The root of the F1 problem
September 30, 2015 by Joe Saward
Today, no doubt, you will get the chance to read all kinds of analysis from folk who are qualified to have an opinion – and others who are not – about whether there is a case to be answered by Formula One in the matter of European competition law.
I believe that the trigger would not have been pulled, unless those involved know that they will be successful. This has been going on quietly for many months.
In the surface it is yet another negative story that has come spinning out of the sport. There have been many in recent months. I hate all the negativity, but one must be realistic. Formula 1 has reached a point at which change must come and it has to be forced to make changes, because everything is locked and no one wants to budge. A wrecking ball is required. People in the sport blame whoever they want to blame, because there are cases to be made against most parties. The private equity people who own the sport do what private equity people do and leech as much money out as they can. They don’t care as long as the business is still standing. You can blame them for being short-sighted, but jackals are jackals and they should be driven away. You can blame the people who brought them in, but then people who seek wealth above all else will always make these kind of decisions. And would one ever find someone ambitious enough to build an empire, without being at heart greedy?
When all is said and done, however, the answer lies not in saying “This is Bernie’s fault” or whatever, but rather in the sport failing to create a system in which everyone works for the good of the cause, rather than because they get more. It is all about the vision. Everyone can get more if they are open, clever, unafraid and looking at the big picture. What is wrong is the that the leaders lack the right vision. They have their own visions but none of them seem to see that the sport must come first, not the money or the power.
F1 needs to think what it is that the sport should be and understand why people like it, and why they want to follow it. Once a raison d’être has been defined, then the right thing is to decide on who is best-suited to lead. And what talents are required in the person in charge. The primary requirement, I believe, is the ability to lead and inspire. It’s not creating fear, nor dividing and conquering, it is not about the ability to cut deals and make money. It is about getting people to do things because they are convinced it is the right thing to do. If an organisation is led in this way, the different “departments”, (teams, race promoters, etc) will look at the bigger picture. I believe that if the sport worked in this way, it could generate multiples of the current revenues, fill its grandstands every time with fans who do not feel they are being exploited, and have a much more positive image and so be able to attract sponsors that today shy away from the sport because it has a shonky image. The cynics say that human nature will make that impossible, because people are greedy and selfish, and perhaps that is true, but not everyone is like that and if we do not try, then it will never happen.
When you boil it all down, the solution has to lie with the FIA. There was a reason why the federation was run by aristocrats at the start. To them money did not matter and they looked after the sport in a paternal fashion. The FIA President these days is no aristocrat and the decisions being made (or not, more to the point) are not always in the best interests of the sport. The FIA was created to regulate sport, at a motor race. It has taken on other roles over the years, but it is not a road safety group. That is not its job. I am all in favour of saving lives on the roads, but let’s leave it to those who deal with health and safety. If we can help them, then why not, but creating new bodies and cluttering the scene will not help. It is the job of the FIA to look after the sport, and if in the past FIA people have made poor decisions, then they must be undone and the people who made them must no longer be listened to.
The sport has annual revenues of $1.8 billion and could improve on that significantly. If this money cannot sustain 12 teams and fund the activities of the FIA, while also giving a promoter a fair share and allowing the sport to invest in the future, then something is very wrong.