I rarely have time to post blog items over a Grand Prix weekend, but last weekend I did actually write a story. I was surprised on Sunday when I looked at the blog to see that my story was not there and I wondered what had happened to it. This morning I see that I filed it in the wrong place. However, it was the kind of story that I like to see as it shows a little of the reason why Formula 1 has been so successful over the years… So, here it is, a few days behind schedule but worthwhile nonetheless.
The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa is held in a rural environment, where the farmers are struggling, as are many farmers across Europe. One particular gripe at the moment is the price of milk. This follows a European Union decision, implemented in April, to end milk quotas, coupled with a fall on demand for milk as a result of the Russians embargoing EU dairy products, in response to the trade embargoes that followed its interventions in Ukraine last year. Farmers say that the current milk prices do not cover the costs of production and that they are all going bankrupt as a result. In Belgium the more militant milkers have been taking action, notably by blocking the entrance to Liege airport to try to draw attention to this problems. The arrival of the F1 circus was going to provide them with the opportunity to use the race to get media coverage and plans were drawn up to park tractors across the access roads and blockade the Spa race track on Saturday morning. The police in some European countries do not behave as one might expect. Rather than removing those who disrupt public order, they stand by and watch which, being an Englishman, I find utterly indefensible, as they are simply not doing their jobs.
So, there was no suggestion that the police would help F1 and so it was left to Bernie Ecclestone to head off the cowboys at the pass and he had a meeting with the local farmers’ union and invited them to bring a cow or two along to the F1 Village, saying that he would provide them with media coverage that would not produce negative stories by messing up the race meeting. It was a win-win suggestion for all concerned – a great example of how F1 deals with problems that pop up that others allow to get in the way of their business.