By Samuel Ee
JUST as a giant panda prepares to host tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix, a future F1 race in France could well be flagged off by a mouse in a red pair of shorts.
In case you haven't heard, there will not be a Formula One race at Magny-Cours in 2009 for financial reasons. The French motorsport federation says it is not prepared to promote the race there because of the "economic situation".
But all is not lost. Six alternative sites have been proposed for 2010 - and one of them is Euro Disney. Unlike the Magny-Cours circuit, which is 250 km south of Paris, there should not be any complaints about access or infrastructure - Disneyland is only half-an-hour's drive from Paris and has an abundance of hotel rooms, castles and a few dungeons.
But if Euro Disney does become the next venue for the French GP, there may be cultural implications. France is the country that invented GP racing and "parc ferme" - a French term used to describe a secure area at a GP where cars may be stored overnight - is more a part of F1 vernacular than parc Disney. More importantly, how would it look if Mickey Mouse, an American rodent, were to wave the chequered flag at the French GP? Wouldn't that be an outrage on a par with awarding a Michelin star to McDonald's?
There is a way out though. Instead of Mickey Mouse, Pepe Le Pew can replace him. There's only one problem and it's not just that Pepe is from Looney Tunes, not Walt Disney - Pepe is a clueless skunk and not the most popular character around.
A bit like Lewis Hamilton at the moment, actually. The McLaren driver doesn't have an odorous problem but he is unloved by some F1 drivers. Like his former teammate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard from the Renault team has said twice that he will help Ferrari's Felipe Massa win the drivers' championship. Massa is five points behind leader Hamilton going into the last two races of the season.
At the same time, BMW's Robert Kubica and Toyota's Timo Glock have accused Hamilton of dangerously aggressive driving.
But like all confident and talented young men, Hamilton remains unperturbed. Help whoever you want, he tells Alonso. That's motor racing, he tells the others.
All that needs to be done now to revive the great French GP tradition is to introduce Pepe Le Pew to him.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 18, 2008.
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