I don’t know about you folk, but I have absolutely zero interest in what Flavio Briatore says about Formula 1: not what he thinks is right, nor what he believes to be wrong. He was never a real fan of racing. He came to the sport for reasons that were never really obvious and found ways to make money, boost his profile and introduce methods and attitudes into F1 that the sport could happily have done without. I believed from the very beginning that he was always going to do something that would do the sport serious harm, and after near-misses in 1994 and again in 2007, he finally did exactly that with the Singapore Scandal of 2009.
The sport threw him out – and no one sensible wants him back. Yes, he helped a few careers, such as Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, but generally when I look back I see nothing but a negative impact. His very presence made F1 look like the kind of place where extras from The Sopranos hung out, which was never the case, and is still not the case.
Yes, it is good to have characters for people to relate to, but Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop are better for the sport than Dick Dastardly, although I always enjoyed the Muttley character who laughed at Dick’s failures. We have plenty of great characters today: Toto and Niki, the hirsute Heathcliff down at Ferrari, FW and Ron, the slightly Bunterish Eric Boullier, the confused Mr Arai, Christian Horner, who always looks to me like a Conservative MP, and the evil Dr Marko at Red Bull. The passionate but blunt Franz Tost, the feisty Monisha at Sauber, cuddly Bob at Force India, and of course The Bernard. It’s a good cast and generally speaking they are benevolent individuals. They all have their own agendas and that creates stories, but sport is lucky that it does not have the real scandals one sees in other sports.
Having an Italian tinged with sleaze at the forefront added no real value, as far as I was concerned. The sport does need a bit more celebrity sparkle with beautiful people (yes even Twitter stars if necessary) but that is really not hard to do. A TV audience always attracts celebrities with something to sell. Watch any talk show and it’s obvious that the programme gets the reflected glory of the VIP and better viewing figures and the celeb gets the coverage for his or her new movie, book, stage show, adventure. Whatever. F1 has this bizarre attitude of refusing to tell the media which stars attend the races. So it ends up being a question of who you see and what you hear. How does that make sense? Surely it would be more logical for the teams and the Formula One group to organise photo shoots, TV opportunities and, most importantly, social media for the celebs who want the coverage. That’s the easiest way. F1 should go into an alliance with some big talent agency (or agencies) and brush up its image with some proper A-list stars, not the C-list types who hang around with the sleaze of the world.