Patience Maxed Out in Formula One
By Nasir Hameed
What a difference a year makes. On the eve of the 2008 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the FIA/FOM duo dropped a bombshell on Formula 1 fraternity that the birthplace of FIA World Championship will no longer host the race after 2009. Amid much despair Donington Park was announced as the new home of British Grand Prix starting in 2010.
Fast forward twelve months. Now FOTA has returned the favor by announcing the formation of a breakaway series next season. The Formula One Teams Association, led by Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo, has been at odds with FIA and FOM over rules and regulations, and the age old problem, money.
The FIA instituted budget cap in the wake of global financial meltdown. Finger pointing led to airing the dirty laundry in public which led family secrets out in the open. The $100m sweet deal Ferrari had with FOM, which the Italian stallion received before any other teams saw a dime of sports revenue. Then came the revelation of “veto power” bestowed on the Scuderia on any rule changes.
The now defunct GPMA, Grand Prix Manufacturers Association, was dismantled by these perks, or as Bernie put it, “We bought Ferrari’s loyalty”.
Now the high-priced prancing horse has galloped away from the loyalty barn, with very heavy excess baggage: McLaren, Renault and Red Bull to name a few. Lawyers on both sides are already working overtime. After all, as the late Paul Newman once put it, “they have to eat, too”.
FIA is threatening legal action for breach of contract while on the other hand FOTA is assuring Formula 1 fans that their show will commence next year with, among other promises, affordable ticket prices. While the contribution to Formula 1 motor racing by both Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone is immense, racing fans are not too excited to dish out over $300 for a ticket, watch every year as one traditional venue after another disappear from the Formula 1 calendar to a race in front of empty seats where majority of the locals have not the passion nor the purse for a Grande Epreuve event.
The casualty list is long. No Grand Prix in the land of Fangio or the nation that hosted the very first Grand Prix over a century ago. The Dynamic Duo could not even mint money in the largest commercial market in the world.
Montezemolo spoke for man on the street when he said “Races are going to cities because they have a nice skyline”.
The arrogance and complete disregard for the thousands of fans at the 2005 US Grand Prix is not forgotten by the millions who watched the farce on television or were “lucky” enough to be at the historic six-car race.
The flamboyant Irishman Eddie Jordan, famous for giving Michael Schumacher his first ride in Formula 1, recently commented, “You could re-float the Titantic on the egos in Formula 1”.
Sixty years of history, heritage and sacrifices of Grand Prix combatants should not be allowed to sink without a trace as powerful, extremely wealthy men engage in self-destruction of the pinnacle of motor racing.
Rumors are rampant. The new FOTA led series will be managed by IMG, International Management Group, race in Argentina and in the streets of Helsinki with two or more events in the US alone.
Mosley and Bernie have vowed a ferocious legal battle. The long drawn-out court room sessions are sure to leave no winners behind.
D–as in Di Montezemolo– day is tomorrow in the city of lights as he faces Max Mosley at the World Motorsport Council meeting in what could be the termed as Gunfight at the F1 Coral.
Do we really need another Grand Prix near Tombstone, AZ?
Racing fans around the world are hoping that among such bright men common sense will prevail and a happy medium will be met. And the show, one show, will go on next season.