Saturday, February 29, 2020


My good friend Hans Tholstrup has made a meal of distance – many times, but the unearthing of some famous photos taken in 1970 urges me to again pay tribute to a man many people, especially me, admire for his achievements.

Hans, born in Denmark, was inspired to a life of adventure when he met his idol,  Thor Heyerdahl.

The Danish explorer and five companions sailed the Kon-Tiki, a raft constructed of balsa wood and other native fibres, 5,000 miles from Peru to French Polynesia in 1947, to demonstrate that ancient peoples could have made long distance sea voyages, to populate islands in the South Pacific.

Emulating his hero, in 1970 Tholstrup announced a plan to circumnavigate the Australian continent in a 17ft open boat, following in the footsteps of explorer Matthew Flinders who, with George Bass, explored the east coast of Australia in a tiny sailboat named ‘Tom Thumb’.

Recently I was given a series of black and white prints, showing Hans and famous Australian radio quizmaster, Bob Dyer, christening Hans’ own ‘Tom Thumb’ on a dock at Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour.

Bob Dyer ran a hugely successful quiz show called ‘BP Pick-A-Box’, sponsored by the British oil company. Hans’ craft was also sponsored by BP, among others, so who better to christen the boat than Bob Dyer.

It was a voyage of similar distance to Heyerdahl’s (9000 nautical miles) and took him just over a month. His boat was powered by a single 80hp Mercury outboard, and carried a 100 gallons of fuel.

I attended the press conference after his return, and laughed along with the rest of the media pack when Hans answered a question from a young reporter who asked: “How did you handle the navigation?”

To which Hans replied seriously: “I always kept the land on my left.”

However, that was just the start of a life of adventures for Hans Tholstrup.

In 1971 he raced a Falcon GT at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.

In 1972 he rode a dirtbike from Rockhampton across Australia to Perth.

Photo: Getty Images
Then, in 1975, he took a 10-day ‘How to Fly’ course in California, and successfully flew solo around the world in a single-engined Grumman AA1B trainer.

Showing his never-say-die attitude to adventure, he was momentarily halted when a seagull crashed into the prop over the Pacific. Hans managed to land the aircraft on a beach in French Polynesia, then deduced that if he cut the same amount from the opposite side, he would be able to fly to Papeete, to get a replacement, with only slight out-of-balance from the shortened propeller!

In 1976 he decided to drive a tiny Mini Moke from Hobart in Tasmania to Cape York in Queensland. There was the difficult issue of crossing Bass Strait, so typically Hans devised a novel solution.

He lashed the Moke, onto an Avon inflatable, attached a Mercury outboard, and simply sailed the ‘Rubber Duckie’ from Launceston to Flinders, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, before continuing on to Far North Queensland.

With that exploit behind him, he approached me with the ‘crazy idea’ of driving a Mini Moke in the 1977 Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally.

I agreed, and we finished the 30,000km event at the steps of the Sydney Opera House after driving through 30 countries in 30 days!

In 1983, Hans Tholstrup devised a plan to cross from West to East in a car powered only by the sun. He relied on racing driver Larry Perkins and his brother Garry, to build the ‘Quiet Achiever’ to his specification and, once again sponsored by BP, Hans and Larry set off from the Western Australian capital.

Another good friend of mine, Tom Snooks, accompanied the team to record the crossing:

Hans and Larry completed the historic BP Solar Trek across Australia, with no overseas technology to draw on, no plans to follow, no previous mistakes to look at or learn from, yet in eight months they designed and built a whole new machine that ran for over 4000 kilometres with only some broken wheel spokes and a number of punctures. They took 20 days to make the crossing,

The journey of The Quiet Achiever would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first crossing of Australia by a motor car – when in 1912 Francis Birtles drove a Brush car from Fremantle to Sydney, in 28 days.
Then in 1987, Hans created the very first ‘World Solar Car Challenge’ with entrants driving solar cars south along the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Adelaide. The biennial race was run for 32 years, becoming the most famous solar car event in the world.

In 1999, Hans again took to the sea in a boat similar to Tom Thumb and sailed it from Darwin, island-hopping, to Japan. Somewhere along the way he also drove a Datsun Cherry from the top of Norway, to Capetown, South Africa.

Hans has a restless spirit, and his agile brain is always trying to figure out some new adventure to pursue, however for the time being, he lives a quiet life in northern Queensland, where I visited him in 2018.

He’s man I am truly proud of, he’s a high achiever, of great integrity and someone I am honoured to call my friend.

Hans was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2008 Australia Day Honours for “service to conservation and the environment through the development of renewable energy technology and the exploration of alternative fuel sources."

John Crawford

Friday, February 28, 2020


Continuing the catalogue clearout, GM kissed goodbye to the Chevrolet Impala this week.

It was 60 years ago the 'folded paper' flying coupe graced the Chevy showrooms.

John Crawford

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Aaha. 1977 in the USA gas was averaging 60c a gallon, so it cost sixteen bucks to fill the tank on the Ford Ranchero, and this exercise in largesse was fitted with a 6.6L Cleveland V8.

So that means the fuel economy wasn’t anything to write home about – but then if you went too far, too fast, there was no guarantee you would get home, without a splash’n’dash.

 Spotted this little left-hook baby (?) on the Queensland Gold Coast, so somebody loved it enough to show it off – but I’m guessing with gas costing upwards of AUD$1.80 a litre these days, it’s only used for short trips.

John Crawford

Monday, February 24, 2020


Despite retiring the Holden brand name, forcing the 180 dealers to close up shop, General Motors does have a plan to sell cars in Australia. The hints are contained in the somewhat ambiguous wording of its recent press statement announcing Holden’s demise.

GM president, and former Holden chairman and managing director, Mark Reuss said: “We do believe we have an opportunity to profitably grow the specialty vehicle business, and plan to work with our partner to do that.”

GM 'specialty vehicles'
Top to Bottom
Camaro; Silverado; Acadia; Corvette C8
Okay, here’s the translation: General Motors has an existing contract with Walkinshaw Automotive (owned by the widow and son of former racing driver, the late Tom Walkinshaw), which already carries out RHD conversions on the Chevrolet Camaro and Silverado pickup – and this business will continue.

Also, the Chevrolet Corvette C8 (which is already engineered for RHD) will be produced in the USA at the Corvette facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The GMC Acadia is also produced in RHD, in Tennesee, which means that GM vehicles could continue to be sold in Australia in low, but profitable volumes.

Buyers will access whatever models are involved in this plan through those Holden dealers which are already signed up as distributors with Walkinshaw Automotive.

Holden’s acting Chairman and Managing Director, Kristian Aquilina, said:
“If there is a presence, and there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge, and I don’t want this to be a distraction from the bigger message from today and Holden’s announcement, but if there is an ongoing presence it will be a very minimal one, he said. “It is already in its infancy and we are not sure how it will progress.”

According to my source in the USA, the departure from RHD markets was conceived well before GM’s plan to sell its European operations to Groupe PSA, but as Holden’s market share headed below 4%, and sales of its Commodore and Astra models had stalled, it was time to pull the pin.

Selling its Thailand factory, which was responsible for RHD versions of Colorado, to China’s Great Wall Motors, was a major factor in GM shutting down Holden.
Holden was just not selling enough vehicles to be able to survive, and was unprofitable to sustain.

John Crawford

Thursday, February 20, 2020


In my own analyses in ‘Driving & Life’ of the reasons behind GM’s shock closure and abandonment of the Holden brand I have focussed on the corporate decisions which hastened its demise.

However, writing today in Australia’s national broadsheet, The Australian, respected business commentator and analyst Robert Gottliebsen stresses the part which greedy unions played in the Brand’s demise. In fact the behaviour of unions in the Australian automotive sector, mirrors that in the USA over decades.

Gottliebsen points out that it was the unions which ‘controlled’ the factory floor, and successive Holden CEO’s appointed by GM in Detroit, were either powerless, or too timid to actually make a stand.

Whilst I lived and worked in the USA I watched from the sidelines as the same pattern emerged.

Every two years the unions would bargain a new deal for their members, and the companies simply gave in to their demands.

Which I think is akin to kicking the can a few more metres down the road.

In Australia, the behaviour of the unions was a material element of the slow death of car manufacturing.

The other was the plethora of various taxes and duties which successive governments saddled the car industry with; and then there was a stronger Australian dollar, at a time when GM had attempted to import Australian-built Commodores (under both the Pontiac and Chevrolet badges) into the USA.

As my good friend Bob Lutz has pointed out, the export/import deals were conceived when the Australian dollar was lower against the Greenback.

However, by the time it came to produce, export and invoice GM for the Australian-sourced cars, the Oz dollar had strengthened, meaning much lower profit margins for General Motors. The cars were priced too high and neither deal lasted long.

Everyone who drove the Aussie-built G8 Pontiac agreed it was a helluva car, especialy the 1,832 lucky buyers who managed to snag one.

Then we come to Government subsidies. For years, both Ford and GM, threatened governments of all political colour that if they did not get their subsidies they would pull out of Australia. Governments, of course, capitulated. None of them wanted the bad press, or bad PR of putting thousands of Aussie workers out of a job.

None more so than when Labor was in power, and left-leaning (meaning union intimidated) Minister for Industry, Senator Kim Carr (right) was in charge of doling out taxpayers' dollars to the car companies.

Yes, hindsight is 20-20 vision, but although I only began publishing ‘Driving & Life’ in 2010, I had been warning my friends in the US and Australian media since 2002, that the problems of maintaining the Australian car manufacturing industry had begun before the turn of the century.

I have already highlighted the fact that both Holden and Ford pressed on making cars that would be out-of-date by the middle of the noughties. They were benchmark cars, but the market had moved on.

No attempt was made to re-arrange their product catalogues.

The Japanese and Korean companies managed to see the writing on the wall, and fed into Australia products that actually resonated with shifting consumer preferences.

I was always against subsidies and handouts. Australia needed to maintain the intent of previous Labor Treasurer and later Prime Minister, Paul Keating, and ensure that Australia was free of duties and onerous taxes; the dollar floated on global exchanges; and the elimination of subsidies, which insulated companies against real market pressures.

I have always maintained that in a capital-driven business environment, the market should rule, and the uncompetitive companies should close-up if they can't compete.

The Australian automotive unions for their part should have seen the coming changes, and begun to agitate for expansion of training facilities, such as TAFE or trade schools, to ensure their members utilised a wider range of skills. However, we all know that once the union fatcats were banking their huge pay checks every week, they weren’t about to rock the boat.

Yes, it’s a tragedy that Holden will disappear from our social and automotive landscape, but I could see the potential for it to happen, more than 15 years ago, and as I have outlined – there is plenty of blame to go around. How's this for irony?

John Crawford

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


So, when we welcomed Uber and Lyft into our lives, the idea was that ride-sharing would reduce traffic congestion.

Now, four studies – three in the USA and one in India – reveal the complete opposite. All four studies found that traffic congestion had increased since the disrupters entered the scene.

In the USA, researchers found that people don’t actually ‘ride-share’ – most riders travel alone.

Also, they prefer Uber/Lyft to public transport, so early passenger stats reveal that subway use has dropped – perhaps imperceptibly at this stage.

The Indian study in Mumbai (below) found ride-hailing services actually increased traffic congestion:

"This finding is evidenced by shorter traffic delays when Ola and Uber are off the roads during ride-sharing strikes."

Traffic delays were reduced by almost 7% in Mumbai and close to 5% in Delhi, which the researchers call "highly statistically significant."

In Austin, Texas, when new usage charges were introduced, cutting the number of Uber/Lyft vehicles in use, traffic speeds increased by 3.4%.

There's real common sense logic behind these findings. You imagine a retired guy who wants to earn a few bucks, or a non-working woman at home with some time on her hands. They decide to be Uber drivers, and you can increase the number of additional cars on the road by any number of multiples, and ergo, traffic chaos reigns.

These findings suggest again that you should be careful what you wish for. 

Outrageous claims about reduction in traffic congestion were touted by all the ride-sharing services, but in actuality the reverse has been the case. It also suggests you continue to take everything the Greens tell you is a 'silver bullet' to solve the world's problems with a grain of salt.

John Crawford


As it watches its major rival squirm in the media spotlight, after GM’s decision to completely obliterate the Holden brand by the end of 2021, Ford Australia admits it is looking at some of the great Aussie talent which will be released by Holden, when GM closes its Melbourne design studio, and Lang Lang proving ground.

Ford Australia President and CEO Kay Hart said: “I’m sure there is some great talent in that Holden team. We would definitely be looking for that skill set that would fit with us here, and there well may be opportunities for that team to join Ford in the future.”

Her comments come as Ford says it will commit AUD$500 million to its Australian operation in 2020, and is likely to hire more staff, to add to its existing 2000 employees.

As doomsayers predicted the end of the locally-manufactured Ford Falcon a few years ago, there was doubt that Ford could survive in Australia with its imported vehicles.

Its sedan cars were not setting the market alight with excitement, but Ford Australia’s survival came from within its own Australian operations. It was the Ford Ranger truck!

Just like the USA and UK, the Australian market (almost overnight) has turned from loving cars, to embracing SUVs and trucks, and Ranger parachuted in to save Ford Australia.

Wholly-designed and developed in Australia, during Falcon’s deathroes, the introduction of the Ranger was actually part of a wider plan utilising the higly-skilled Australian design and production engineering division to simply deliver an updated truck which Ford could sell in developing markets.

Ranger was never part of some grand, sophisticated and well-researched plan to save Ford Australia. That happened entirely by accident.

Ford, like Holden, also had a revolving-door of middling, to talent-less chief executives pass through the ‘glasshouse’ at Broadmeadows. None of them were enlightened enough to see a grand future for Ford Australia.

Also, they were also powerless to stop the rusted-on cadre of ‘Falcon Forever’ stalwarts who refused to see the writing on the wall for their beloved mid-sized sedan.

As the market churned and changed, Toyota’s top-selling vehicle in Australia the Corolla hatchback, was supplanted by the Toyota Hilux truck in its various guises, plus Toyota's increasingly popular Kluger SUV.

Also, as SUV sales gathered pace, Ford had willingly retired probably its most potent weapon in that segment, the Ford Territory, which most 'real' experts agree was a world-class vehicle which failed to sell in big numbers through lack of marketing.

It was a benchmark vehicle, wholly-created in Australia by an Australian team based on the Falcon platform, and powered by the Falcon petrol engine, plus a diesel variant using the Peugeot-designed diesel V6.

At least Ford had a batch of new small/compact/large SUVs waiting in the wings.

Almost overnight, struggling Ford Australia, which couldn’t remember the last time it posted a ‘real’ profit was looking good. Forget Falcon, that was ‘old Ford’.

What about all the Ranger variants, and small/compact/large SUVs which began arriving as Ranger caught on with the buyers?

That was another accident of good timing, so don’t laud Ford’s senior management – once again, it was the market that saved the company, not enlightened vision in the executive suites – either in Broadmeadows or Dearborn.

And let’s not forget Ford’s happiest ‘accident’ yet – The Ford Mustang. Selling its pants off, and definitely another nail in Holden’s coffin!

I’m betting the Ford suits still employed by Ford Australia, simply breathed a collective sigh of relief when things turned around, and set about releasing more and more sexy versions of the Ranger, which is now hot on the heels of Toyota’s Hilux.

John Crawford

Monday, February 17, 2020


Never. Never, get between the Japanese culture, and ‘Loss of Face’.

The nation considers itself a ‘Samurai Culture’ and even your most humble Japanese public servant, or clerk at Nissan, considers themselves a Samurai at heart.

What do you think drove perfectly intelligent pilots to wilfully commit Hari Kiri during WW2 to become Kamikaze and crash their planes into American warships? They were sacrificing their lives to their country and their culture.

And so we come to Nissan’s court case to claim $91 million from Carlos Ghosn, for the ‘humiliation, loss of revenue and fraudulent activity’.

This is nothing more than Nissan and the justice system attempting to put a brave face on the fact that Ghosn, skipped custody, escaped the vicious Japanese justice system, and fled the prospect of being kept under house arrest for years, if not a decade – and punishing the man who (in their eyes) brought shame on the company (which he saved from disappearing into oblivion).

Hiroto Saikawa
This court case is going nowhere. It’s a display of ‘samurai justice’, to avoid ‘Loss of Face’ – a most serious consequence for Japanese culture.

And the person, perhaps unwittingly, driving this pursuit of Ghosn is the now-disgraced former CEO of Nissan, Hiroto Saikawa.

The fact that the rest of the educated and knowledgeable world outside Japan knows and understands this fault-line in the Japanese culture, does not seem to dissuade them from ‘trying it on’. Yes, they live in 'a bubble'.

I’m sure they know this court case is futile, but the Japanese have to do something to bring dishonour on the man who ‘shamed them’.

John Crawford


No fanfare; not even a mournful ‘Last Post’; no wake; just a press release:

General Motors announced today in Detroit  that it would wind down sales, design and engineering operations in Australia and New Zealand and retire the Holden brand by 2021. 

"I've often said that we will do the right thing, even when it's hard, and this is one of those times," said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra (right). 

"We are restructuring our international operations, focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility, especially in the areas of EVs and AVs.”

So, that’s it. Holden is dead and gone.

After 72 years the umbilical cord to Detroit has been severed and with it all the remaining jobs, and the dealer network. Even the much-revered Holden Design Studio in Melbourne, and even the fantastic proving ground at Lang Lang southeast of Melbourne.

Aussie icons: Holden (gone); Sydney Opera House; Sydney Harbour Bridge (survivors)
Also gone are GM’s assembly plants in Thailand and India, plus a restructuring of operations in Korea. Years ago, I wrote about Chair Mary Barra leading a retreat back to Fortress America – abandoning brands, investments, workers and facilities in order to ensure General Motors traded profitably, and more important from its point of view, so it could retain the ability to direct its resources into future vehicles like EVs and AVs.

The announcement was much more far-reaching than even I expected. I thought the Design Studio and Lang Lang would survive, as countless suits at GM, including President Mark Reuss said, ad nauseum, how important these two GM outposts were to the core of the corporation’s design and engineering future.

Mysteriously, the words coming out of Detroit spoke of working with ‘its partner’ to develop the GM range of ‘specialty vehicles’. So, I’m guessing GM could sign up for a distribution agreement with a company like Inchcape, to distribute the Chevy Camaro and Corvette, plus the Chevy SUVs and the Buick Acadia. I mean, there’s obviously a market for rev heads and mud pluggers with families, so why not take advantage of it.

Although, as my industry 'conscience', Wayne Webster pointed out the statement also referenced pulling out of all RHD markets. So I guess that probably does mean no Corvette C8s and Camaros for Oz.

No, I am not surprised. My view was that it was a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. I am, however, surprised how deep the cuts go.

GM says it is budgeting for USD$1.1 billion plus to sever its connection with the dealer network and the remaining Holden offices and staff.

ValĂ© Holden. Rest In Peace. It’s been good to know you.

John Crawford

Thursday, February 13, 2020



In 2000, when my friend Ulrich Bez (below) revealed he was going to become CEO of Aston Martin (then owned by Ford Motor), I wished him luck. My long experience in the luxury vehicle market told me that small, independent car makers constantly struggled to maintain viability, market share, revenues and, subsequently, profits.

By 2003 Ulrich Bez had driven the introduction of the Vantage coupe; a new Corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility at Gaydon; and launched the DB9, replacing the ten year old DB7.

Aston Martin DB9
At Pebble Beach in 2006, Dr. Bez told me of his plans to ‘buy’ the company from Ford’s Premier Automotive Group. Later it was revealed that the consortium backing Bez was led by Prodrive’s David Richards, plus Kuwaiti investment group INVESTMENT DAR (which would hold 50%); the balance taken up by Kuwait-based ADEEM INVESTMENT, and American banker JOHN SINDERS. The purchase price was USD$925 million.

However, just a few years on, and with the impact of the GFC, Investment Dar defaulted on a $100 million Sutuk (an Islamic investment bond), and had applied to the Kuwait government to change a specific piece of legislation to protect the company whilst it re-organized its finances.

Then Adeem Investments began selling its Aston Martin stock, along with other assets, in order for it to re-organize its funding and loan repayments.

In 2012 Italian private equity fund INVESTINDUSTRIAL acquired a 37.5% share, also investing $150 million in additional capital. It was also announced that Ulrich Bez would leave his post as CEO and become non-executive Chairman, and David Richards would play a larger role in the company’s plans, urging the Board to appoint Andy Palmer as CEO.

Between 2012 and 2014, Aston Martin suffered a large drop in sales - Palmer blaming the state of Aston Martin’s poor cash position on the fact that the DB9 had not sold as many cars as expected, having a dramatic effect on revenue and cash flow.

In 2014 Aston Martin suffered a pre-tax loss of USD$90 million, three times the loss in 2013, and sales declined to only 3500 cars. The company had to ask its investors for an additional USD$260 million to fund the development of new models. Pre-tax losses in 2016 increased by 27% to USD$211 million.

AMG V8 destined for Aston Martin
News of, and production of, new models boosted Aston Martin’s appeal and in 2017 the company sold in excess of 5000 cars posting a pre-tax profit of USD$113 million.

Back in 2014 Aston Martin had agreed a deal with Daimler AG, to acquire a 5% shareholding in the British Company, and also to supply AMG-produced engines to power the Vantage and DB11.

In 2018 sales plunged again, to 2296, and in the final three months it suffered a loss of USD$18 million. Revenues fell 11% to USD$325 million, and wholesale sales (to dealers) fell 17%, while retail sales fell 6% over the same period.

To better illustrate Aston Martin’s blood-curdling roller coaster ride, it racked up a USD$120 million loss over the first nine months of 2019, compared with a profit in the same period in 2018 of USD$31 million.

In addition new models literally flooded onto the market, such as the beautiful DB11 Superleggera and the Valkyrie - all of which soaked up millions in development funds.

Following its public float in October 2018, which valued the company at USD$5.6 billion, the company’s shares have plunged, and its valuation is now slightly over USD$1.5 billion.

It appears my cautionary warning to Ulrich Bez in 2000 was prescient, but it wasn’t a risky prediction.

This scenario set up the opportunity for Lawrence Stroll and his buddies to pony up enough dosh to take a controlling interest in Aston Martin. Stroll maintains that his motor industry experience, plus his skill at ‘revitalising and improving global brands’ is just what the carmaker needs.

We’ll see. Watch this space.


Okay, so Lawrence Stroll has announced to the staff at Racing Point F1 (nee Force India) that their jobs are safe, because in 2021, Racing Point F1 will become Aston Martin F1. No changes for this year, but with new livery and new owners, the formula one team is headed for success from next year. Oh yeah?

If independent carmakers represent a money pit for investors, let’s take a look at a Formula One team – say Racing Point, or Force India, or whatever….

In 2010 I was interviewing Vijay Mallya, then owner of the Force India team which he acquired in 2007 for USD$100 million. At the time I was impressed with the Indian billionaire, and his corporate empire, which he inherited from his father. I proffered that old saying “How do you make a small fortune in motor racing? Start with a big one.”

Mallya replied that his global empire generated such large revenues that this wouldn’t happen. History tells a different story, and nothing illustrates this better than tracing the chequered history of this team from its inception as Jordan F1.

Irishman Eddie Jordan’s eponymous F1 team debuted in 1991, but it finally went broke in 2005. It promised to be a success story, winning four Grands Prix, two of them in the 1999 season. Jordan F1 was bought by the Midland Group in 2006 for USD$60 million, but after a lacklustre year, it was sold to Dutch sportscar maker Spyker Cars for USD$106 million. That deal barely lasted a year.

One Team of Many Colours
From top left: Jordan; Midland; Spyker; Force India; Racing Point; Aston Martin 2021

In 2007 along comes Indian billionaire Mallya and businessman Michiel Mol, who paid Spyker USD$100 million. Force India won its first podium place in 2009 when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second at Spa.

In following years its number one driver, and major financial donor, Sergio Perez, scored podiums in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Since acquiring Mercedes-Benz engines, the team has improved year on year, but such improvement costs money.

Mallya became known for his lavish parties, and also spending big on facilities for the F1 team. Then came his undoing. His Kingfisher Airlines went bankrupt, then Kingfisher Beer sales flagged, then his liquor division (built from scratch by his father) began to lose money big time. As the cash cows ran dry, Mallya was forced into swapping money between divisions, to keep the wolf from the door, and the F1 team continuing to appear on the grid.

But, it was not only not enough, much of his double-dealing had caught the eye of the Indian financial regulators.

Diageo, the global drinks company, stepped in and bought Mallya’s United Brewing – and basically his father’s empire had been pissed away, on parties and formula one.

Then Mallya suffered troubles of a more personal nature. The Indian government issued a warrant for his arrest in 2017 on fraud charges. He holed up somewhere in Europe, but the next time he stepped onto English soil, in 2018, the UK government honoured the Indian government’s request for extradition and Mallya returned to his home country to face the music.

In his final remarks on Force India’s participation in formula one, Mallya said they had enjoyed ten good years, and steady improvement. Maybe so, but when there’s no money in the bottom of the barrel, you’re toast.

In 2018, enter Lawrence Stroll and his consortium of investors, which acquired all of Force India’s assets for USD$117 million, renaming it Racing Point F1, and Stroll’s son, Lance, swapped from the Williams F1 team to become number two driver to Sergio Perez.

If Sergio Perez takes his toys and leaves, this F1 team will struggle to make up the enormous sponsorship Perez brings with him from Mexico, simply adding to the financial pressure to keep the team on the grid.

Racing Point may well have a name and livery change to Aston Martin F1 in 2021, but the sportscar maker will not be injecting cash, just its image. Will that be enough?

John Crawford