F1 has many issues, but one fundamental problem: It has fallen into the hands of terrible custodians, who value profit over sport.
Ultimately, we can blame Max Mosley, who (besides being an early champion of these dreadful V6s, at least in concept) signed that ridiculous century-long deal with FOM. This in turn allowed Bernie (next in line for blame) to sell the commercial rights to CVC, which is doing exactly what you’d expect a private equity firm to do: bleed the sport dry with little regard for its future. (Tempting as it is to blame Donald Mackenzie, he’s just doing his job. This should have been very predictable to Ecclestone and Mosley – people who ought to have had more regard for the sport’s well-being.)
Of course, if the teams were left entirely to their own devices, we wouldn’t be much better off. Even if everyone at the table was as noble as a Frank Williams or a Peter Sauber, F1 would still undoubtedly fall victim to the tragedy of the commons. And in reality, in today’s corporate F1, there are far too many in power with Mackenzie’ s sensibilities to dream that a majority could put the sport’s interests first.
What F1 needs is an uncompromising dictator, but one who will fight ferociously to defend the purity of the sport. Ecclestone can apparently no longer fill that role – not just because of his age, but because the sport’s commercial interests are no longer so clearly aligned with its virtues. If forced to choose, I fear that Bernie would value his financial legacy above sporting integrity.
Todt is probably the one man who could fill the role, but he seems totally ineffectual (curious, given that this is the man that turned around Ferrari in the 1990’s – hardly political kindergarten). Perhaps his impotence is a good thing, given that this is yet another man that supported these terrible engines (and more recently, this stupid radio ban). But if not him, who? And when?
Ratifying the 2015 calendar may be Todt’s last chance to take control of the situation. Let’s hope he doesn’t let us down – the future of our sport may depend on it.
PS: I remain quietly hopeful that this is all just another of Bernie’s incredible chess maneuvers – that he will bring F1 to the brink, then buy it back from CVC at a great discount, consolidate power, and reshape F1 to its glorious potential. Let’s hope I’m right, and that he has the energy to see it through.
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