The 'phone rang in my office mid-morning last Saturday. “Alan?” said a cheerful voice. “How are you?” It took a second or so for the penny to drop; on the other end was FIA president Max Mosley.
Warning klaxons started resonating through my brain. Was I due a formal dressing down for something I’d written? Was I about to be told that my FIA credential for the 2008 F1 world championship was being deactivated as we spoke? Not at all, it transpired; Max (left) was simply ringing for a pleasant weekend chat.
Charmingly we skimmed the surface of various F1 issues of the day in the most general of terms. There was no subtext to his call; no subliminal message I should have picked up. As far as I could discern, Mr Mosley really was just calling to shoot the breeze. And I was genuinely impressed (as I hope the rest of you are reading this) that old Max had the time to chat, to be honest: you’d have thought that the head of the FIA has too much on his plate at the moment for that sort of thing.
On Thursday 15 November the FIA has to adjudicate on McLaren’s protest against a stewards’ decision at Interlagos, after they failed to penalise the two BMW Saubers and Nico Rosberg’s Williams over the very arcane fuel temperature differential rule. If all three were to be disqualified it still wouldn’t necessarily make Hamilton world champion as it is not obligatory to promote remaining finishers in the event of a disqualification. I reckon there's zero – absolutely zero – chance of it happening.
Then, at the start of December, the FIA’s world motor sport council has to deal with not only technical reports on the ‘technical audit’ carried out on McLaren’s 2007 F1 challenger, but also the thorny issue of what the Renault squad have been up to. Last week their team principal, Flavio Briatore (right), was fending off allegations of technical espionage only a day after being summoned to appear before the FIA’s world motor sport council accused of illegally using McLaren technical data in the design of their R27 challenger driven this year by Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen.
The French team, which has its racing base at Enstone in Oxfordshire, also issued a statement confirming that a former McLaren engineer, who joined them in September 2006, had been suspended immediately after it became clear that he had brought confidential information with him to his new job.
Could be a choppy ride ahead. Not only for Renault, but also for my friend Mr Mosley, who could be forgiven for thinking the sport he presides over is coming apart at the seams.