Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peace In Our Time

One of the downsides of only occasionally having time to comment on goings-on is that you want to produce posts which, while timely, are both insightful and not about to get overtaken by external events too quickly. The firestorm around Formula 1 over the past two months has been moving so quickly that I get buried trying to figure out who said what and how they are managing to make the situation even more improbably worse than it was.

Practically anything I would post would quickly get overtaken by what's really happening, and from what's left you can only say I think Max Mosley is carrying on like a destructive idiot so many times before it becomes boringly repetitive.

So with Formula 1 finally seeming to take a collective breath... where are we?

There's no more break-away series (at least for now). I honestly felt this was the worst of all possible outcomes. It seems that the grownups have finally sat down together and followed the money. The sport's history and legitimacy is no more threatened than it is every year by the FIA's bizarre ducking and weaving.

FOTA can't keep their mouth shut. The comment about Mosley being a dictator was probably taken out of context from some low-level PR flack who thought he was speaking off the record. Never the less, it gave Mosley the ammunition he needed to try to blow the whole crisis up again. The fact that Mosley's "I'm not a dictator" explanation basically boils down to "I unilaterally set the rules and accept no argument about my decisions" does little to clear things up.
I guess we can all consider ourselves lucky that F1 appears to collectively gone on holiday this week and there's no one around to help make a bad situation worse.

Max Mosley is out (or maybe he isn't). Mosley appeared to be stepping aside by not standing for re-election this October. Then the whole "dictator" comment came up, with Mosley now threatening to stand for re-election, and making dark statements to the effect that he retains his position, responsibility, and power up until the election in October.

The 2010 rules will be identical to the 2009 rules (except where they are not). So while the budget cap won't happen, the refueling and tire warmer bans will. I've written at length in the past about the budgets in F1. I won't be sad to see the end of refueling. The tire warmers I won't miss either, even if I think that banning them on the grounds of cost-cutting is more than a bit ridiculous.

Overall: I think F1 is where it should have been six months ago. Really, this outcome is the only one which preserves F1 in anything even remotely approximating its historical form, while preserving the historical continuity.

Even though we can thank Max Mosley for much of the way that Formula 1 looks today, the truth is we can blame a lot of its problems on him too. The last year hasn't been kind to him, and I think he is no longer suited to be at the helm of the sport.

But for all my ravings, he's no idiot. I can't believe he seriously thought that he would get away with the changes he wanted to make in the manner he was trying to make them. There has to be another angle, another move, another goal that was concealed while we were all looking at the circus in front of us.

What did he think he was really up to?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gentlemen: Start your lawyers!

FIA lawsuit follows FOTA pull-out
The FIA anounced it will sue lead defector Ferrari and the team owners' group.
Is this how this is going to be settled? The FIA trying to destroy its own participants through the courts?

No good can come from this -- and I still can't see what Mosley's grand move is. If he doesn't fall in the coming election, F1 will be damaged for a long time to come.

I don't think the damage is irreparable yet, but short of one side or the other caving, I don't see it happening in the near term.

The next step in the courts has to play out first.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It's been hard keeping up with all the political wrangling in Formula 1 these days. I know the media claims they'd rather be talking about the racing. In the real world though the racing is pretty dry what with Brawn winning everything that's not pouring rain. Besides, past years have shown the media loves a controversy and will build one out of practically nothing if needs be.

Personally I find it hard to care these days. I don't have the time to watch all the Formula 1 racing I want to -- I've seen only one or two qualifying sessions in the last year. And I've only seen maybe one race live in that time too. Real life has intervened.

I'm also not sure where I'd follow if there was a series split. While Ferrari has a history, the fact of the matter is that F1 has all the TV contracts, so a spin-off series is less likely to get any coverage over here in Canada, let alone live coverage. And if F1 had a bunch of spear-carriers that I really didn't care about, and/or if the racing was incredibly dry, I'd probably drop away from racing altogether.

This I think is one consideration that the FIA has not taken into account. It isn't just about Ferrari fans following the series. It is about fans of any team following the series, year after year, including dry years.

Of the teams which agree they are committed for next year and beyond, Williams is the only one I can think of which can be described as having a large fan base. The big teams are McLaren and Ferrari, with Renault being a strong regional player and BMW building fans (well up until this year anyways). And Toyota is a huge name.

Team credibility is an important factor in this sport. Part of the problem with this year is the optics that Brawn has swept in from nowhere and run over the established leaders of the sport. The truth is that Brawn got a heck of a head start courtesy of Honda last year.

But next year -- and with all due respect to them -- what if Prodrive shows up and runs away? What does that show for the legitimacy of the sport if some nobody can show up and take over? It suggests not only that the bar to success in the sport is very low, but that the FIA is incapable of attracting competent regulars to contest the series.

F1 needs Ferrari and the majority of the FOTA members. The history of their participation legitimizes the present competition.

Lose that legitimacy, and you'll lose some measure of your fan base, which dilutes the value of the series.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Turning the corner?

Raikkonen calls for patience for Ferrari
[...]However, Raikkonen is urging caution in not letting expectations on the team get too carried away - especially since Brawn and Red Bull Racing still appear to have the edge at the front of the field.[...]
He's right, of course.

Also missing from the equation is any mention of Toyota, who I believe will be back towards the sharp end in Turkey.

Behind the all-conquering Brawn cars there is a logjam of potential -- Red Bull, Ferrari, Toyota, and McLaren all have to be seen as possibly "the best of the rest" right now. I'd currently put Red Bull at the head of that pack, but behind them it depends largely on luck and who has the right upgrades for the weekend.

The fact that Ferrari can again be credibly included in such a discussion shows how far they have come since the beginning of the year and says a lot about the team's continuing ability to respond to the changing conditions of the sport.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why I don't Trust Max Mosley

For all the alleged peace and love and good hope for the future nonsense that has followed all the existing F1 teams posting their entries for 2010 and beyond, I'm still not hopeful for the future of F1.


Look at the World Rally Championship.

Specifically, look at the manufacturer championship table. It features:
  • Citroen Total World Rally Team
  • BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
  • Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team
  • Citroen Junior Rally Team
  • Munchi's Ford World Rally Team
...and that's all. Citroen, and three Ford outfits.

It's a sad imitation of what it used to be.

Recall that when Mosley arrived on the scene, we had such heavyweights as Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Peugeot. We had second-liners like Skoda and Hyundai. Toyota was about to finish their involvement, but was still there.

The one thing I'll give Mosley credit for -- even if it wasn't directly any of his doing -- for North American viewers, we went through a golden age of coverage. For each of the three days of the event, we got a one hour same-day broadcast showing highlights, usually at a humane hour -- 4PM or 5PM broadcasts were not unheard of. Unfortunately the typical North American race viewer likes his "roundy-rounds" and the WRC programming didn't do very well in the ratings, and Speed discontinued that level of coverage after a year or two.

But now look at where the WRC is. Losing clasic events to a "non-sanctioned" championship and being unable to attract any kind of depth to their events.

This is what Mosley got the WRC.

And now he's "helping" Formula 1.