thinking or way of being.

© Gary Gold

© Gary Gold
F1 as a whole has never thought much of the 'little guy' and Ecclestone has pushed the level of contempt for such people to new heights. Again, it's essential to Bernie's very savvy branding of F1 as the most exclusive of clubs.

In Montreal ace photographer Gary Gold captured some superb portraits of F1's leading power brokers as they worked their turf in the paddock. Like the old adage says, a photo is worth a thousand words, and Gold's rogues' gallery of images is a fine testament to that ineffably true saying.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
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