News and views on motorsports

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lets Speculate

Since there aren't many juicy stories going around whilst waiting for the next grand prix, I'm going to start my own bit of speculation and wild rumour mongering. Some of you out there might have thought about this already.

In my last post, I examined what it would be like if Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen should be teammates at Ferrari. This of course was started by a story in PlanetF1. Not long after that another story appeared on PlanetF1 from the Blick newspaper in Switzerland, that reports that The Iceman will indeed cometh to the Scuderia. PlanetF1 wonders if these senior Ferrari people are talking a little too much.

Then of course, there are persistent rumours regarding multiple MotoGP world champion, the Michael Schumacher of 2 wheels, Valentino Rossi, is considering a move to Ferrari. The latest story to come out comes from the Italian Gazzetto dello Sport where Rossi exclaims that a move to Ferrari would be a huge gamble for him. More so than for Ferrari.

I'm not sure whether the rules allow a 3 car team in Formula 1 but surely from a practical standpoint, not all these drivers will be in the Scuderia at the same time. So which is which? Who or more to the point, which source is correct?

Then slow little me caught on a bit. I wonder if there is in fact no senior Ferrari official leaking out stories and speculation in the press. I wonder if this is all the work of one Bernard Charles Ecclestone, doing what Malaysians would call "test market." (Testing the market in proper English). A sort of market survey if you will.

The logic here being (and I'm not suggesting that it is correct since this is just a wild shot in the dark) that everyone knows most viewers are fans of the Scuderia. Its a valuable commodity where television ratings and revenues are concerned. Ferrari in the past have had very indifferent driver pairings such as Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli in 1992. Not good. To generate excitement, Bernie needs superstars at Ferrari. But which ones?

Michael Schumacher is without doubt a mega star but perhaps his star is waning at the moment especially in these hard times for Maranello. Kimi Raikkonen seems to have lots of fans and very passionate ones they are. Valentino Rossi is a superstar himself and whilst lots of MotoGP fans also watch Formula 1, nevertheless his presence might bring about a whole new bunch of audiences into grand prix racing. Ah, decisions, decisions. How does the top dog of Formula 1 then decide who drives for the Scuderia? Well, he might throw in a bit of speculative stories in the media and guage the reaction of press and fans. I'm sure Bernie (or one of his disciples) troves the forums on the web.

The question of which superstar goes where is also important in the greater context of the sport's future. There just might be a split in a couple of years. There just might. Drivers are an important part of the attraction. People want to watch their drivers and will choose to view whichever series whether Formula 1 or an alternative depending on where these drivers end up. I'll go even further in my musings. Remember when Bernie got so upset by the Alonso move to McLaren? Oh sure Flav and him are buddies but more than that he's potentially lost a world championship winning superstar to another series come 2008. Thats the real reason why he's so livid. Both he and Flav scream about some sort of breach of ethics. Bah! Hi kettle I'm pot you're black.

As for Rossi, I'd wager that all this talk about risk is really about how fat his bank account will be if he signs for Ferrari. Its too risky? How about the real truth; you want me, you bloody well pay up, mate.

Wait you say. How can Bernie be the one who decides Ferrari's drivers or that of any other team for that matter? Hmmm.... how about Jacques Villeneuve and Nigel Mansell (post Senna) at Williams? Or Nigel Mansell shoved into McLaren when we all know Ron can't stand the sight of Our Nige. Or the countless times he's moved heaven and earth behind the scenes to make the show happen. Ferrari got a fat bonus for signing up to the new Concorde so early on last year. You don't really believe it was all for free do you? After all, Bernie isn't suggesting putting Ide in a Ferrari. Raikkonen, Rossi, Schumi, all superstars who would do proud the Ferrari tradition.

So back to the media speculation. First we had all these stories of Kimi to Ferrari. Good, good, it provokes massive reaction. Some positive noises there. How about Rossi? Mmmmm..... much ado about it. Excellent. Wait. What about Michael? Do people still want to see him around or is everyone expecting or wanting him to go? Lets put a story about him. Okay, now back to Kimi.....

Some of you might be thinking. Why the hell would Kimi want to get out of a quick McLaren and into a troubled Ferrari? Well, in truth, I don't think with Jean and Ross at the helm its going to stay that way forever. Besides, if all goes pear shaped, Max'll just tweak the regs some more. Darn it! They spotted that flexi wing, bah! Howzabout some extra special Bridgestone tyres then come 2007 made with tender loving care especially for the Scuderia? That'll do nicely. But might go too far. Pesky Pat Symonds or Haug will notice. No, just optimizing them for the Ferrari aero and mechanicals will do. Well, if we're going to have a Ferrari walkover in the future, lets at least hope that they'll have two drivers going at it with all they've got.

Perhaps if the manufacturers leave it will be a Ferrari walkover. Or at least a constant Williams v. Ferrari battle for honours. In which case, having drivers at it no holds barred would be extremely important for the show. A thought I'm sure Bernie and Max would not have missed.

But wait again you say. Aren't the GPMA members legally bound to compete in the FIA Formula 1 come 2008 now that their applications have been submitted? Well, have the FIA accepted the applications yet? Absolutely not. An announcement will be made at the end of this month as to who made applications. Of course, Autosport and Pitpass are at pains to note that a contract is in place by these applications and that all teams are contractually bound to turn up in 2008. Har har har. If all these "major manufacturers" want to leave, just what the hell can the FIA do to them? There are lots of ways I can think of for them to squirm their way out. Lots. Think of very high powered, highly expensive legal representation in a civilian court. I'm sure Max will not be stopping them. In fact, he'll probably throw a sendoff bash. But nice one Autosport and Pitpass. I'm sure Max will be granting you guys the paddock passes in 2008. Good boys. Deutschland, deutschland uber alles.....


Don Speekingleesh said...

Excellent article. Absolutely spot on. This whole thing stinks of Bernie.

And you're dead right about Pitpass/ preaching the official line about 2008 entries. They're saying it because they have to. It's complete nonsense. If the manufacturers decide to leave there is nothing Max can do. Especially as they're likely to give him 18 months notice.

Checkpoint10 said...

Max Mosley is in a good position to deliver the death blow to the manufacturers and consolidate his power, and that is to accept some manufacturers but not all. I would not be surprised if Ferrari, Renault and McLaren were the only big manufacturers chosen to compete in F1. In this case, the manufacturers would be divided once and for all, and the new entrants would only be too grateful to be in F1 to organize against the establishment. The unlucky manufacturers with a smaller fan base (BMW, Honda, Toyota) would be allowed to disappear or go to America. That would not be an entirely bad thing because a unified American open-wheel series could benefit from some manufacturer support.

Qwerty said...

Hmmm.... well it also depends how seriously the GPMA members take the binding agreement amongst themselves. This agreement principally states that the members shall not be racing in any series unless they are all in together.

Having said that the main reason for that agreement among the members was to stop any effort by Bernie and Max to divide and conquer each of them individually.