Now that the Australian Grand Prix has been officially cancelled it’s time to explore some extraordinary coincidences through history, including how F1 teams were shovelled into Melbourne at the last minute.
Abe Lincoln and John Kennedy were both killed from gunshot wounds to the back of the head, both died on a Friday, Kennedy was killed in a Lincoln, had a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln, they had a friend called Billy Graham, had four children, and the vice-presidents who came after them were both named Johnson.
In 2000, the Simpsons predicted Donald Trump would become president. Stephen Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death, and died on Einstein’s 139th birthday.
But none of this is as spooky as our federal government’s decision to ban Italians from coming to spread disease and pestilence in this great country of ours.
Now it’s not like Italians haven’t been coming here for a while. Well 250 years to be exact. Jimmy Matra and Big Tony Ponto were on the good ship Endeavour with Jimmy Cook when he came across the joint in 1770. Convict Giuseppe Tuzo arrived with the First Fleet, settled in Sydney, became a district constable and pawnbroker, and was the first Italian to own land in Australia.
And who said you can’t get a go in Sydney, if you have a go?
Last Sunday and Monday an army of personnel from Ferrari, the AlphaTauri team (a fashion brand founded in 2016 as a brand extension of Red Bull) and Pirelli arrived in Australia. The top persons from the team got off the plane from Milan in Bleak City on Tuesday.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Italians, Ferrari and used to use Pirellis in the 60s, but all these folks come from the places in northern Italy, that, to put it subtly, have coronavirus coming out their ears.
The teams came here, despite Giuseppe Conte, the 58th and current Prime Minister of Italy, locking down the north, imposing travel bans and bans on aperitivo, negroni, peroni, campari, salami and anything else that’s fun to do including socialising.
Now, F1 were already facing a bit of a cashflow and product problem, so cancelling the first race of the season would be as attractive as eating cold vomit.
The Bahrain grand prix, the second race of the season, will be held without spectators. The Chinese grand prix won’t be held. The first Vietnam grand prix is still on but visitors from Italy (think Ferrari, Pirelli and the brand extension) will have to spend 14 days in quarantine. You’d have to guess a few more races will be scratched.
The Victorian government put about $60m into the Albert Park Raceway event (which this year will be won by young Lou Hamilton — if you can get better odds than even money jump on it now) and don’t want to see that go up in virus. So, how’s this for a coincidence?
The very next morning after Italian motoring royalty had turned up in Melbourne, Scott Morrison, the 30th and current Prime Minister of Australia, held a press conference. To quote: “One other point I’d make today is we received advice from the AHPPC today regarding Iran and sorry, regarding Italy. And that advice is that the situation in Italy is now commensurate with the other countries where we’ve previously had travel bans put in place. And so we’ll be extending that travel ban to Italy now. That ban will come into effect at 6pm this evening.” Can you believe that. How lucky were Fezzer? Just squeaked in 12 hours before they and the Iranians were banned. But guess who have been locked up as corona criminals? Not any Italians (yet) but one Pom and four Yanks.
Anyway, it’s just a coincidence. Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Paul Little told journalists: “There’s no conspiracy there.” Now, he wouldn’t say what chats happened between his mob and the government before Ferrari, Pirelli and the brand extension were allowed into Australia, but you and I can be sure they were all above board.
Talking of Italians, big numbers for Feezers at Amelia Island last weekend. Two of the three top sales at RM Sotheby’s were a low-mileage 2003 Fezzer Enzo ($4.3m) and beautiful 1963 Fezzer 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso ($2.5m). Dave Gooding sold a 1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Torpedo Phaeton for $3.4m and got a world record $2.1m for a 1976 Porker 934. But here’s what I’d do if you missed out in Florida.
Ring up Mark Hyman at Hyman Ltd in St Louis straight away. Happy if you mention my name and say: “Mark, I want the 2000 Mercedes-Benz E320 Ute parked under my car port tomorrow!” Marks says: “This one-off 2000 E320 is one of the most extraordinary examples of the W210 I’ve ever seen.”
That’s a big statement from the Markster. He’s been in the classic car biz since he was 16. “This car left the factory as a standard station wagon, but instead of heading to a showroom, it shipped directly to Karrosserie Binz. Binz is one of a select few traditional German coachbuilders to survive into the modern era. Binz tapped into its wild side for this one-off pickup creation. Rather than simply lopping off the back of a wagon, Binz craftsmen went all-out, stretching the car by 29 inches and fabricating the pickup bed aft of the rear seats.” Yours for $100k or $3.3m less than a 1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost Torpedo Phaeton.
And if you’re thinking about a new car in Australia now is the time to pounce. Everyone is doing desperate deals. Every manufacturer is throwing back end money behind every brand to move stock.
Let me tell you what you should be paying on one of the top Euros. Just say you’ve got your eye on a pretty piece of metal with a sticker price of $100k. If you can’t get $25k off it you’re not trying. Listen, in my days on the floor of the dealership, if you negotiated hard we might have thrown in a couple of rubber floor mats and told you what a favour we’d done for you.