Will F1 ever be able to go for gold?

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

peo­ple is roughly the same – al­beit on a slightly less el­e­vated level. When the Bri­tish govern­ment com­mit­ted hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds to the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, at Sil­ver­stone we were still try­ing to work out how to square the cir­cle of build­ing new pit and pad­dock fa­cil­i­ties (note: NOT new grand­stands for the pay­ing fans) and cover the cost of the FOM race-host­ing fee, with­out do­ing some­thing re­gret­table. We had lim­ited help from lo­cal govern­ment and vir­tu­ally no fund­ing from cen­tral govern­ment. The very thought of ask­ing for some back­ing from UK plc made us wince in the con­text of all the more de­serv­ing causes queue­ing up for pub­lic money. In any case, F1 was a po­lit­i­cal hot potato. An al­ready rich sport pop­u­lated by mil­lion­aire play­boys liv­ing in tax havens driv­ing Fer­raris is not go­ing to get pop­u­lar sup­port for tax pay­ers’ cash.

But the fact that Lon­don 2012 brought gold-medal-win­ning PR, which has car­ried for­ward into this year’s games (ef­fec­tively triple­jump­ing the re­turn on in­vest­ment), only serves to un­der­line the power of sport in win­ning hearts and minds. ‘Please ex­plain, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, how our il­lus­tri­ous megapower of 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple could not beat a tiny joke coun­try with a bum­bling clown for a sec­re­tary of state for For­eign and Com­mon­wealth af­fairs?’ God bless him. It’s a tough one. Un­less the Olympic dream is be­ing down­graded over there and they no longer re­ally care? But I doubt that.

No. This Olympics was a vic­tory for the idea that de­vel­oped demo­cratic western cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­eties have the edge over the ex­com­mu­nist/so­cial­ist au­toc­ra­cies… pro­vided you ban the cheats in ad­vance. Our bank­ing sys­tem might be in melt­down, our democ­racy might pro­duce the odd sur­prise that catches politi­cians off bal­ance, but we’re still rolling along, singing “Hig­gity, hag­gity, hoggety, high!” Which brings me back to wag­ons.

Con­jec­ture about mo­tor­sport be­com­ing an Olympic sport in­creased when the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) ofcially recog­nised the FIA as an In­ter­na­tional Sport­ing Fed­er­a­tion in 2013. This was only pos­si­ble, how­ever, after the FIA had cre­ated the Driv­ers’ Com­mis­sion in 2012 (note the date) be­cause un­til that point it did not have ath­lete rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as re­quired by the IOC. Now it does. All tick­ety-boo then.

But how much inuence does this ‘Voice of the Driv­ers’ have? It claims to rep­re­sent all driv­ers ‘in all world­wide FIA cham­pi­onships’. How so? Does it have leg­isla­tive power? A veto? A bud­get? I won­der if this Driv­ers’ Com­mis­sion is just a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise to gain ad­mis­sion to the IOC. In any case, the FIA has to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of the teams, man­u­fac­tur­ers and pro­mot­ers in the sport also. And th­ese bod­ies do not al­ways see eye to eye. For­mer IOC pres­i­dent Jac­ques Rogge noted that the Olympics is about ‘ath­letes not equip­ment’ so it’s hard to see how any mo­tor­sport event could be in­cluded. Cer­tainly this con­cept is anath­ema to F1, which is as much a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween man­u­fac­tur­ers as it is be­tween ath­letes. Nev­er­the­less, the con­cept of each coun­try putting for­ward lead­ing driv­ers to com­pete in some form of mo­tor­sport event in equal equip­ment is mouth­wa­ter­ing. But it will not be through F1. Mean­while the FIA has some way to go, in my view, to claim mean­ing­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the ath­lete. It’s not re­ally in their DNA.

Could For­mula 1 rac­ing driv­ers one day find them­selves com­pet­ing for their coun­tries at a fu­ture Olympic Games?

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