Leviathans all.... Or at least they used to be.
Williams, Todt, Briatore, Tyrrell, Dennis (now back on the scene, of course), all impressive in their own particular way. Strong, opinionated, passionate, and single-minded in their determination to do the best for (first and foremost) their team and paymasters, and (secondly) the sport as a whole.
2014 and where are we now?
A new breed of F1 team boss is – for better or worse – ruling the roost. Young(ish!), well versed in the oh-so-predictable safe, soundbite-driven world we live in, and keen to present a positive, ethical, ‘green’ and economical outlook…
Every Friday afternoon at an F1 grand prix the FIA stages a press conference. Six team representatives take to the stage to be quizzed by the media in attendance.
The FIA-approved host pitches some ‘safe’ questions, which are answered with varying degrees of detail before the mic is thrown to the floor.
It’s then that proceedings take a turn for the tedious with oft-repeated and frankly boring questions relating to F1's pathetic and futile attempts to cut budgets.
This line of interrogation is, of course, of paramount interest and concern to the smaller teams’ representatives on the panel.
Now in these post-economic-meltdown days we’re all a little more careful with finances and how we manage them – but let’s get real, shall we? This is Formula 1 we’re talking about, a sport that since its inception has sucked up all the money it can get its greedy hands on, burnt it with aplomb and then got some more! If you can't afford to play, go play somewhere else. Formula 1 is, has and always will be about having and spending as much money as possible. The sport is – arguably – the greatest example of a capitalist-mindset-dominated environment on the planet, so for the have-nots to proffer their begging bowls of sympathy is really a trifle rich. Secure a multi-million-dollar deal tomorrow and they’d all soon (and do) quickly forget about ‘saving’ money…
The complete and utter lack of a sense of irony displayed by some in F1 is baffling to behold. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't remember anyone at Williams complaining about budgets when – back in the day – they were flush with Camel, Rothmans, Sega, Canon and Honda money; and where was Sauber’s charity tin when – not so long ago – BMW sank hundreds of millions of Bavarian Euros into the team’s coffers?
Keen to push for any cost-saving measure – apart, that is, from any that prevents them sitting in a flat-bed airline seat or relaxing in an über-budget-busting lux hotel – our ‘smaller’ team friends are the driving force behind a desire for the larger teams to slash their budgets and play fair.
Daft ideas such as shortening the F1 weekend – conveniently forgetting that grand prix promoters, already struggling to turn a profit, will have a day less in which to make money – have been proposed and, thankfully, rejected.
The teams flush with cash, of course, pay lip-service to the mood, pretending that they’re in favour of trimming their spend and voting through minor budget-cutting plans. But – and you can’t blame them – they’re never going to vote for anything other than piffling monetary cuts, and why should they?
The real issue facing the sport is not the money being spent, rather the utter lack of creative thinking being deployed in promoting F1 as it should and deserves to be.
Where’s the central PR agency – representing the sport as a whole – telling the world about the incredible technological advances on display every other weekend? There are myriad things that could be done by those in positions of power to get the F1 message out there in a far more effective way than it is now. Tossing about Facebook and Twitter follower numbers in a childish ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ exchange – as the team reps did last Friday – isn’t going to impress or help anyone.
Mind you, it is more than a little demoralising when the figurehead and commercial rights holder of the sport– Bernie Ecclestone – is quoted as stating that he views social media as a flash in the pan. Really, Bernie, really?
At least Ferrari's new team principal, Marco Mattiacci, seems to understand. Answering yet another budget-obsessed question, he talked of how the sport needs to engage with the younger generation in ways that the NBA and NFL do in the States. As a guy who recently arrived in F1 after successfully selling lots of shiny red prancing horse road cars in the US, maybe Marco is a man to be listened to…
Back to the money issue – perhaps, just perhaps, we can move on. Those teams minded to do so can look after their budgets, trimming expenses, wages, travel spend, etc, etc, etc, where and how they choose, but please, none of us in the F1 paddock are poor, so stop pretending to be so.
There's GP2, GP3, Porsche Supercup and many more, lesser (than F1) but good in their own right race series to participate in, running on budgets way less than the premier class.
As the adage states: ‘If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’ If you want to stay in it, get wise and start doing a better job of getting the message – of what a fantastic sport F1 undoubtedly is – out there.
That way, we’d all earn a lot more money!