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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1Malaysia F1 Team - Another Minardi In The Pipeline??

We like to throw away money to satisfy our "Malaysia Boleh" ambitions, money that we don't have actually.

Last time it was the astronaut programme and what do we get? Nothing.

And yesterday, the powers that be has announced that we are competing in F1 next season with a full Malaysian team known as 1Malaysia F1 Team.

Okay, okay, before we get too excited, let's do some homework first before you offer your two cents worth at your local mamak joint.

This is actually the former Lotus F1 team, which once upon a time did compete in F1, between 1957 to 1994. By virtue of the British outfit being owned by Proton, our national car manufacturer, it becomes Malaysia's F1 team by default. That is quite normal for us Malaysians - piggybacking is the name of the game.

Anyway, Lotus F1 was a great team. During that era, Lotus cars were driven to no fewer than six drivers’ world titles by drivers like Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, and Mario Andretti. The cars included the type 25, the first monocoque F1 machine; the type 49, which used the engine as a stressed member of the chassis for the first time; and the beautiful, ground effects type 79.

After Andretti’s 1978 title, the team slowly faded away, despite employing the likes of three-time champion Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, although that was before he won his three world titles. Financial problems began to plague the great British car manufacturer and this has hampered anymore hopes of its motorsports division from progressing any further.

Enter the 90s and to everyone's surprise, Malaysia's national car maker Proton decided to make a bold move by bailing out the ailing Lotus. The move was spearheaded by the late Tan Sri Yahya Ahmad, the CEO of Proton then where the national car maker acquired a controlling 63.75% stake in Lotus.

I actually had the privilige of visiting Lotus' facilities in Hethel, Norwich, 300 km north east of London when I was a journalist way back in 2000. It was a trip organised by Proton, in conjunction with the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's visit there.

Now, back to the present - the 1Malaysia F1 Team.

The new organization is backed by a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs and of course the Malaysian government.

The car will use a Cosworth control engine—which will also power the cars of several other new teams, among them the USF1 outfit—and will be headed by Mike Gascoyne, the mercurial engineer who has worked for the likes of Benetton, Toyota, and most recently, Force India. Gascoyne is a star designer, but is notoriously difficult to get along with, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with other Alpha males in the consortium, primarily Tony Fernandes, the head of Air Asia.

Let's get real here. Honestly, we are being too ambitious. The powers that be when making the announcing yesterday said that the team will be based in hot and humid Sepang where the cars will be designed, manufactured and tested there. "Made in Malaysia and by Malaysians". Even the 200-member technical and pit-stop crew will be an all Malaysian outfit managed by Gascoyne. Wow!

I’d be surprised if the new 1Malaysia F1 Team can scale the heights that Colin Chapman’s outfit managed. For one, Chapman was a maverick who pioneered technologies in racing. The new F1 seems to be hell bent on becoming a spec formula, with the emphasis on parity rather than innovation. Second, while Cosworth will no doubt produce a decent engine, the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari will spend inordinate amounts of cash to gain a few horsepower over their opposition. And finally, while Gascoyne is a brilliant talent, he hasn’t exactly stayed in any one place for long enough to suggest that he’s in it for the long run.

Having said that, remember the Australian Paul Stoddart who owned the now defunct Minardi F1 Team? He conned the Malaysian government big time in the early 2000s to back his financially troubled team. As a result of direct endorsement by the powers that be at that time, he managed to rope in several Malaysian companies such as Magnum 4D, PC Suria and Asiatech to come in as sponsors, renaming the team Go-KL Minardi F1 Team featuring Australian driver Mark Webber and our very own Alex Yoong. I don't think I have to mention what happened to the team after that. Didn't even complete one season.

And at the same time, Petronas was faring much better with the Sauber-Petronas F1 team. Now that's the thing with Petronas. The national oil company had a fool-proof plan when it entered the F1 foray in the mid 90s. It was mainly for fast-track branding, transfer of technology and also a platform to test its lubricants. Petronas did the job well and they progressed from Sauber-Petronas to the BMW-Sauber F1 Team as premium partners. Very, very focused and they knew well enough to let the specialists do the job. "We pump in money, you do what you do best." Something like that. It's a pity that BMW is pulling out from F1 next season. But I guess it is a beautiful ending because if I'm not mistaken, Petronas' partnership with BMW-Saubers ends this season. Just nice.

But I foresee the 1Malaysia F1 Team as being a PR stunt by the usual suspects. Perhaps they feel it's their turn now to bask in glory, to enjoy what Petronas has enjoyed for the past 15 years or so.

As a Malaysian, I wish the team all the best. But I have this nagging feeling that a repeat of Minardi is bound to happen.

But still, I am willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt, furthermore Proton was kind enough to give me the opportunity to travel to England to see first hand how Lotus develops and manufacture cars.

If the team fails, I will be among the first to say this : "Told you so....."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Moving On

As I signed in for work today, I realised that I'm down to my last 20 days at my current department in my company.

If all goes well, kalau tiada aral melintang, I will take up my new position at a subsidiary of my company on 1 October 2009.

I look forward to it of course because it's going to be a whole new adventure for me. But I am well aware that being promoted means greater responsibilities, broader job scopes and a significant escalation of key performance indicators (KPIs). Furthermore, the subsidiary where I'm going is public-listed, on the main board of the stock exchange, and as the new head of public affairs there, I know there are bound to be headaches in managing the company's shareholders and stakeholders. Nonetheless, I welcome the challenge. And I know I have a capable team over there.

Anyway, I will miss my current department. I've been there for more than 4 years now, since day one of me joining the company. I have cool colleagues and cool bosses - there is one Senior Manager and two Managers in my current department. I report directly to one of the Managers and of course to the SM as well.

Honestly, I would have prefered to be promoted within the department because I think I'm pretty good at what I do there. But you can't have it all. There are no more managerial positions in the department. That is why I have to leave in order for me to be promoted to Manager. If I could be promoted where I am now, it would have been perfect. It is like a couple being madly in love with each other for years and they finally decide to tie the knot because they know they are perfect for each other. Something like that.

But like I said, you can't have it all. Hence, I will have to move out, for the sake of career progression opportunity. It is normal, people go through it all the time. My father was a government officer for 32 years and he moved around a lot as he climbed the ranks until his retirement in 2001. So, yeah, in my case, it is a small price to pay. Furthermore, it's not like I'm being transferred out of KL to some far flung corner of the country. I'll just be moving 17 floors down from where I am now.

I am thankful to Allah s.w.t. for this promotion. Ini rezeki anak-anak. My prayers have been answered. Last year, when I missed the round of promotions within my division, I was quite down. Not that I expected to be promoted but more of frustration because I think I worked hard, I think I possessed leadership qualities and I think I delivered my KPIs. But then again, everyone else would claim they deserve promotion. It is very subjective and it is not surprising that every now and then, it could create unhappiness especially among those who missed the boat.

That is why it's best that I leave if that is the price I have to pay to go one notch higher in the corporate ladder. I am thankful because at 36 and as an average joe, I think I have accomplished quite an achievement. I know there are a lot of people here in my company who would only get managerial position way into their 40s, sometimes even close to retirement.

Of course there are the super elite bunch known as the High Potential Staff (HPS). These are the creme de la creme of the company - brilliant, articulate, dynamic and exceeds all requirements. These people can become Senior Managers, General Managers or even Senior General Managers as early as 33! I can't compete with these people. I'm way out of their league.

So there. I am going.

To my bosses and colleagues at my current department - thank you so much for bearing with me for the past few years. I am sorry for any shortcomings, for any acts which could be deemed as incompetent, for offending any of you in any way. I am only human and God knows, I gave my best to the department.

See you around.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

French Spiderman : Unfair To Just Blame Petronas Security Personnel

As someone who works at the Petronas Twin Towers for some years now, I beg to differ on the media's and public's blatant accusation that security at the headquarters of the national oil company is loose.

First and foremost, I noticed many newspapers refered the security personnel at the towers as security guards. They are not your normal “pak guards”, okay? The Petronas Twin Towers are guarded by the highly-trained Petronas Auxiliary Police and I can vouch in any court of law that these fine men and women are highly competent. After all, they were all trained by the Royal Malaysian Police.

Those who have been to the towers would appreciate this. To enter the towers, either Tower 1 or Tower 2, a visitor would have to go through stringent security screening, from the reception counter to obtain their visitors’ pass, through the metal detectors and further subjected to body search if necessary. Visitors are only allowed up to a certain level only for meetings and if the visitor needs to go to the higher levels, he or she must be escorted. The same security procedures applies to tourists for the Skybridge Visit. Tourists are only allowed up to Level 41 of the Skybridge.

Alain Roberts aka the French Spiderman did not enter the towers. He scaled the towers from the exterior, at 6.00 am when it was still dark. And this was his third attempt. Doesn’t his first two failed attempts in 1997 and 2007 count? Who managed to foil his first two attempts, was it not the Petronas Auxiliary Police?

We are being the typical ill-informed finger-pointing Malaysian. It is so easy to accuse without doing your homework. What about the Immigration Department? Why didn’t the media question their incompetence in detecting Roberts when he entered the country? Are we not going to question the French Embassy as well, who were well aware of Roberts’ presence in Kuala Lumpur days before he conquered the Petronas Twin Towers? And what about the irresponsible foreign media who knew all along what he was up to?

We should also bear in mind that this man has also successfully eluded security at other high-profile highly sensitive buildings including the Empire State Building in New York, Sears Towers in Chicago, Jinmao Tower in Shanghai, Sydney Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He managed to bypass security but was always apprehended in the process. He was apprehended twice by the Petronas Auxiliary Police before this, so please cut Petronas’ finest some slack here.

It has happened and I’m sure Petronas is not amused. However, many Malaysians are amused, in fact excited about it. Yes, it is free publicity yet again for the Petronas Twin Towers but the damage has been done.

Perhaps Petronas should cease operations of the Skybridge Visit for tourists too. Shut out the towers totally from outsiders. Perhaps that would satisfy these critics. I’m pretty sure the Petronas Auxiliary Police can turn the towers into a fortress like Fort Knox in Kentucky if they want to.

But is that what we really want?

Monday, September 7, 2009

At 36...

Today I am 36 years old.

Not getting any younger and definitely one day closer to death.

Let's see now, what have I achieved so far.

I graduated with an honours degree from a reputable institution of higher learning 12 years ago.

I got married 10 years ago and still married to the same woman.

I got two bright and lovely daughters aged 8 and 5.

I am driving my dream car (the one which I've always wanted since varsity days), in fact its brand tagline is The Power of Dreams.

I am living in my own double-storey terrace house in a nice residential area, 15 minutes away from where I work and 5 minutes away from my parent's.

I have a small apartment which I rent out, making me a lord, a landlord to be exact, for the past 8 years.

I am working in my dream company and this is where I will end my career at 55, InsyaAllah.

I am pro-establishment and I am thankful for the hands that fed me, thankful to a system which has worked well for me and a lot of Malaysians for the past 52 years although many young punks and not-so-young punks nowadays doesn't think so, despite them benefiting from it whether they realise it or not.

I am a consistent fan of Arsenal, since I was 12 years old, and proud of it.

I am a consistent hater of Manchester United, since the beginning of time, and proud of it.

I am a consistent fan of the German national football team, since I was 13 years old, and proud of it.

I am a consistent hater of the over-rated and over-hyped English national football team, since the beginning of time, and proud of it.

I have performed the Umrah twice and Insya-Allah, my next trip to the Holy Land would be for the Haj.

I love my country and will not tolerate any attempts to destroy it. I will do what I have to do, to defend it from any threats, foreign or domestic.

I am proud to be a Malaysian and will not abandon my homeland for the so-called greener pastures in the "usual suspects" nations - America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand. Grass is always greener on the side but at the end of the day, a lot end up doing the dishes in some restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. And for what? Just so you can send a postcard to mom from New York?

I am very prudent in my spending. I spend on my wife and kids and whatever is left goes to savings. I don't really go anywhere, buy anything. I can count with my fingers the number of times I went to Starbucks in the past 4 years.

I regularly workout at the gym nowadays, not really to lose weight but to stay fit and healthy. I even go during Ramadhan, no sweat. So to those who like to take potshots at me, joking at my expense - "tak kurus pun" "makan tu kena control jugak" - cut me some slack okay? At least I am doing something about it. Can you do 5 laps non-stop at the KLCC Park totalling 6km in 30 minutes? I can. And I have seen men half my size panting for air and it's only their second lap.

I am up for a promotion in a few weeks time, InsyaAllah. I guess my prayers especially the ones I uttered in front of the Holy Kaabah in Mecca has been answered.

Itulah rezeki anak-anak sebenarnya. They are my life and I love them to death.

So, for a 36-year old, I think I'm doing okay. Okay sangat.

Syukur Alhamdulillah. Syukur. That's what a lot of us need to do. Bukannya asyik complaining and whining.

Selamat Meneruskan Ibadah Puasa.