The race promoters of Formula 1 are like no different to the teams. They have never been able to work together. They all have their own, very different, agendas. They are divided and conquered with such ease that it is laughable. Monaco used to have a little bit of power, but these days the Singapore GP is fast-becoming an event to challenge the Old School magic. If the circuits did ever find a way to work together the Formula One group would be in very deep trouble because (lest we forget) it is the people who own the land on which an activity takes place who own the TV rights. They can pass those rights on to others if they want to – as they all do with their F1 contracts – but if they could agree on anything they could get together and inform the Formula One group that they do not need its services and could do their own thing. The teams and the FIA would soon run to join that party… In that circumstance, the circuits would be able to harvest all the advertising signage, VIP hospitality, support races and many other rights that are currently signed away, they would be able to divide up the gate and the TV revenues between them AND they would not have to pay race fees, which would make make their races very profitable. If they have failed for the last 40 years to get together and evict the middle man, it is hardly likely that they will all miraculously become glued together because of noise and bully the FIA into moving away from the new engine formula.
That is fanciful at best, daft in any other terms.
Ron Walker, who has long worked hand-in-glove with Bernie Ecclestone rather than fighting to get the circuits together, may be getting in the newspapers in Australia whingeing about the noise that F1 cars make, but he and his staff are just as responsible as the Formula One group, the FIA and the teams for completely failing to focus public attention on the key point of the weekend in Melbourne: the amazing machinery that is being introduced in F1 that will, in time, benefit all car owners across the world and Mankind in general. If all these parties were really switched on and attached to the planet, they would be banging that drum and getting money from the hundreds of big companies that wish to find a good way to show that they can associate with a real environmental cause, rather than settling for tokenism.
I would suggest that Walker does not have much of a case in a court of law (particularly not one in the Nanny State of Victoria) given the number of people who went through the gates of Albert Park last weekend. It did not look like the crowd was any smaller than it has been in the past. Walker can say that Formula One is in “breach of contract” but where is the evidence for that assertion? Can he quote the contract clause where it says that F1 will produce X decibels? Formula 1 is what the FIA wants it to be and Walker signed the contract to accept what they give him. If this means that he makes losses then surely it is he, rather than the sport that that has to answer to his government for wasting public money? The good news for Ron is that I doubt it will come to that. I believe that the people of Melbourne will still come to Albert Park, next year and for many years to come. There may even be more people because the noise of F1 today is not painful. I get the fact that some people like to have their toes curled by the noise of screaming cars, but a lot of people do not. The show is not worse, it is just a little different. And who is to say in a court of law that more people will not come to Albert Park next year. Perhaps even the Save Albert Park people will now start to turn up because the race no longer rattles their false teeth…
The latest twist to this story is from Bernie Ecclestone, who says that the lack of noise could lead to a drop in revenues and this will hurt the teams. I laughed out loud at that one. Some of the team owners are rather eccentric but not one of them (with perhaps one exception) is dumb enough to believe that one. They mighty even argue (if pushed) that the lack of engine noise is far less of a problem for their revenues than the sport having a bad image among the big global corporations because of the (unproven) suggestions that the CEO of the business has been involved in criminal activities and has not yet stood down? There is a lot more evidence to support this idea than there is to support Walker’s sound byte-grabbing noise stories. One could ask some of the sponsors who have departed the sport why they chose to do that? Or ask those who nearly came in why they decided against it. I suspect that some would say that in modern corporations it is normal to see a CEO resign when he is indicted on criminal charges, or that a sport that goes to dodgier and dodgier places (on the Transparency International list) is not really what they want. Missing sponsors are a lot more damaging than missing decibels. And if you challenge that idea, answer this: would CVC Capital Partners still be in the sport today if it had been able to go to the stock markets and rip some more money out of the guts of the sport with an IPO? Of course not. They would be gone and would, even now, be in the process of loading more and more debt on some other poor industry that was foolish enough to let them get a foot in the door.
There will come a time – sooner or later – when things will change and F1 will no longer have to kowtow to the suited vultures. I understand that it is their job to make money and not care how they do it, and for that F1 has only itself to blame, but that does not mean that I do not have a right to shout about what is wrong with it. F1 is my passion as well as my profession and I hate to see it being treated this way.
Formula 1 is a magic thing and a few missing decibels will not change that.
A little less padding in a ballet dancer’s tights does not stop the ladies liking ballet, does it?