The Canadian Grand Prix weekend was all a bit of a rush, largely because I arrived18 hours behind schedule, after having driven through the night from Washington DC to Montreal in order to guarantee being in Canada.
I undertook this eccentric voyage when something inside me finally snapped and I realised that I have more faith in Santa Claus than I do in United Airlines. At least when dealing with Santa, the old fraud is jovial and smiling, whereas the United people are stony-faced and shifty. They tell lie after lie to their customers and then switch to “powerless in the face of perpetual disaster” mode, while also seeming to be completely immune to the pain of the people paying their salaries.
I have said “never again” so many times that I think I needed to prove it to myself by driving 13 hours non-stop in the dark, without sat-nav, surrounded by psychopath truck drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike and other celebrated highways and byways. It worked. The only way I’ll be seen on a United plane again is if they catch me out with a sneaky code share…
Once in Montreal, the pace slowed somewhat. F1 remains stuck in a state of inertia, everyone waiting to see what happens in Munich. There was the Adrian Newey announcement and there were some rumblings about drivers but the cost-saving talks seem to have stopped being serious. It is beginning to look like the FIA will soon make the calamitous decision to twiddle with its regulations to allow the definition of “constructor” in F1 to become less rigid, allowing new teams to purchase IP and, if they manufacture the cars (or pay someone to do it), they will count as being constructors. If that happens, it will be the thin end of a wedge that will, in time, create a two-tier F1, ending all realistic hope small teams may have of moving to the front. It will undermine the very essence of what makes F1 different to all the other championships.
The big teams are, of course, wrapped up in their own self-interest and are happy with this because it means that they can, in effect, become four-car teams and thus get a better return on their investment, AND gain more data, which will increase their sporting advantage over the smaller operations. Will any start-up team in the future ever be able to move up and win as Mercedes and Red Bull have done? They could buy their technology, as Force India does, but is that a recipe to win races? That merely gets you to a secondary level, where you get stuck. When the small team owners in the future compare the costs and chances of success of building their own cars as opposed to buying in the technology, they will cease to be real constructors and the sport will be on the slippery slope that CART went down with the number of constructors reducing until only one is left. The key question is this: will the big teams still be there when the companies that own them change their priorities? And how many teams for which F1 is a core business can survive such a decision in the long-term?
Cost-control is not easy to achieve but it is a better answer. Alas, it seems that even the FIA is now run with only the short term in mind and does not have the backbone for a fight. I fear for the sport in the longer term.
It may be that the only way for this to be stopped is for the European Commission to be brought in to discuss the sport’s governance.
For F1 a better route might be to simply throw some more money at the federation and acquire the right to use the World Championship moniker without hindrance, in a Premier League style operation. That would take the FIA out of the sport, which some think would not be a bad idea.
“Why do we need them?” An F1 team boss said to me in the course of the weekend.
I could not argue with that. Taking control of one’s own destiny is not a bad option – if you want to get safely to your destination…