I've learnt that driving through Italy is never a great idea, day or night, because no matter when you're on the road, there will be Italians all around you. This explains why it took us over two hours to do the first hundred kilometres from Milan towards the A1-Ring. It had nothing to do with us getting lost in our own town, as that was really a momentary diversion of five minutes or so, and much more to do with the hundreds of cars who decided it was a nice day to park on the autostrade.
Besides, getting lost at home really just got the inevitable out of the way. Continue
"If you're not in Formula One people forget about you, that's for sure," Jos Verstappen noted as he settled into his seat in the Minardi motorhome on a mild Saturday afternoon after qualifying in Austria. And he knows what he's talking about - the amiable Dutchman's Formula One career was almost destroyed at the start of last year when he was unceremoniously dumped by Arrows in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, despite bringing home the team's only point in 2001 and having a solid contract for the year to come in his back pocket.
The sun started to rise as we entered Spain, further convincing me that France is in fact the land of darkness, and the green rolling hills reminded me a little of Italy. The Spaniards are wonderful people - they are similar to the Italians, but even more laid back and sunny. I don't think I saw a Spaniard not smile over the whole weekend, which indicates to me that they are either slightly dim or they've found the secret to life. I think I'll run with the latter. Continue
Barcelona was always going to be the acid test. They've done so much testing at the Circuit de Catalunya that the drivers know the track like the back of their hand, and the engineers could find the right setup blindfolded. Most of the teams have the same advantage, though, so there was a chance it could be all for nothing. "Challenging competitively for points on a regular basis in 2003" - that was the target Toyota team chief Ove Andersson set at the launch, some four months ago, for the Japanese car maker's second year in Formula One.
But the first three races came and went, and there were no points to show for their work. In fact, there were hardly any race finishes at all. And should they fail at Barcelona - the venue they know so well - they'd have to re-adjust their targets of four months before. But first, before Barcelona, they had to face the challenge of Imola.
The thing is, it was all for nothing - so much noise, so much fury, and the end result of it all is that everything remains the same. Or perhaps worse; we've still to see what the long-term fallout of Jaguar's folly will be. Jaguar not only undermined the driver who mere months ago they were describing as a young charger in front of the world, but they managed to turn the positive reception built up over the previous four races into a PR disaster, the equivalent of a game losing own goal scored deep in extra time.
And nothing has changed at the team; the driver still hasn't performed, the team still suffers from appalling reliability, and fans worldwide still have no faith in the team's management to deliver results.