Miss Pringle-Featherby announcesJanuary 16, 2012
There was a pattering of tiny feet in the corridor outside the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department of the Secret Intelligent Service. Usually these throroughfares are without noise as sleek civil servants glide from department to department, their effortless control speaking far louder than their feet.
The Mole knew at once that this must be an important message. Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) only ever moved rapidly when she had important news to impart.
She was all a-twitter when she arrived at the door of The Mole’s office, breathless with excitement.
“Transcept!” she said, before gulping for air.
“Something to do with architecture in a church?” said The Mole, who was already at his door to greet her.
“Transcript,” she said, having a second go.
The Mole looked puzzled. He concluded that she must be talking about something from Government Communications Headquarters on Hubble Road in Cheltenham, from where the government acquires most of its Signal Intelligence (otherwise known as SIGINT by those in the business).
“Transcript of an intercept,” she said, finally. Her cheeks were glowing quite pink, as if she had drunk two and a half glasses of Pimms (without much lemonade).
By that point the four Penelopes had gathered around her, waiting to hear the important news.
“Spit it out girl,” said Penelope (Roedean), sounding (but not looking) like a headmistress. For a fleeting second The Mole had the image of a headgirl of St Trinians in his head, but then he looked back at Miss Pringle-Featherby and all passionate thoughts evaporated.
She took a long, slow, deep breath.
“Senna,” she said. “Bruno Senna is joining Williams. They are going to announce it shortly. Down in Cheltenham they picked up some mobile phone call from Brazil talking about the deal.”
The Mole said “thank you”, rather curtly, and retreated into his office. Penelope (Roedean) followed.
“Oh dear,” said The Mole. “Williams getting two pay-drivers is just a bit too much. I suppose we will have to get in there and organise a bit of coup d’état. The time for change is clearly upon us.”
“Can I shoot Adam Parr,” said Penelope, almost wistfully.
The Mole smiled.
“There is a queue, I believe,” he said.
“I can be very subtle,” she smiled. “You know. Belts, handcuffs, stockings, oranges. You name it.”
“No, I think not,” said The Mole. “He is British, after all. If he was a foreign chap, we might be able to use Boston Brakes, or a fishing accident, or something like that, but he’s Eton and Oxford. And we don’t do that sort of thing to chaps like him.”
“Eton and Cambridge,” said Penelope, realising as she said it, that it was ‘too much information’.
The Mole raised an eyebrow.
“I suppose we will have to see if Bruno can do the job,” he said, changing the subject, to save Penelope’s blushes. “There are lots of people who think he’s got what it takes. I’m not so sure. I must admit I find it rather hard to see the name Senna in a Williams again. Bad memories, I suppose. No, it’s not that. It is more to do with the driver choice. I mean, Senna’s is a good lad, but Williams needs a proper proven number one driver. A charger with no question marks. The team really does not need someone who is supposed to be bringing $15 million in sponsorship.”
“Where on earth would Senna get that kind of cash from?” asked Penelope.
The Mole shrugged.
“I can see that it might be possible to raise that kind of money in Brazil at the moment. It’s booming after all. And Senna is a big name. Who knows, maybe he has not got it all, but reckons he can get it. Maybe the delay has been because Williams wanted guarantees.”
He paused for a moment.
“The thing is that Williams is not going to get back to the front in F1 until they get results,” he said. “The old management knew that. They were an engineering company. They knew that all that mattered was to win. If you got results, you got money. If you got results and money you got the best drivers, and the best engineers. They all used to know that results are all that matter. And if the team does not deliver them, it will continue down the slippery slope to oblivion. The only way to stop the current slide is to build great cars.”
“Sounds logical,” said Penelope.
“If Williams is no longer aiming for that and making decisions based on survival,” The Mole went on, “then I am worried. Williams is an important F1 brand. The sport needs it. OK, it’s not Ferrari nor McLaren, these days, but Williams is still a very valuable F1 brand. It’s better than Red Bull Racing, Mercedes or Sauber. It is part of Britain’s F1 heritage. If only because it is really the only British team left.
“McLaren is largely owned by chaps in the Middle East,” he went on. “Red Bull pretends to be Austrian. Mercedes is officially German, although there is a fair bit of collaboration going on down in Brackley these days. Force India is more roast beef than chicken tikka masala.”
“Isn’t chicken tikka masala the British national dish these days?” asked Penelope. “I am sure I read that somewhere.”
“Not as long as there is beef to roast,” said The Mole. “Or lamb, come to that. No-one roasts lamb like the British.”
There was a pause as both of them savoured the idea.
“Lotus is now owned by some types from Luxembourg. Caterham is Malaysian. Virgin is Russian. Britain is being swamped. Williams is the last stand of true British team ownership in F1. And what chance do they have against the foreign invader if they have to take money from that strange fellow in Venezuela and from booming Brazilians.”
“Yes, but half of England is owned by foreigners these days,” said Penelope. “H A Rods is owned by the Qataris.”
“I know,” said The Mole. “Thank goodness that Mr Ecclestone still owns half of London. And thank goodness that we have the Duke of Westminster.”
“And the Queen,” said Penelope.