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Article from BTNews 21 SEPTEMBER 2009

COMMENT: Air Travel and Formula One

It has been a good week and very bad week for Formula One (F1).  As noted in an AERBT news story below, besides holding the interest of many world travellers, it has also caught the imagination of the airlines with Brawn (Virgin Atlantic), Force India (Kingfisher) and now Lotus (AirAsia?) much involved.

On the positive front the fact that the once dominating team of Lotus is back can only be good news, however tinged with some words of caution.  After the premature death of its founder and inspiration Colin Chapman (1982) Lotus were never the same force in spite of engaging sometime World Champions Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Mika Häkkinen and Nelson Piquet, and winning the occasional race.  Team Lotus, by then no longer owned by the Chapman family, retired from F1 in 1994.

Parallel, as a completely separate car manufacturer and engineering company, Lotus continued, now owned by Proton of Malaysia.  A successful Lotus F1 team can only be good for Group Lotus, and for Malaysia.  Classic Team Lotus, based at the Hethel, Norfolk, home of the Chapman family, continues under the astute ownership of Clive, Colin’s son, a specialist motor racing team with a unique collection of F1 (and Indy) cars.

The big question for the Malaysians is will Lotus do a Jaguar?  That wonderful sports car racing team's resurrection in F1 under Jackie Stewart was not a success, indeed an expensive failure.  Stewart had not been able to make his own team work and even with Ford money did no better as Jaguar.  However sold on to Red Bull they are now amongst the front runners.  Starting an F1 team from scratch is not easy.  There would be embarrassment for all if Lotus failed.

That is good news.

The very bad news is the disclosure that Nelson Piquet jr crashed his Renault deliberately in last year's Singapore Grand Prix to further the cause of team mate Fernando Alonso.  The net result is that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds have both been disgraced and it remains to be seen what the sports governing body (FIA) decides to do and whether Renault remains as a major participant in this the premier league of motor sport.

The real problem is such that all sports have their cheats and at all levels.  The path to glory is such that the make up of some people is that nothing will stand in their way.  History shows that cheating is nothing new in sport except that in this blatant case it was shown on world wide TV.  Marathon runners who took short cuts and used stimulants have been known for the 100 years that it has been a 26-mile event.  Ben Johnson is a classic case of cheating, and of course Maradona and “the hand of God”.  “Bloodgate” in rugby is still upon us.

There are cases of great sportsmanship.  Paolo Di Canio at West Ham some years back and more recently in the final test match at the Oval where an Australian signalled a four to England, which could have been the match winning runs.  He was wrong and the ball had not crossed the line.

One can argue that Michael Schumacher is not recognised as the supreme driver that he undoubtedly is because of his shenanigans against Jacques Villeneneuve and Damon Hill, in both cases stopping them from a potential World Championship win and furthering his own cause.

Let us hope that the Renault business is quickly sorted out and then largely forgotten.  And let us also hope that Lotus becomes a force once again in F1.  ACBC (Anthony Bruce Colin Chapman) will be smiling down from the great hangar in the sky.

Malcolm Ginsberg

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