The thing about true racers is that they never give up, even if what they are doing is a pretty hopeless task. They are fast and furious, like a mountain stream. This is what makes racing people special and different. I have a huge amount of time for John Booth and Graeme Lowdon of Marussia/Manor and not a great deal of time for the smug Russian who has caused so much of the trouble that their team is now in. You can argue that it was his money that was being spent, but in the end his ego was writing cheques that his body could not cash and so the team built up its debts. He bit off more than he was willing to chew and impolitely spat it all out and then shambled off in search of something else to do. I cannot help it, but the word loathsome keeps coming to mind.
The fact the Booth and Lowdon want to go on racing, against what seem to be impossible odds, is commendable but expected. What they now require is someone with vision, money and the confidence that F1 teams will one day be worth more than they are now.
They should be. Global sports franchises are worth a great deal if they are profitable. The problem is that, to use the analogy of a river once again, F1 is like a stream blocked with broken twigs and dead leaves that mean that the sport is stagnant. And no one has the power to fix it, unless the rains come.
If F1 is to move on it needs more waves in the pool, but they will not come until people jump in when they see the potential for change. If teams are profitable investors will be fighting to get in, but as long as F1 refuses to accept a cost cap, none of the teams has much value on its own. This is why McLaren and Williams have diversified into other businesses and why the Saubers and Lotuses must do the same if they are to survive.
One always worries about teams which are the whims of their owners. What happens if Dietrich Mateschitz is unexpectedly landed on by an errant space jumper while out picking edelweiss? What happens if Vijay Mallya’s gold bracelets are replaced by handcuffs?
Being a rich man’s toy is a short-term strategy for any race team because it seems that most the wealthy who pass through F1 either end up in trouble (one way or another) or they lose interest and swan off to own soccer teams or waste their money on building monuments to themselves. The reality is that as long as costs are left uncapped, the Formula One group is the only good business in town and team ownership is more about ego or survival than it is about logic.
Ferrari’s position will likely change when the firm has to answer to shareholders, but is that enough to force a transformation of the sport to a successful business model? There will probably still be too many teams blinded by self-interest or who do not care for the long term future of the sport.
The FIA should be forcing teams to accept what is good for the sport, but alas Jean Todt’s presidency will not be remembered well. When your only defence is to say that you have sold your responsibilities, you are in trouble. We may look on the automobile clubs of the world as being peopled by stuffed blazers, but some are racers and the others know where the money comes from.
One cannot hope for much from CVC Capital Partners because they prefer the ching-ching of the cash register to the sound of racing engines.
Teams are changed when failures occur and it is logical to assume that unless someone stands up and fixes the mess, the same will eventually happen in F1.
Some believe that the only hope is for the European Commission to supply the muscle to break the log-jam and open the way for a better future. If that happens and revenues are redistributed, governance is changed and the sport made cost-effective, all the teams can become profit centres, which would mean that debts can be paid and then profits made.
New blood can flow into the business and the river will flow healthily again.
Or are there racers out there to do it before the Commission rolls into town?