Thursday, June 19, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Monaco and Italy Trip - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

My apologies for a long absence but things have been rather chaotic of late.  First it was Virgin Atlantic to London, a quick change on the Easyjet, Europe's SouthWest equivalent and into the mad world of Monaco. During the race weekend it is mayhem but as I have been going there for 48 years it is hard to give up, contagious I suppose. The organization is better than ever, the press facilities have vastly improved, it was pretty grim 20 or 30 years ago.

On the Wednesday I had a wonderful conversation with 1966 World Champion Damon Hill. I told the story of how I saved his Father's trophy from some horrible person who tried to snatch it away from hit wife, Bette.  Graham had left for the Hotel de Paris. Damon like the story so much he asked me to phone his Mum to remind her.  Having lost Graham all those years ago and not being in Monaco she wasn't in the best of spirits until we cheered her up with the call.

Thursday was of course practice and the Hamilton-Rosberg saga continued unabated. Friday night is party night in Monaco with the MyYacht group's bash leading the way. You can do many things in Monaco just don't expect to sleep more than 3 hours a night, the music does not stop until 5 in the morning.  If you are rich but unlucky you will have cars going round outside your expensive hotel's window for 12 hours solid. Luckily I stay at the other end of town.

Saturday is of course qualifying. I won't bore you with the details as you all know them. But I enclose a photo of the only thing money cannot buy in Monaco-an invitation tho the Prince's reception in the Palace.  The food of course is excellent as are the drinks but the best bit was watching the European Cup final with Prince Albert and his friends. Except for my soothsaying abilities predicting that his wife Charlene was pregnant! Wonderful news for all concerned.

Sunday's race once more is history, but it was nice to see new Australian hero Dan Ricciado chase Hamilton, a foretaste of what was to come a fortnight later in Canada.

But on Monday morning we were off bright and early in Maserati's much admired Quattroporte.  The company is doing well and it is easy to understand why. Solid as opposed to in your face luxury which the cognoscenti appreciate.

More Maserati fun was to follow.  We invited PR Director and old friend Luca del Monte to lunch together with former PR Director of Ferrari, the much loved Antonia Ghini.  Well, it turned out to be something very special and unforgettable indeed. Fernando Alonso was a couple of tables away but because Luca and Antonio are so popular we had a steady stream of the Ferrari hierarchy joining us to say hello.  There was Johnathan Giacobazzi whose name will be familiar to fans of the great Gilles Villeneuve.  His company were one of his major sponsors, then Matteo Torre also joined us, he is the head of sales and after sales.  Slight confusion - his name is identical to that of our good friend the other Matteo in the press department. They keep getting each other's phone calls.

But on to the reason for the trip-to-drive the Speciale.  I won't reveal too much about it, you will have to read Forza (about to go to press) but the encounter with the police was very exciting indeed!.  The short answer to your question is: an amazing automobile which I, personally would only use on the track. Yes, you can commute in it but the question is why?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Drama at Monaco - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Well, well, well...  what dramas we are having in Monaco, As you may have seen on television there are accusations from Lewis Hamilton that his fastest lap was deliberately sabotaged by team mate Nico Rosberg.  Tut tut.

Great for TV, great for F1, we haven't had such aggro since the halcyon days of Senna and Prost. Love it!

Briefly, with just a minute to go in final qualifying Rosberg "accidentally" locked up and went off the track at the only place where you could do that without doing any damage to the car.  Still, out came the yellow flags, everyone lifted off in case there was a crash and the outcome: Hamilton's lap was compromised and he is livid.  I will deal with it the way Senna did he muttered ominously.  As for the rest, well, Red Bull are doing better with Ricciardo in third and Vettel in 4th and our boys are not far behind with Alonso's lap in a not particularly good Ferrari. don't miss the start whatever you do.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Frankly Frankl - More from Monaco - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

You never quite know who you will bump into in the middle of the Monaco Grand Prix. As I've mentioned the other evening it was Keke Rosberg with his wife and Jonathan Palmer, another former racing driver, introduced me to his son Jolyon.  Look out for the yellow car in the GP2 race, he is the favorite.  Sure enough this morning he ran away to a comfortable victory.

There were three yellow flags and some great accidents.  Let me be clear.  I am taking about the cars getting damaged and the drivers walking away. This being Monaco some of the tangles were slow and spectacular.  The injuries were to the egos and the carbon fibre.  Jolyon is tipped for a Formula One seat next year, on the evidence I've seen it makes sense. The rest of Friday is spent at various parties and receptions.  All the sponsors are here from all over the world, this is one race wives are happy to attend as the glamour and the shopping opportunities are second to none.  McLaren are having a bit of a tough time at the moment, not quick on the circuit and not quick in the sponsorship stakes.  For years they've had major names such as Vodafone, no more.  To add insult to injury this year their amazing huge motorhome which is like an entertainment center has been relegated.  Ever since I can remember it was always Bernie's control complex first, McLaren second, Ferrari third and so on.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Live from Monaco - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

There is something very unfair about practice sessions in Formula One.  Here we are Thursday afternoon with tens of thousands of people in the grand stands and there isn’t one car on the track for 40 minutes. The reason – the track was a little bit wet.  Now I can understand that the teams don’t wish to risk their precious race cars unnecessarily but what about the paying public?  If you go to the circus and nothing happens for 40 minutes you demand your money back.  Here you just sit and wait.  Pathetic.  Finally team Toro Rosso decided to brave the elements, with 45 minutes to go we were still waiting for the rest. This is the first time this year that I’ve been able to hear the engines first hand and I am afraid they do sound absolutely awful. Lawn mowers make a better sound!  Still, I can only report on what is happening and not on what I would like to happen.  50 minutes into the afternoon session there are now five cars going around which seems logical to me because the race might be held under wet conditions and then this would be useful to the drivers and the mechanics.

Last night was a lot more interesting, had dinner at a place called Pulcinella. Interesting crowd, Keke Rosberg was at the next table with his wife, cool as a cucumber. Two tables from him sat Herbie Blash, someone you would all know – he is the grey haired gentlemen who ushers the drivers from their cars to the weighing machine. 

Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Frankly Frankl - New Book - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles - Senna

With no disrespect to that great American President JFK, there are millions of people in this World who often ask each other-where were you on 1st May 1994. To which of course we all know the answer. Either in front of a television set or at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. For my part I was commentating off-tube, meaning that I was in front of a monitor seeing what everyone was seeing except for one thing. I had excess to the BBC as well as Sky so when the BBC moved away from the scene of the tragedy to show the pitlane I was able to witness Ayrton’s last moments. As five times champion Juan Manuel Fangio said as he was watching in Argentina “as soon as I saw his head move I knew it was over. I switched off my set”. If you are young and don’t know what all this is about get on the internet and watch some Senna footage. I would recommend the European Grand Prix of 1993. Or any other race featuring him for that matter. Then you will understand why tens of thousands of people are making the pilgrimage to his shrine in Imola 20 years after his passing. Alonso, Raikkonen, just about everyone.

I first saw him drive in Monaco, back in 1984 in a humble Toleman racing car. He was up against all the big names-Lauda, Prost, Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Rene Arnoux. It was raining cats and dogs but as the race went on Sienna worked his way up to second place and rapidly catching Prost. Much to his disgust the race was stopped on lap 31. The British commentating team of Murray Walker and former World Champion James Hunt had a few choice words concerning the decision . It is debated to this day. A star was born there and then. His mastery in the rain became legendary over the years. The awful thing is that his fatal accident just like  Michael Schumacher’s near fatal in the Alps it was a million to one chance. His lasting memory apart from all the “reels” of his victories the accident and that of Ratzenberger the day before resulted in a massive safety campaign led by FIA President  Max Mosley and Prof. Sid Watkins. Mercifully we haven’t had a fatality in F1 since. My cherished memory is the interview I conducted on behalf of Hungarian TV at the world famous Gundel restaurant in Budapest the Saturday evening  before the race. It was a rare exclusive. One on one-unheard of with Ayrton and I have to thank Marlboro for arranging it.

He was happy, relaxed and much in love. I didn’t know until recently that the interview was also secretly recorded by a waiter! Over 3000 people have viewed it on YouTube, just tap in Senna in Budapest 1993.

For many enthusiasts and almost all his fellow racing drivers he is regarded as the greatest ever. The way he drove, the determination, the way he wore his belief in God on his sleeve, the joy he gave to his adoring fans, hard to define but easy to see . Racing drivers come and go but Ayrton will be with us forever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Book Signing at the Book Passage - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

 I gave a talk at Marin County’s world famous store-Book Passage- on Sunday. Somewhat overawed by the list of previous speakers which include everybody from President Obama to Cindy Crawford. Politicians, chefs, famous authors and yours sincerely. But what none of them had were three shiny Ferraris right by the entrance. In fact I didn’t have to say anything, the cars-a red 458 spider, a white 308 and an off white (I think) brand new California were getting a huge amount of attention in a place more use to talk about the past, the future , gluten free food, how to grow broccoli and all that. So any talk about cars that do 200 miles per hour could have been problematical but the good folks at Book Passage thought it would make a change. I am told that it certainly did!

In the meantime-early Monday morning came the bombshell that my very good friend Stefano Domenicali had resigned with immediate effect. I can’t say I am surprised because the team has been  in the doldrums. Having a top speed two seconds less than  Mercedes is simply not acceptable and no amount of skill on the part of two World Champions can do anything about it.

Frankly I have always felt that Stefano was just too nice, too decent for the shark-infested waters of Formula One.

The new man is a puzzle for those close to F1 but it isn’t  for those of us living in the United States. Marco Mattiacchi was, until this morning CEO of Ferrari North America. He is very nice, well-educated man who is being taken from the comfort of a beautiful apartment in Manhattan to the rough and ready stuff Formula One is made of. I don’t envy his position. As a marketing wiz maybe he will do a caretaker job until someone like Ross Brawn becomes available. Until President Montezemolo summoned him Marco had one of the best jobs in the World. How many bosses can claim long waiting lists for their products with their huge deposits firmly in the bank? Or make a fortune on overnight bags. Would you believe that the new one which will be launched with LaFerrari sells for over 3000 dollars?

Insane. Whatever happens I am afraid it will take a miracle to turn the team’s fortunes round, to make up a two seconds difference. In F1 terms that is an eternity. Clearly there is something wrong with the aerodynamics and the engine seems to be down on power as well.

So good luck Marco, you will certainly need it.

Finally coming back to Sunday’s event at Book Passage reminds me that I have two more engagements coming up in the near future. The good folks running the book shop at Sonoma Raceway have asked me to do book signings on the Saturday and the Sunday of the Ferrari challenge meeting-26th and 27th of April. With just over 120 copies left of the total print run of 499 you might like to get your copy now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Candy Store, Sean Kelly and Formula One - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Went to a fascinating  talk the other day at the world famous Candy Store. I have been asked not to reveal its location, let me just say that where ever it is-magnificent is the word. Pride of place goes the Niki Lauda’s F1 car. Looks as good as ever and brings back wonderful memories. The guest speaker was NBC’s chief statistician-Sean Kelly. I thought I knew a thing or two about mF1 but this guy is absolutely amazing. He provides material for 14 TV stations so when you will hear the commentators say something earth shattering don’t say “Wow, where did they get that one from?” look no further than Sean. The only-somewhat unfair question – he couldn’t answer was about the shortest driver of all times. I didn’t know the answer either; apparently it was John Love who came 2nd in a Cooper Climax back in 1967. I am still checking n this as my money would have been on tiny Arturo Merzario from Italy.

With the new season upon us I am just glad I don’t have to commentate any more. With all the new regulations –most of which few people can comprehend good luck to my colleagues who will have to go into the intricacies of the engine e, the electrical bits and to top it all the various penalties the stewards will be dishing out. Some of these stewards are retired racing drivers who cannot really relate to what is going on. Three times World Champion was not known for being called Black Jack, his tactics were somewhat borderline at times but in those days it was less PC than it is today.

Interesting that two former champions-Jackie Stewart and Jacques Villeneuve both complained about today’s plastic heroes and I cannot disagree. Half the grid in made up of rent a drivers and I am certain few of you would recognize most of them without their helmets with their names written on it. At the other end of the grid the great drivers have all been carefully briefed as to what they can and can’t say. Every word they utter is recorded by one of the PR lackeys for reasons I will never be able to fathom out. Pity.

The fate of F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone is still in the balance, interestingly enough one the major investors in CVC who own the commercial rights started to grumble about the Englishman’s fitness to govern. This is a Norwegian outfit, they take their integrity very seriously indeed. Others may follow but  in the meantime it is business as usual. Well, not quite as usual because some of the drivers such as Felipe Massa will be listening to news from the hospital in Grenoble where his  great hero Michael Schumacher is  fighting for his life. All credit to the little Brazilian who spent hours by Michael’s bedside talking to him regardless whether Schumacher could comprehend it or not. I may be FORZA’s Grand Prix Editor but I would love to see Felipe win some races. Took him a long time to fully  recover from his appalling injuries back in 2009 but while he may be driving for Williams this year  I am sure the folks in Maranello would not begrudge him a victory or two.

I am writing this blog before the first race so let me wish everyone is good season, mercifully when the flag drops –or the lights go out- all the nonsense stops. May the best man win, just hope they don’t all run out of gas..

Monday, February 3, 2014

Frankly Frankl - Book Signing at the Book Passage in Corte Madera - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

The Book Passage is now carrying my book Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles.

I will be doing a book signing there Sunday, April 13th at 4:00 pm at 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA I 94925. Please come and join us and you might be surprised at some of the cars in front of the store.

 Book Passage has served the Bay Area for more than 30 years, providing the community with an array of author events, writing and language classes, and highly-respected annual conferences.

A New York Times-reporting bookstore, we offer a wide variety of books ranging from children’s literature to travel guides, from top-selling fiction to mystery novels, and we continue to work diligently with community and nonprofit organizations.

Book Passage has two stores, one in Corte Madera and a second in the San Francisco Ferry Building.