The focus of the F1 world last week was on the activities of Ferrari at the Wrooom F1 and MotoGP Press Ski Meeting in Madonna di Campiglio, in the Italian Alps. This is where the Ferrari and Ducati teams (both sponsored by Philip Morris) come together for an annual week of fun and press conferences.
Things were very entertaining one evening when a dinner in a mountain-top chalet featured jugglers and acrobats performing outside in -13deg C. Fernando Alonso and Nicky Hayden decided that they would join in the fun and, having donned feathered wings, proceeded to do their own dance for the amusement of the gathered guests.
Alonso was on fine form and at one point during the evening launched a paper plane across a very large room and hit one of my colleagues squarely on the head, with amazing accuracy.
“You see,” he said. “We have great aerodynamics at Ferrari.”
MotoGP riders tend to be rather keen on fashion and adopt the same facial hair creations as one another. This year’s fashion tweak in Italy is to shave the sides of your head and leave the top au naturel.
A pal of mine asked me if I could get an autograph from rising Italian MotoGP star Andrea Iannone, who will be racing this year for the satellite Ducati team called Pramac. I don’t follow MotoGP closely, so I had to look him up on the Internet to know whom to approach. It seemed simple enough: a young Italian with a Roman nose and one of these odd hairdos.
I don’t like to ask F1 driver for autographs. I'm not sure why, but it just doesn't feel right. But I spotted Iannone when we arrived for dinner and my lovely wife volunteered to go and ask him. I pointed him out and off she went to return, slightly bemused, explaining that the gentleman in question had been very nice but had been surprised to be asked for an autograph.
Nonetheless, she had insisted and returned with the signature. A Mr Naldini. Oops! The real Iannone was spotted, further down the Ducati table, and after independent verification an autograph was finally obtained. Still, we are the only folk who have the autograph of Yuri Naldini, the Ducati MotoGP trainer…
No off-piste action for Ducati riders
Car companies can be rather pig-headed from time to time. One of the highlights of the Madonna week is a race between the drivers and riders on the frozen lake in the middle of the village. In previous years they have used karts and Fiat Unos and much fun has been had, as no one seems to be mind if the cars are crashed into one another. This year, however, things were a little different. Ducati is now owned by Audi, and the Germans didn't want its riders being seen driving Fiats, while Ferrari didn't want to see its drivers racing in Audis. So… no car race.
Clash of the rally titans
Ask the average man in the street to name two rallies and the chances are that they would say "Monte Carlo" without so much as a blink and then, after a few ums and ahs, would probably add "the Paris Dakar".
They are two of the two biggies of the rallying world in the 21st century. So why are they are taking place simultaneously? I suppose racing is just as illogical, with the Indianapolis 500 being run on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix, but the difference in that the time zones and the relatively short nature of the events mean that fans around the world can watch one and then the other.
With the long-distance Dakar and four-day Monte Carlo, it all gets mixed up. The Dakar is confusing enough for fans, given that it hasn't had anything to do with Dakar in Senegal since the event was switched away from Africa to South America.
That was a very prescient decision, given that this year the towns once known as staging posts on the Dakar are now figuring in the reports of French military intervention to stop the Islamist rebels toppling the government. The Dakar is safer in South America, even if flash floods caused some chaos this year.