Monza's mix of fast men and loose talk

Speed's spiritual home gives troubled sport a much-needed boost

Speed can be a confusing narcotic, and when it is taken at a track such as the Autodromo di Monza in Milan's beautiful parkland it can be doubly potent.

Speed can be a confusing narcotic, and when it is taken at a track such as the Autodromo di Monza in Milan's beautiful parkland it can be doubly potent. Is Rubens Barrichello really the fastest man ever round this hallowed place, courtesy of his lap of 1min 20.089sec (161.804 mph), which earned him and Ferrari pole position for the Italian Grand Prix? Or should that honour really go to the man who will start alongside him, Juan Pablo Montoya, who lapped during pre-qualifying in 1:19.525 (162.952 mph)?

Actually, the pedantic answer is neither, since Pat O'Connor lapped at 177mph on the combined road circuit and banking way back in 1957, when nobody knew or cared what downforce was and the sole reason for using seat belts was to stop the intrepid drivers being bounced out of the cockpit by the fearsome bumps of the 31-degree banking.

It is, however, valued lore that makes this place such a key element of the Formula One calendar. At a time when factions within the sport are hell-bent on attacking the British Grand Prix (which may have to die in 2005 in order to rise again), it is good to know that places such as Monza remain secure, and to hear the FIA president, Max Mosley, acknowledge Budapest's recent race as "traditionally boring". It is seriously heartening that the sport's powerbrokers admit that, even if they seem disinclined to do anything to alleviate the tedium. (Just modify your circuits and make them like Hockenheim, where people pass and repass.)

This is the time of the year in which the silly season traditionally hits peak revs, and at one stage on Thursday every man and his guide dog were ready to tell you that the 1997 world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, sacked by BAR last year, had signed a two-year deal with Peter Sauber's team and was all set to replace the Renault-bound Giancarlo Fisichella. While it's true that Fisichella is leaving, and that Villeneuve has talked at length with Sauber, and may yet do such a deal, the fact remains that, most assuredly, it has not yet been done. It may never be. As one team member said: "When testing is so costly for us, why would we be running Vitantonio Liuzzi in Jerez next week if we had already filled the seat?"

The most sensational rumour, however, is that Kimi Raikkonen has already inked a deal to join Ferrari from McLaren for 2006, which might explain why Michael Schumacher has been looking a little self-absorbed and why McLaren's managing director, Martin Whitmarsh, had suddenly become F3000 champion Liuzzi's best friend during that series' qualifying session on Friday.

The one crystal-clear patch, however, appeared when Fiat's president, Luca di Montezemolo, nailed the prancing-horse flag of Ferrari firmly to the mast of the proposed breakaway Grand Prix World Championship in a scathing attack on the present stewardship of Bernie Ecclestone.

"Such an expensive sport cannot continue to survive if we do not increase the revenues," Di Montezemolo said. "It was a big mistake to sell the company to a German TV company and then to sell it to Kirch, and a mistake now that the sport is 75 per cent owned by banks.

"A certain era has finished and we have to look at something new and totally acceptable to the players, who at the moment only get 47 per cent of the TV rights and advertising and so on. It is not possible any more. Unfortunately, somebody does not understand."

When the field blasts into the funnel of the first chicane at the start today the confusion may return. Jenson Button will be racing for BAR Honda while openly coveting the BMW Williams, which Juan Pablo Montoya can't wait to abandon for the McLaren Mercedes which Raikkonen may, stress may, want to switch in favour of the Ferrari, which Michael Schumacher may then elect to vacate for retirement earlier than planned if he really does get a dangerous team-mate for the twilight season of his career. It all sounds like that old American soap Soap, which is being rerun over here, the one where the introductory blurb always used to end: 'Confused? You will be...'

With any luck there will be lots of confusion, with Barrichello and Montoya in the pound seats; Schumacher in a slightly uncomfortable third place with Fernando Alonso alongside him in a Renault that gets off the line like a dragster; the potent BAR Hondas of Takuma Sato and Button on the third row; and Raikkonen and BMW Williams stand-in Antonio Pizzonia on row four. It worked wonders at Spa, and it's not impossible that Monza could keep that ball of confusion rolling.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain