“Now, here’s a dec­la­ra­tion of pas­sion from me. I For­mula 1. And here’s why…”

F1 Racing (UK) - - CHEQUERED FLAG -

I love it for the skill and brav­ery of the men who risk their lives in 200mph wheel-to-wheel com­bat. I love it be­cause the cars they race are mar­vels of ad­vanced au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy. I love it for the joy of be­ing part of a globe-trot­ting sport peo­pled by out­stand­ing in­di­vid­u­als. I even love the drama of the po­lit­i­cal cut-and-thrust for power. It is a fas­ci­nat­ing world, but at the mo­ment it is in a very wor­ry­ing del­i­cate state.

F1 has al­ways been a hot­bed of dis­agree­ment. As long ago as 1961 there was up­roar when the gov­ern­ing body changed the en­gine reg­u­la­tions. In 1982 the drivers went on strike against a su­per­li­cence re­quire­ment that ad­versely af­fected them. In fact, the early 1980s were a con­stant bat­tle be­tween the teams, led by Bernie Ec­cle­stone, and the gov­ern­ing body, and there have been plenty of con­fronta­tions since. But to­day’s sit­u­a­tion is es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing.

The sport’s com­pli­cated gov­er­nance sys­tem has led the nor­mally apo­lit­i­cal drivers to call for re­form. Ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tions are that the FIA seem un­able or un­will­ing to lead from the front. Bernie Ec­cle­stone, who for so long ruled the sport with a rod of iron, seems to have lost his om­nipo­tence since sell­ing the com­mer­cial rights to CVC, who seem more in­ter­ested in max­imis­ing their in­vest­ment than in pro­mot­ing the sport.

Bernie’s power has also been af­fected by an ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to work as closely with FIA boss Jean Todt as he did with Max Mosley. Plus, there’s an on­go­ing fight be­tween Bernie and the en­gine man­u­fac­tur­ers, and con­tention be­tween the teams and the com­mer­cial rights holder about how F1’s in­come should be dis­trib­uted.

On top of all this there’s been con­stant mind­chang­ing about 2016 qual­i­fy­ing and the 2017 reg­u­la­tions. All of which is of lit­tle in­ter­est to the pub­lic, who just want ex­cit­ing rac­ing on TV. And now, when view­ing fig­ures are de­clin­ing, we are told there will be no more free live cov­er­age of all the races af­ter 2018. I have no crit­i­cism of Sky TV for us­ing their fi­nan­cial clout to mo­nop­o­lise live cov­er­age. They do a great job and they’ll gain some more view­ers from those who are pre­pared to pay, but, de­pen­dant on who, if any­one, is pre­pared to show high­lights, over­all view­ing will suf­fer. And if view­ing fig­ures de­crease, the fu­ture au­di­ence and spon­sor in­ter­est will do so, too.

So what’s the an­swer? I don’t know: I’m just glad I don’t have to try to clear up the mess. I’ll con­cen­trate on the up­com­ing races, which at least of­fer a glim­mer of hope for en­ter­tain­ing view­ing. Writ­ing just af­ter the Chi­nese GP, I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing whether Ros­berg can main­tain his su­pe­ri­or­ity over Lewis Hamil­ton (I doubt it) and whether Fer­rari can beat the Sil­ver Ar­rows of­ten enough (I doubt that, too).

Can the im­pres­sive Haas and Ro­main Gros­jean at last make Amer­ica, the mar­ket F1 needs so much, in­ter­ested in F1? How will wun­derkind Max Ver­stap­pen de­velop as his ex­pe­ri­ence grows? Can Mclaren and Honda give their two world cham­pi­ons the tools to get the job done? That’ll keep me go­ing for now.

But, for the fu­ture’s sake, please Bernie Ec­cle­stone, please Jean Todt, please CVC, please the teams and the en­gine man­u­fac­tur­ers, get to­gether and right the ship be­fore it sinks. For the sake of the sport, all the fans who are so con­cerned, and, of course, your­selves. And to those who think I’m a naïve old fool for think­ing it’s pos­si­ble, I say it’s been done be­fore and it has to be done again or we’re all in the soup.

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