Despite a dominant performance all weekend from Nico Rosberg at the Brazilian Grand Prix, fans were not left salivating over the title decider in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time, but a with the bitter taste of inequality.
Caterham and Marussia have both folded, and although both continue to fight for their place on the F1 grid, the signs are not good: and why? The entire system of Formula 1 is rotting. It is a system with Bernie Ecclestone at the helm, which has ensured he gets a ludicrous amount of money and to hell with everyone else. The only way this has been allowed to continue is because larger teams also get a shed load of cash, and as a collective the paddock is incapable of placing the needs of the sport as a whole, before their own. There is no disputing that Bernie has been a huge asset in turning F1 into the global phenomenon that it is today, but I think it might be time to for him to go.
Initially when greeted with the news of these back-markers demise, Ecclestone made the political move: apologised, admitted there are issues, and that maybe he is one of them. This week he backtracked in true Whitehall style which says it all. Watch the following clip from Not The Nine O’clock News and you’ll see what I’m getting at…
Instead of continuing with the premise that there is an issue inherent within the system of F1, Bernie has blamed the teams themselves, and there is now talk of Red Bull and Ferrari fielding 3 car teams in 2015, before customer cars are introduced in 2016. This is wrong.
I wonder what Gene Haas is thinking right now, as he prepares his US team for the grid in 2016. If teams at the bottom are being treated this way, it’s a pretty unattractive prospect for investors. Just look at Marussia, who will receive £30m in prize money if they hold onto 9th in the Constructors; all their cars and staff are ready to fly to Abu Dhabi, yet they can’t because they haven’t found an investor. “Serious talks” have apparently taken place in the last few hours regarding a takeover, but they might fall through, and if they do, is that not a bit worrying? A team who are ready to go, can potentially pick up a nice wodge of cash, and still no one will buy them? Hell I wouldn’t if I saw the way smaller teams are treated.
And people may laugh at Cateram’s attempts at crowd-funding, but surely this a sign of just how bad things are. Haha, look at that small team begging its fans for money: yeah, hilarious. What this says to me is, fuck the small teams: if they can’t survive in the world which makes us ridiculous amounts of money they can fold, because we can survive without them. In other words, I care infinitely more about my wallet, despite the fact it’s already bursting at the seems, than I do about your crappy little team and all those people who work for them. Oh great. This obviously means teams like, Sauber, Force India, and Lotus are looking over their shoulders, and rightly so; because where does it end? Does this mean that smaller teams can no longer aspire to participate, let alone one day win the Constructors Championship? I know they have a larger budget, simply for being Williams, but what if they were still languishing down the wrong end of the grid like last season? Would Bernie have been so ruthless if one of the most popular teams on the grid had been in dire straits?
And I’m sorry but you cannot blame the smaller teams for not living within their means. Ferrari, you know that team with the nice shiny red cars, have a huge budget, and they are shit. They have Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikonnen (who, yes isn’t having a great season), and they are nowhere. So we know it’s not the drivers. And yet Ferrari don’t get penalised because they get extra money for being Ferrari. Does this mean, under the current setup, that those running F1 think Ferrari might one day pull out of the sport because they don’t have enough money? That the tifosi might lose interest? That Ferrari could ever struggle to find sponsorship? Despite the fact that all the drivers want to drive for them regardless of how bad they are, because they are FERRARI. Call me radical but I think they might be ok. It is no good saying small teams have always come and gone, because F1 has changed. It is flat-out impossible for a small team to come along like they used to in the 60s/70s and give it a go, because the costs are incomparable. Times have changed: it’s about time attitudes did too.
Is it not telling that every team has come out and said they want a strong grid full of two car teams, and that near enough every fan has also said the same? So nearly everyone has the same objective, but because that doesn’t fit into the existing structure, it ain’t gunna happen. This could of course be Bernie wheeling and dealing as always, trying to get the smaller teams to lessen their demands in any talks which take place. Normally this is a pretty standard way of negotiating, but for Christ sake, we’re not talking about a usual negotiation here, it’s securing the long-term future of the sport. They are not being unreasonable. The system has failed and it needs to change, not for the benefit of the larger teams, but for the benefit of all the teams.
If fans start to see that more and more decisions, like double-points, are being made to the detriment of the sport they love, they will stop watching: they will stop going to races; and the sport will crumble. Rumours are now even spreading that the short-term future is all that matters, because Bernie and CVC are preparing to float F1 on the stock market. Doesn’t sound great does it? Formula One is losing the essence of what made it great. I feel sorry for Lewis Hamilton: he often speaks about the majestic history of the sport and he might well become the poster boy for the era where it all went horribly wrong. So, who has the answers? Easy, the man Hamilton has looked up to all his life, Ayrton Senna.
Those in charge need to take note of Senna’s example, both on and off the track. Senna was a deeply religious, spiritual and charitable man. He gave it his all on the track, would do just about anything to win and this is what we want to see (though perhaps not quite to those levels). But Senna also recognised that there is life beyond Formula One: that shock of all shocks, there is more to the world than racing and making money. It is in this nature that Formula One needs to be restructured: it needs to change, and in a way which allows teams to compete on track, whilst being sustainable and cooperative off it. To me this does not sound like the worst proposition in the world. It almost makes… what’s that word again, oh yeah, sense.
It maybe 20 years after his tragic death, but as time goes by it becomes more and more apparent just what a loss Senna was.