News and views on motorsports

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Back Behind The Scenes has a very interesting article on Ferrari's response to the eight teams on the subject of "illegal" testing. The article is absolutely spot on in its analyses and the views expressed are shared by many fans, hacks and most people who have an interest in the sport.

Among the more interesting points the article notes are:

1. "Ferrari either does not see the wave of feeling that exists against its current policies amongst F1 fans; or it does not care."
2. From the feedback received by fans, concludes "that the majority of this is anti-Ferrari."
3. However, "there is a small but voceriferous pro-Ferrari minority who criticize any stories which reflect the feedback we receive from other fans."
4. Furthermore, "Ferrari has now reached the point at which it no longer listens to the other teams and no longer listens to criticism in the media."
5. Most damning of all, "There was a time when one would never hear the suggestion that the sport would be better off without Ferrari but increasingly that is a view being heard in F1 circles. We believe the trend is increasing." Hear, hear!

It would seem that Ferrari bashing bloggers like me are not alone. Whilst I do commend their exploits on the track and the magnificent record they have thus far, it is extremely frustrating that a so called "great" team would resort to tactics normally employed by cronies and dirty politicians. Such Machiavellian behaviour debases their proud achievements and make their victories seem hollow. I shall not recount the long list of Ferrari politicking in this article, you can read it for yourself in my previous articles and elsewhere.

What makes the achievments of blokes like Renault so delightful is that fact that these fellows play by the rules agreed by all and in the face of gross injustices from people like Ferrari. And by that same thread, that makes Ferrari despicable because they think they can make up their own rules. Yes, Renault have not won this year's championship but there are many out there who really hope they do.

At most of all, it would seem that I am not alone in my disposition. That Ferrari should be kicked out for the good of the sport. But not before some team like Renault beats them. And beats them good. Whatever the outcome, come 2007, either Ferrari engages in sporting behaviour or there shall be championships without them.

So much for the Ferrari issue. Elsewhere, it seems that Bernie and Speed Investments, the holding company formed by the three banks that control Formula 1's commercial rights have come to some sort of settlement. Read about it here, here, here and here. Not surprising given the increasing threat of the GPWC and Bernie probably need the banks to help him out on this.

The situation is increasingly tenous for Ecclestone. He had expected to some sort of settlement with the teams by Melbourne but this has not materialised. In fact, I believe as more details of the new Concorde come to light, teams are staying far away from signing a new agreement. The banks I would imagine are also increasingly worried that their investment, gained by Kirsch's default, is increasingly likely to being worth bugger all, should the teams' threats of a rival series come to fruition.

In fact, this article on seem to indicate that the teams, far from simply making empty threats are indeed pushing ahead with serious intent on realising the GPWC's rival series.

Moreover, should the rival series be realised, it could be heading to that wonderful street circuit, Adelaide. And they thought a rival series would have no circuits to run on. Hah! Bring back the classics, I say. Throw out the mangled Hockenheim, the silly Shanghai, the boring (and commercially unsuccessful) Bahrain and all these dogs designed by that imbecile, Hermann Tilke. (With due apologies to my readers for bringing up this guy again)

As for Bernie, it is reported that the banks via Speed Investments now have a greater say in the commerical decisions in Formula 1, proportionate to the size of their holdings. Whether or not this be good for the sport remains to be seen. And yet this feature on ITV-F1 written some time ago, may give an indication of things to come. Bayerische Landesbank, one of the three banks and BMW are old chums according to the feature. Intriguing n'est ce pas?

Old hands in the investment business JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers are also surely too shrewd not to see the folly of the current situation. Let's break it down simply. Should Ferrari throw toys out of the playpen and threaten to exit the sport, of course this would be to the detriment of the sport's commercial value as a whole. And yet pacify the "star" and in turn alienate the teams, and there simply wouldn't be any sport altogether. As investment bankers, they would be wise then to insist on more reasonable terms to protect their investments. There are signs that even Bernie is now seeing the light. Recently, in this article on ITV-F1, Bernie is reportedly backing the eight teams in the recent spat regarding Ferrari's extended testing of the F2005.

And yet, if is right and there is indeed a growing trend of hostility against Maranello and FIAT, fans and spectators would simply pick other heros and support other teams, thus still remain faithful viewers of the sport. Of course, if Ferrari exited the sport, who would bet against Michael Schumacher joining some other squad if the desire to compete still remains strong within him? I believe there are a lot of fans out there who are HIS fans and not necessarily that of Ferrari.

There would still I believe be a large enough of a following to entice sponsors eager to reach them. As a whole then, the commercial value lost should Ferrari leave, whilst not insignificant, would be minimised.

It would be sad to see the Scuderia leave. I for one, would prefer their presence in motor racing's highest echelon. But only if they agree to play by the rules. Surely they must realise that given Ferrari's resources, they can play by the rules and still win.

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