Motor Racing: Pit Talk - Nick is the buzz word for Jordan

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The Independent Online
THURSDAY: Damon Hill is having a press conference. Oh no he isn't. It's cancelled at three hours' notice. "The decision obviously wasn't his," one observer notes. "It was made far too quickly." Puts you in mind of Hill's protracted discussions with Sauber Petronas two years ago, when a frustrated negotiator allegedly said: "I cannot believe you were world champion." "Why not?" Hill replied, outraged. "Because if this is the speed of your decision making," came the response, "how on earth do you ever decide when to take a corner?"

THE JORDAN camp Buzzes and Hisses at races such as the British GP, where the gentlemen's agreement on tobacco advertising prevents the team from flaunting their allegiance to Benson & Hedges. The buzz and hiss is that Eddie Jordan will "borrow" the rising young German Nick Heidfield from McLaren to replace Hill, if he really does quit after Silverstone. It would suit McLaren's Ron Dennis to have his future star make his rookie mistakes at someone else's expense, before he plucks him back into the McLaren fold.

FRIDAY: Who says there's no fun in F1? Much mirth is generated by the sight of the Arrows chief Tom Walkinshaw shaking hands heartily with Flavio Briatore, head of the Supertec engine company, at the announcement of their collaboration for 2000. In their days at Benetton the factory was nicknamed Twin Peaks. Briatore worked on one side and Walkinshaw the other, as far apart as they could get.

YELLOW attracts flies in summer, and Damon Hill's every move is attended by hordes hanging on to every contradictory word. "There's been so much speculation that the matter has become completely confused," owner Eddie Jordan says. So what's the truth? "It would be inappropriate to discuss that right now," he replies. It's called having someone else's cake and eating it.

JACKIE Stewart stops by the Ford motorhome to rib the former Ferrari F1 star Cliff Allison on his choice of blazer. "It's not Henley, you know," Stewart chirps. Allison's riposte is to recall beating the bouncy little Scot in a clay shoot at Gleneagles in the early Sixties. "I hit each of my five clays with the first barrel, he hit four with the first and the fifth with the second barrel, which made me the winner. A week later Jackie won the British Clay Shooting Championship. I always reckon I won that one by fluke."

YESTERDAY: The legendary private entrant Rob Walker reminds his audience that his former driver Jo Siffert would have been 62 last Wednesday had he survived a fiery accident at Brands Hatch in 1971. Walker's Lotus 49B, with which Siffert won the British GP there 31 years ago, goes up for auction soon. "With its provenance, I'm told it should fetch at least pounds 450,000," Walker says with a nostalgic smile. That's 30 times what it was worth back then.

THE FIA president Max Mosley confirms that the FIA has initiated proceedings against the outgoing Euro Commissioner Karel van Miert, claiming that he illegally leaked confidential documents to the media. Mosley is, of course, careful to exonerate officials who will replace Van Miert.

FAME can be fickle. The rock stars George Harrison and Rick Parfitt, plus Jacques Villeneuve's latest squeeze, singer Dannii Minogue, get their share of camera time, but the tennis player Henri Leconte goes unrecognised in the shadow of one of Nelson Piquet's former girlfriends.

BERNIE Ecclestone makes his first public appearance since his recent heart bypass surgery. Apart from a dapper blue checked shirt instead of his usual spotless white attire, he looks like he has never been away.