Choosing the right battlefield

February 12, 2009

The Colonel had got bored with seducing little old ladies in Surrey and had abandoned his blazer, his medals and his tall tales and had decided to expand his horizons. He took a train from Dorking to London, to take The Mole out to lunch at the In and Out Club in St James’s Square. Its real name is the Naval & Military Club, but it is dubbed the In & Out because some unwise soul had these words painted on the pillars at the entrance.

The weather was miserable but The Goat bar was full of men re-fighting battles they had lost and won years before.

The Colonal settled down with a beer and a bag of pork scratchings. That was perfect.

There had been many times in far-flung spot when he had dreamed of such fabulous Epicurean delights: hedgerows in Northern Ireland and places he dared not talk about in Oman.

The Mole arrived and The Colonel launched into a speech about General Douglas Haig. he had been reading an article on the train.

“Everyone says he was a terrible commander and sacrificed his men,” he postulated. “It was terrible. But what was he supposed to do. They had invented weapons that stopped armies moving quickly: trenches, barbed wire, machine guns and so on, but they had not yet invented ways to get around them. They had to wait for the tank and the parachute. You could not ride cavalry across enemy lines and attack them at the rear. You could not ride horses at machine guns. So what option did Haig have? He was a victim of circumstances.”

The Mole looked bemused and wished that the barman would arrive.

For once The Colonel understood and they paused for a moment. The Mole pondered. It was true that strategy must be based on the armaments available. Sometimes you are just stuck. There is nothing you can do. Except dig under the enemy and hope that you can blow him up.

“That’s happening in F1 at the moment,” The Mole said. “The drivers and this Super licence thing. They are not happy about paying the bills, but Max Mosley does not care. The drivers were trapped and having decided to make a fuss. They are now going to suffer for it. They either have to back down or they will get shot down by Mosley. They did not think this thing through very well.”

“I don’t see why drivers should pay,” said The Colonel. “Safety is the job of the FIA. The federation should pay. They do not have the money because they did not do a good deal with Bernie Ecclestone and so Mosley is taxing the drivers because they are wealthy and because he can get away with it. It is logical and cynical.”

The Mole agreed.

“The Formula One group needs every penny it has to pay off the loans that it took out when it bought control of the sport,” he said. “That money has gone and is being used elsewhere by the suited wunderkinds at CVC Capital Partners.”

“No such thing as a suited wunderkind these days,” said The Colonel. “There are just bankers who have been found out and those that are going to get found out.”

“Everyone wants more than they have,” said The Mole, ignoring the remark.

“Turning this into a battle with the FIA is the wrong strategy for the drivers,” he went on. “Their only way forward from their current position is to either hold a strike or back down. Any strike will fail and backing down will have achieved nothing apart from making them look silly. One must question the strategy. Clearly it has not been thought through. It is best to pay the fees and make representations to FOTA to try to get this changed in the future, along with all the other things that need to be changed when the current regime comes to an end.”

“It is a bit like the media having to pay for Internet access,” said The Mole. “Sometimes to an excessive degree. It is nuts to make the press pay to promote the sport. But the media is too disparate to strike, just like the drivers. To give them some credit the FIA has been leaning on the promoters, but they scream that Formula One Management takes too much.”

“Do you see a pattern here?” said The Colonel.

The Mole ignored the remark.

“In any case, there is not likely to be much sympathy for the drivers. They are the wrong people to claim poverty. They don’t give a great deal back to the sport. I hear that this is going to change because the FIA is going to insist on them doing more to promote the World Championship.”

“Really?” said The Colonel. “Not before time.”

“You see,” said The Mole. “Mosley is good at choosing his battlefields.”

“Hrmph,” said The Colonel.