News and views on motorsports

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why They Tolerate Ferrari

Lets be clear about one thing. Ferrari may sneer at all these new entrants trying so hard to get into grand prix racing. But they themselves were once the newcomers. When Ferrari entered the world championship in the 1950s it was a young team facing up to established names like Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. Enzo was at one time himself a garagiste, as he would call the FOTA teams in the 80s.

In time and over the years Ferrari have continued to compete and win from time to time and have built up the romance and legend surrounding the team, playing on the fantasies and emotions of fans worldwide. I confess to being caught up with this legend. Its hard to resist. Though I despise the dirt behind the legend, nevertheless the cars are so beautiful and more importantly, so characterful. Of course if the basis of supercar choices is based purely on logic, you'd choose a Porsche or even Nissan's latest R35 GTR. But frankly none save perhaps McLaren or Lamborghini arouse the senses so completely.

The revelations of secret vetos (by Ferrari's own admission in arbitration) reveals the advantages afforded to Maranello. Its something non-Ferrari fans have always known and Ferrari fans in turn have accused us (and anyone daring to challenge Maranello, most notably Ron Dennis) of whingeing. Well its not whingeing motherf****ers, its the goddamned truth! Excuse my outburst but I'm ever so sick of idiots.

Ok putting that aside, why would the other teams tolerate all this? The extra monies given to them, the right of veto bestowed on them and even the disparaging remarks made by this most unsporting of teams? The teams actually want to go up against the odds. Perhaps it makes victory against Maranello even more satisfying. But perhaps there's another more practical reason. Particularly where it comes to the big manufacturers.

Think about it. Ferrari have the largest following of all the teams. Some of these fans border on pathological fanaticism, following grand prix racing religiously to see their beloved prancing horse. Most of these fans will never be able to afford a Ferrari road car. Ever! Guess which cars they would be able to afford? Renaults, Toyotas and Hondas of course. Some who are a little smarter and more affluent will be able to afford Mercedes and BMWs in their lifetime. Ferrari fans are captive audiences for these manufacturers. Competing against Ferrari gives them exposure. And, if in the case of Renault, you beat Ferrari, you are even able to shout this out louder to the world.

OK, so the manufacturers are increasingly demanding more revenues from the dogs CVC and Bernie Ecclestone. However, the airtime and the association with the world championship gives manufacturers the reach they desire with their potential customers.

If Ferrari were to leave, it would from a marketing standpoint, devalue grand prix racing. Sure, there would still be fans but a lot of them would be lost. With lost fans, other sponsors would leave as well. Of course I disapprove of all this. But its a fact. The problem of course is that the entire grand prix racing ecosystem has become so corrupted. Its become all about the money and nothing about the sport.

If you aren't sickened by all of this, you should be. There simply must be a better way!

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