Will F1 ever be able to go for gold?
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) ofcially 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 inuence 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?