Read around the Internet headlines, one gets a very negative view of Formula 1. Yes, the sport has to face some challenges and make some important changes in the way it is run, but the picture is nowhere near as negative as all the stories suggest. F1 is still a great show and a great advertisement for brilliant automotive technology. The primary problem, when you boil it all down, is that the sport is without proper leadership. The commercial side has been tied down by its many side deals, the regulatory body has (disgracefully) sold its ability to govern and the teams cannot agree whether today is Wednesday, because on an obscure Pacific Island, it’s already Thursday. What is required is for two of the three parties to get together and get fixing the mess that has been created.
In the meantime, two of the three parties do nothing to promote the sport and instead lets the negative voices run through the corridors, screaming whatever they want to scream. Some of it is just over-excited fans, some deliberate stirring of trouble and some because the people writing the stories have not the faintest clue about the sport, but can claim to be F1 writers if they write about it… Is it a surprise that people forget the good things in all of this? It is true that most news is negative by nature. Good news is always outnumbered by bad but F1 does nothing to help itself.
The teams and manufacturers do what they can to highlight the good elements in the story, but the media in general does not care and writes whatever appears elsewhere. The Formula One group does nothing and the FIA sends out press releases about road safety.
I heard the other day that the Formula One group has hired a press officer, but we’ll have to see if that is effective. The FIA meanwhile, which used to employ the aforementioned PR man, has done itself enormous damage in the last 18 months by abdicating its position in F1 – and it is so lost in its logic that it has yet to realize what it has done. It still does the organisational stuff but otherwise it is utterly invisible. The big FIA news in recent days was that the President and various hangers-on were not killed in the Kathmandhu earthquake. They were gathered there for a motorsport conference. Motorsport in Nepal? I couldn’t even find a hillclimb championship. What are they thinking when the federation’s flagship series is under constant attack? The FIA has its name on the series and it provides all but a sliver of media coverage (not to mention money) about the organization. What has got into these people? If F1 is seen to fail, the FIA is seen to be incompetent. Right now, it seems that the tail is wagging the dog to such an extent that the beast is utterly confused and wandering around in circles, organizing motorsport conferences in places where motorsport will never be on the international radar, while back home in Europe, the talk is of Monza being ditched from the World Championship.
I’m all for promoting global growth in the sport, but you don’t promote long-distance raid rallying in Gibraltar, do you?
You play to your strengths. Things are not going to change until we get new leadership, so here’s hoping Jean Todt is made an ambassador for road safety… And then someone can get a grip on what really matters in the FIA world.