News and views on motorsports

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Formula 1 Reloaded Part 2

In the wake of Honda's demise Pitpass has this interesting editorial by Mike Lawrence that attacks the role of Formula 1 owners, CVC. Essentially, this is similar to the point I had made before, that CVC is an irrelevant stakeholder of the sport that serves to do nothing except serve as a rent collector. They don't even serve Bernie Ecclestone to my mind, who had cashed out his Formula 1 holdings a long time ago to Kirsch. CVC simply took out a huge loan to buy the shares from the banks after Kirsch went into liquidation. And now to service the loan, CVC of course withdraws a huge amount of money from the sport. Money, as I had argued, rightly belongs to the teams. Further amounts are taken for the benefit of CVC and through them, their own investors.

There are many side effects of these activities.

First, there is a need to take Formula 1 out of Europe and North America and bring it out East where gullible governments pay huge amounts to host these races on some of the most dreadful Tilke designed circuits. More are set to join in, South Korea and Abu Dhabi being the latest. And yet more are clamoring for a grand prix. A certain poverty stricken nation who should be spending those millions to take children out of living on the streets are ever ready to throw money at FOM instead. With these Eastern circuits, once the novelty wears off, struggle to keep the grandstands packed without giving away free tickets to school children. And sad to say, Malaysia is no different there. (Though honestly, Sepang manages to keep the hillstands packed to the brim!) And yet host a grand prix anywhere in Europe and even at Indianapolis and the fans keep pouring in year on year. Its funny but shouldn't races be run where the loyal fans are? Shouldn't races be run on classic circuits unmolested by the evil hands of Tilke?

Second, because less money is available to the teams (though that improved slightly a couple of years ago), the only ones that can afford to compete are the manufacturers. Without them, Formula 1 is left without a grid. CVC, quite smartly imposes that these manufacturers must sign up to compete for an agreed period of time, forcing their commitment.

Bernie understands this and does all he can to keep the manufacturers in. On the other hand, Max Mosley understands that these manufacturers could leave if the costs escalate to exceed the benefits of competing in grand prix racing. Hence his drive to reduce these costs up to and including the ludicrous standard engine measure recently proposed.

What benefit is it for Honda to compete in a Formula 1 where their talents cannot be allowed to shine through? Sure they have not been performing but without the freedom to allow innovation and ingenuity and produce differentiation, whats the point of the competition? There doesn't seem to be any benefit to the competition when it has to adopt a standard engine or even to have their engines forcibly equalised by regulations. Especially since their money can be put to better use elsewhere in these times of financial meltdown.

Third, you drive out teams whose heart and soul is nothing but pure racing. Teams, that by right, should be the ones to compete in the sport. These teams are driven by pure passion and its great to see these guys get it absolutely right despite facing the manufacturers. But here now, we have a sport which sidelines these pure bred racing teams in favour of makers of the horrid Toyota Prius. Furthermore, a competition billing itself as the pinnacle of motorsport has now been perverted as testlab for so-called road relevant technologies like KERS which teams are now re-considering because of the weight penalty and small gains.

There are many other consequences of this unjust and perverted ownership of the sport but I shall leave it there for now. It seems clear that whenever you see or read about some silly idea from Max and Bernie, you only have to see that they are serving no one except CVC. They have become the minions of these investors.

There seems to be a need to materialise a championship for real racing fans not the "casual fan" who knows bugger and real racing teams and not manufacturers engaged in battle in the best traditions of motorsports. A championship owned by the teams and not greedy investors with no interest in motor racing save to reap profits to serve feed their insatiable appetites. A championship run on the best drivers' circuits in the world and not on those with stupid grandstands to pamper the so-called casual fans and corporate types.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Honda Quits

A few questions pop into mind at the announcement that Honda is leaving Formula 1. But the most important ones would be:

- What will Ross Brawn do now?
- What will Jenson Button do?
- Would Honda have left if they were winning races and world championships?
- Which team will be next?