TONY Jardine, the voice of Forumula One racing in Britain, can not keep still for a minute.
Currently on holiday with his wife and family in Majorca, when he's not on Formula One duty, he is racing for the MG rally team and when he's not doing that, he's playing tennis in Portals or jogging up and down the hills of Costa den Blanes. Jardine, and close friend Richard Keys have become major fans of Majorca over the past few years and both are looking to invest in a propery and a boat. Jardine said yesterday that Palma would be an exciting location for a Grand Prix. “It could become the new Monaco, street races are always an exciting concept, Palma's got all the trappings but what is important is that while it costs some 10 to 12 million pounds to bring the cirus to town, there is no share of the tv rights and sponsorship, all that belongs to Formula One, but such an event keeps your hotels, restaurants, marinas etc, full for the duration and of course there is the money on the gate,” he said. It is the cost of mounting a Grand Prix and the lack of a share in tv and sponsorship rights which is Silverstone's biggest problem.
One of just two private Grand Prix races, Silverstone has to make its money on the gate and every year its future is questioned, never mind the added problems caused by spectators running across the track. But Jardine says that this year, Formula One does not need lunatic spectators to liven things up. “This season is proving to be very exciting and I'm glad. “I have to admit, last season, I was finding race commentating was becoming repetitive, Schumacher, Schumacher, Schumacher and yes, it was getting boring, for everyone involved, not only the fans. “But this year, the season could go all the way to the last race in Japan, it's proving to be a great year and it's showing at the tracks. “The Spanish grand prix, obviously boosted by Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, attracted 20'000 more people this year,” he said yesterday before one last game of tennis and the flight back to the UK. Raised in South Africa, on leaving University and crashing his first racing car, he headed out to Kuwait where he moonlighted as a teacher for the British Council by day and a political cartoonist for a local newspaper by night in order to raise as much “tax free money as possible” to return home and buy a new racing car. As it happened, the Middle East rally championship started while he was there and before long he was racing a Datsun round the desert.
On returning to the UK he continued rally racing and it was not until just three years ago that he finally got back out on the race track.
When he looks at the likes of Fernando Alonso, he sees something special. “If he carries on driving like he does, he could become the youngest ever champion, he's the cream, he's got that edge and is an excellent driver. “He could seriously challenge Michael Schumacher, the same way Montoya and Raikkonen are not afraid to take the champion on either. “But while I can see it possibly going all the way, Montoya hates Hungary and that's next, and I think Schumcher will just shade it this year. “However, Schumacher's got to be careful he recognises when he's got a new challenger and is going to lose his top spot to a driver like Alonso. “He will admit he loves the challege and, that by the end of last season, it was all becoming a little easy, now the race is really on and Schumacher likes that, but he must not do a Senna. “One thing that led to Senna's death is that he was aware Schumacher was about to take his mantel, but instead of recognising it was the dawn of a new era, he pushed and pushed to try and beat Schumacher off, if Schumacher is not prepared to recognise when his time has come, it could end in tears,” Jardine said. The other exciting factor about Formula One right now is that Alonso, Raikkonen and even Jenson Button are all young drivers and have a long career ahead of them. “Button had a great Rookie year with Renault, but since then he's had poor cars and has suffered, if he moves stables and gets a new car over the next few years, we may still see something special from him, he's, definitely got it in him. “But, this is where Schumacher is different, good drivers can complain about their cars, when Schumacher first went to Ferrari, the car was really bad, but he still managed to drive the car to victory, and that's what makes him the best driver in the world and, now that Ferrari have perfected the car and have the best on the circuit, he's proving hard to beat. But everyone's time comes and Alonso has a special spark.” Jardine heads to Budapest next week for the Hungarian Grand Prix, he normally jets out on a Thursday and returns Sunday after the race when they are in Europe, and in between time will no doubt think about a property in Majorca. Malcolm Andrews, who Jardine said once moved out of his house as he could not find an adequate accommodation for the Jardines, is helping him find something permanent, “but he says this every year,” Andrews said. Perhaps Jardine could front Palma's bid to host a Grand Prix.

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