Well, I’ve finished with the Chinese consulate for this year and, joyously, it was all rather more simple than in previous years. Everyone seemed to know what was going on and they were all was polite and helpful. I only made three trips to the Visa Section. It was quite a revelation. In fact, dare I say it, it was far less stressful than the whole process of being granted one of the new media visas that Australia has introduced thanks to Tony Abbott and the “liberal” party (ironic,no?). Australia doesn’t seem to issue visas in France, so it was done (or not as the case may be) in Madrid.
I’ve always found the whole visa requirement for F1 press to be a daft way of going about business. Countries spend insane amounts of money to secure the right to host Grands Prix in order to promote the country as being free/desirable/modern so as to get more international investment and tourism, and then they make it hard for the messengers to get in. Uh-duh… So you end up with observers who are jaded and cynical even before they get there…
I know one or two F1 journos who might be accused of being boring to stewardesses, but thus far none who have committed any acts of terrorism and I cannot think of anyone in the F1 media whom I have ever suspected of espionage. My old mate Freddy af Petersens was once arrested in Argentina for snooping around the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, having heard it was a place where the military dictatorship dealt with los desaparecidos,
guests of the government and are there to give the world a good impression of the country concerned. Oh well, next time I have the Chinese Ambassador round for tea, I’ll give him a bill for the cucumber sandwiches and fairy cakes at the end – just to make the point…
This year’s visa process was so much nicer than in the days when Consular people would just shout at you and order you about. I guess they did not know any better. Anyway, all this means that I can now relax over the Easter break, although the change of dates on the F1 calendar means that I’ll be decapitating poor defenceless chocolate bunnies on my own (add maniacal laughter) because other arrangements were made by my nearest and dearest when the previous F1 calendar was in place and they could not be changed.
Manipulating the calendar is one area where the Formula One group still has power (“Take that, you beastly Germans!”). There is still influence over access and where one can park or build “a motorhome” and the TV cameras do what the directors tell them to do (just like state television), but when it comes to real rules, the power to dictate has been curbed.
If you know anything of British history you may know that 800 years ago in June, at a place called Runnymede, King John signed a document called the Magna Carta, which laid out the foundations of modern democracy and rid England of the idea that kings had divine rights.
When you stop and think about it, the last round of F1 agreements were a bit Magna Carta-esque with the King (let’s call him Bernard of Bexleyheath) agreeing to accept a number of commitments put forward by uppity barons, in exchange for a financial deal… The Church (led by Archbishop Todt) encouraged the compromise.
Every week Mr E seems to feed the media and his court jesters some new stories of ideas for the future of F1: three-wheelers, female Grands Prix (how sexist is that?), 1970s tyres, wet tee shirt grid girls, sprinkler systems in corners, reversed grids, meat-eating 1,000 engines, tintacks in Turn Three and blah-di-blah-di-blah. This gives the virtual F1 media the chance to fill space with worthless analysis of these smokescreens (“It looks like a cloud but perhaps there is something hidden behind it…”)
The problem is that none of this stuff ever happens because the barons cannot agree on anything and Archbishop Todt is too busy counting silver and organising crusades saving poor pedestrians in Papua New Guinea, which is all very commendable but nothing to do with F1.
The key point is that the people in charge today cannot even agree to change the system in which the sport is trapped because it serves some of them to keep things as they are. The problem with this is that even if there is someone who can unlock this mess, (Enter White Knight) is it logical to rely on the ideas of those who created the current mess to create a better future? The raison d’être of the current system was clearly the pursuit of profit and the sport has been held prisoner ever since. Change will come soon enough and I am sure that some wise person will put in place a franchise system that allows everyone to work together for the greater good of the sport. It’s the only choice. The days of dictatorship are over. Pirates only survive in far-flung parts of Asia. The world keeps turning, kings get reined in by barons, while archbishops come and go and are largely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.
The one thing that does not change is the desire of the people to be treated right and to be amused. There will always be demand for good movies, for amusing TV shows, for live sport, Hell, there’s even a demand for the Kardashians (although God alone can understand that).
Long before Magna Carta, 19 centuries ago, Juvenal summed up how best to keep the people happy. Make sure they have bread and circuses and they will not rebel. So, if you give the peasants a circus but demand bread in exchange are they going to revolt? It is not rocket science.
History still teaches us what not to do and those who ignore the lessons of history repeat the mistakes…