Formula 1 Insight

Optimism for the New Year

Bah, humbug. Sometimes I feel like the Scrooge of the F1 world, especially on those occasions when circumstances have prevented me from posting, as though I were too wrapped up in the festivities to break the seasonal hush. The truth is that I had a fairly normal Christmas (and I trust my readers had a merry one too - belated greetings and all that) and was betrayed by the complete lack of F1 news or controversies.

Jenson Button

It has been as though the F1 world were in shock over the year just passed and the Honda withdrawal that ended it. Only the competing Santas, Dave Richards and Carlos Slim, have been worth a daily glance as they attempt to deliver a survival gift to Messrs. Fry and Brawn. "Oh save the team, Santa," we cry, "They have been good... Well, they have made up the numbers." But now Christmas has passed, Carlos denies he was ever interested and an ominous silence ensues from the Prodrive camp.

No seasonal cheer at Brackley, therefore, and we can only hope that the New Year brings better news for the team. But the episode does represent a change in the atmosphere of the sport. For the last two years we have watched as F1 has put on a show more spectacular, more outrageous and more ridiculous than ever before, with political machinations worthy of the Borgias, blatant manipulation of results by the puppet masters, the closest championship battles for years, new heroes to support and malign, old ones sniping from the sidelines and money thrown around as though it were going out of fashion.

And now it seems that money is indeed no longer trendy. The Honda bombshell has concentrated minds in ways they have not been for years and suddenly everything appears in a more realistic perspective. F1 is still a sport in spite of the concerted effort to turn it into a business and the world would hardly notice if it were to disappear overnight. If there have been huge profits and losses made over the last few years, it has been merely incidental to the main business of racing. The sport as a whole has tolerated the money and power brokers as long as the cars and drivers are allowed to race; now that their profits may take a hit, F1 continues and cares not.

This is what has been forgotten in the orgy of money-making that F1 was so briefly - that if something moves, guys will race and compete, whether it be lawn mowers, monster trucks or snow mobiles. F1 is merely the tip of the iceberg that is motor racing.

I am old enough to remember how amazed the world was that American colleges should have students who were there purely to play football. In fact, they were ahead of the game and had recognized sport as having the potential for entertainment and a business, therefore. If millions are being made through a business that appears to serve no useful purpose other than to entertain, it makes perfect sense that the players should receive training in the same way as the doctors, lawyers and accountants. The example of the film industry was there for all to see - the acting profession, once despised and treated as a refuge for vagabonds, had emerged as an arena for astronomical salaries as it became big business.

Although sport has followed the same route to making money, it is not, in essence, an entertainment in the same way as the film industry. "The show" may be cited as the reason for so many changes in F1 over the years but the driving force behind it remains competition between drivers and cars. Take away the television broadcast and the grandstands and there would still be those who raced purely for the joy of competition.

And that is what Honda has done for us: refocused our attention on the primary object of motor racing. In suggesting the possibility of the sport losing participants until it is no competition at all, Honda's sudden withdrawal makes us realize that the sport is not dependent on viewing figures and ever-increasing profits. F1 has always cut its cloth according to the resources available because those who race are driven to do so regardless of the circumstances. If it comes down to welding chassis together in backyard garages and stock block engines tweaked with pure human inventiveness, it can be done; it has happened before and can happen again. F1 was still F1 when the only spectators were a man and his dog.

Which all makes me surprisingly optimistic about the coming year and beyond. While all is gloom and doom on the economic front, it does us well to remember that F1 is a hardy beast and, in one form or another, it will survive and even prosper. Heck, even the greenies cannot get me down today - we'll race 'em with electric motors if we have to. But, be assured, we will race!


Peter Boyle
happy christmas Clive,

would love to hear your take of the Di Montezemolo vs. Ecclestone spat.

Date Added: 29/12/2008

Pink Peril
Well, you cheered me up with your positive take on matters!

Happy new year to all.
Date Added: 30/12/2008

john f
Happy Christmas Clive,
I agree that racing, in one form or another, will go on forever. I often wonder if it was the cost or Vandals that ended chariot racing in Rome. Since the invention of the wheel man has raced, it is a primal instinct. As per the Ecc vs DM -- the statement made by Bernie sums up what we have known for years and that is that Ferrari always gets the benefit of the doubt -- and 80 mil more a year!!
Happy New Year
Date Added: 30/12/2008

Peter: Thank you. Montezemolo is doing his job as head honcho of FOTA, I think - pointing out areas that need to be addressed by the FIA in the near future. It suits him at the moment to stand for all the teams and he is right in that the financial arrangements of F1 do need adjustment.

Bernie is hitting back with whatever weapons are available since he cannot afford to give any ground on this issue. His main problem is that he hasn't got much - the "revelation" that Ferrari was bought off and gets more money from the FIA than any other team is old news. Only the amounts are still debatable and rumor has always had it that the figures are a good deal higher than mentioned by Bernie.

So, as an attempt to split the unity of FOTA, it's pretty weak. It's not as if the teams didn't know about Ferrari's "special arrangement". And what else has Bernie got? Only an agreement made with Max that has been adjusted since it was made and still needs more adjustment if it is to approach fairness for the sport.

I think this one will run and run but cannot see FOTA winning in the end without a major shake-up in the FIA. Bernie can afford to sit there being obstinate for as long as it takes.
Date Added: 30/12/2008

Nick Goodspeed
There is a great difference in repercussion when the toys are thrown out of the pram in the middle of the street as opposed to the confines of the bedroom. Those of us who watch F1 closely, knew to some degree about the Ferrari / Ecclestone payola scam. Thanks to the sex scandal, the draconian fine, the demise of Honda and the dishonest marshaling, many, many more eyes, microphones and cameras were watching and listening to the F1 soap opera when the gargoyle squawked. What is sad is that these people of great wealth and power have a bearing on the direction of morals and ethics of the whole of society. Schumacher's belligerent driving manner has an effect on all drivers. Many of the aspiring young Shumachers on the roads will think it cool to carry a bit of his attitude. I suspect the up and coming tycoons will take a bit from Ecclestone.
Sport began the instant two cave men got the hots for the same cavewoman. F1 is a name. Competition is part of our DNA. Car racing will be here as long as there are cars and the best will always have to be kept away from the also-rans for the good and preservation of the also-rans.
I look forward to the Nano Tata making its way to these shores to supply a cheap platform to go racing with. Mini Austin revisited!!! The return of the quintessential "everyman's car!"
In some ways it would be great if all the big manufacturers would follow Honda. This would no doubt bankrupt Ecclestone and co. and the likes of Williams, MacLaren, Red Bull, etc. would find powerplants quickly enough. These companies are redesigning and reconfiguring cars on a weekly basis. A different engine or type of engine wouldn't be much of a hurdle.
I think that there is a critical mass to money. Once F1 or a F1 team passes this amount, they react like a government and become increasingly less efficient and more decadent.
Perhaps this is what Honda has learned and is the reason for there exit?
Date Added: 30/12/2008

long may the un-trendiness of money reign! and we forgive you your silence when you eventually post like this.

my new year's wish? that max and bernie decide they aren't making enough zero's before the decimal point and go trawl elsewhere. i know, i know. no such luck.

have a great new year.
Date Added: 30/12/2008

Nick: Racing Tata Nanos - what a brilliant idea! that would be a return to the heyday of racing minis indeed. And you have started a train of thought and memories that leads to a long story that I might post tomorrow - nothing to do with F1 (well, only incidentally) but so little is happening in that world that a brief departure might be forgiven...

Good analysis of the Bernie/Max/Luca situation. Money always spoils things, doesn't it? Perhaps I could help out Bernie by looking after all of his! :D
Date Added: 30/12/2008

Vera: Thank you indeed. Your New Year wish has an outside chance of becoming true - if Bernie's interest concentrates more on his joint football venture with the Flav, he could move to that arena and annoy the soccer fans instead!
Date Added: 30/12/2008

Alianora La Canta
If Bernie and Flavio do end up concentrating on football, and they get kicked out of their team in typical English Football League tradition, I think they'll be working at Chesterfield FC next - their route from the second to the third round of the FA Cup (a fog-based cancellation, a draw, a floodlight-based cancellation, a loss and a throwing out of the rival team due to an ineligible player) would have done Bernie and co. proud.

If they do go to the place in, be sure that I will use the fact that they will be within 10 miles of my house to maximum!
Date Added: 31/12/2008

I don't know. It seems everywhere I look everybody is looking to 2010. All the news concerning new rules concentrates on 2010. Mosely won't retire until 2009 (at the earliest) which means it will be 2010 before we can even hope to see changes from a new administration. WRC changes its format in 2010. Even the car companies have given up on talking about their 2009 models. They are promoting the changes that are coming in 2010. The 'experts' say the economic crisis isn't supposed to end until 2010.

I look forward to next season. I will watch and I will cheer (or cry), pound my fists, and shake my head in disbelief; I will love 2009 (I hope). But everything points to 2010 as being the start of a new chapter for everybody, and I don't think anyone will feel settled until we open that chapter. Maybe we will have to wait longer. All the more reason to live in the moment.

Nick, when the Nano gets here, I'll meet you at the track.
Date Added: 31/12/2008

Nick Goodspeed
Marc: First we have to spend a day figuring out rules, then take a month to figure out how to get around the rules;-)
Date Added: 31/12/2008

I do so admire optimism. It's good to see it.

Mind you; No doubt the coming year will bring about pessimism in some form and we will all have to remind you of this post... :)

For myself, I am inclinded to share the optimistic viewpoint and look forward to the season and, as Marc put so very well, - "I will watch and I will cheer (or cry), pound my fists, and shake my head in disbelief; I will love 2009 (I hope). "

A really Happy New Year to you and yours.

Date Added: 31/12/2008

RSS feed icon RSS comments feed

Back to the main blog

Have your say

You may use some HTML in comments. For bold text use <strong></strong> and for italic text use <em></em>. If you know what you're doing feel free to use more complex mark-up but please no deprecated tags, break tags or JavaScript.

Enter the code shown above:

Name *

Comment *

Email *


Copyright disclaimers XHTML 1.0 CCS2 RSS feed Icon