I do apologise for having dropped off the radar for a few days. Some of you worked out the reason that this was necessary and I thank you all for your many good wishes.
I really did not follow the F1 news to any great extent, but I note that it was sparse and that most of the web waffle was the usual he-said, she-said stuff relating to the last major F1 event, which in this case was the Jerez test. I don’t think we can read anything into the test beyond the fact that Mercedes is still ahead. I would reserve judgement on the speeds of Saubers and Ferraris. And if Ferrari really is going that much quicker when we get into the races, one needs the scrutineers to take a very good look at the cars because progress in F1 is not rocket science and can be plotted. Great leaps forward died with Chairman Mao.
The most interesting thing for me, which seems to have been overlooked by all and sundry, is the idea that Marussia/Manor was planning to revive a “high-quality British racing ethic and brand-name”. Was this a reference to the Manor name? Or is there more to it than meets the eye? I have not checked it out but I was wondering whether it might be related to a more celebrated F1 brand: a Brabham, a BRM, a Cooper, a March or a Vanwall. If Lotus can do it, then there is nothing to stop others following the same path. The value of using an old name is that it gets one through doors that a modern name will not.
The Formula 1 Strategy Group’s decision to look for a different future for F1 does not seem to take into account any market research but rather is being discussed because some of the group seem to think the current engines are a bad idea. I think the idea of changing again is nuts because it will simply add more costs and as far as I am concerned the people complaining are those who are not winning, which pretty much sums up the whole plan. I don’t know why anyone would be hell-bent on creating 1,000 hp Formula 1 cars in the year 2015. It is like trying to breed a tyrannosaurus rex in a petri-dish. Yes, it would be quite impressive if it actually works, but what possible good will come of it? Some showman would keep it in a cage and make money, until one day the beast will eat the showman when he gets lazy and forgets to shut a gate.
F1’s future should lie in relevance and not in useless old technology. Yes, people want to be entertained but one can be entertained by dominoes falling over in large numbers, so blasting everyone’s ears is a daft idea. If the technology is sufficiently impressive and the promotional work done properly (which assuredly it is not at the moment) then people will realise how impressive it is to have 800 horsepower coming from the current power units. No-one wants engines that guzzle fuel, no-one wants cars that make huge noise (apart from those with inferiority complexes who feel the need to buy a Ferrari to impress the women) and the sport should impress by doing what the world needs in an impressive way, rather than making a lot of noise and burning lots of fuel.
The people who own the sport do not actually give a toss about what happens to the sport in the long-term so the noise and fuel-burning arguments are irrelevant. They only care about the money being produced and that will continue to go up as the sport switches to pay-per-view. That will continue to reduce the audience numbers and thus sponsorship and it will weaken the teams. The motive behind doing this is that they will be weaker when it comes to negotiating the next commercial agreements in 2020. The weaker the teams, the more money the commercial rights people will be able to take.
The FIA should be defending the sport but has sold the right to do that, which means that Jean Todt’s place in history is guaranteed, albeit in a negative sense. The decisions he made may be unravelled one day by the European Commission but that is not going to make any difference to his legacy. His only hope is that the Formula One Group’s hold on F1 will relax when it runs out of entries. Either way, both the FIA and FOM seem to have good reason to damage the sport at the moment. The other key point is that they all seem to have missed the point that the world is changing and the TV is not going to be source of revenue of the future. The world these days does not watch TV as it used to do with more and more migrating to the Web. There needs to be a new business model. Perhaps that is Bernie’s plan post-2020 but perhaps we should point out that in 2020 Mr E will be 90 so it might be worth finding a reserve in case the inevitable happens.
Anyway, in the interim, I see one or two of the more desperate press folk quoting the opinions of Flavio Briatore about F1. Dear god… I am not sure that a man who was thrown out of the sport for having overseen a team that cheated in the most outrageous fashion should really warrant any attention, let alone respect. As far as I am concerned Briatore’s opinion is worth diddly-squat. Does the sport really want to be represented by such people? I think he should expend his energy trying to a get a job as an extra in The Sopranos.
Beyond that Ron Dennis says that the age of the title sponsor is finished. I think he should ring up Petronas and tell them that because they don’t seem to have realised.
Qatar, so they say, is on the verge of a deal to host a Grand Prix. Terrific. It is worth noting however that in recent days the National Hot Road Association (NHRA) in the United States has been reeling at the news that Sheik Khalid Al Thani has withdrawn his support for his team without warning, despite a five year contract extension signed in 2013 with team boss Alan Johnson. The team won the NHRA Top Fuel class in 2010, 2011 and 2013. No doubt there will be a settlement at some point, but does F1 really want to do business with people who act like this? Look at the mess in Korea? That will take legal action to get the local government to pay what is owed…
There is talk of there not being a German Grand Prix. I don’t see that myself. The sport needs a German GP, so the discussion is simply about who is going to pay for it. There will be a compromise. Would it not be better if F1 was making money by working in league with the promoters, rather than squeezing every last penny from them?
OK, not from a business perspective, but the sport is more than a business. It belongs to the world not to a bunch of financiers who care not a jot for anything other than money.