RACER’S EDGE

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS - @F1rac­ing _mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag PETER WIND­SOR

Peter Wind­sor on the loss of Alonso to For­mula 1

Although Fer­nando might say that he made his de­ci­sion to quit F1 “months ago”, I’ll bet my au­to­graphed copy of Jim Clark at the Wheel that he made up his mind only when Re­nault told him they weren’t in­ter­ested.

In other words, the se­cond-big­gest name in F1 would be rac­ing in 2019 if only some of the power­bro­kers had found the time to stop munch­ing their lunches in dark-win­dowed mo­torhomes and for once done some­thing use­ful.

I note that Fer­nando has thanked Chase Carey of Lib­erty for try­ing to per­suade him not to leave F1. I don’t doubt that Carey used his best en­deav­ours – but try­ing to con­vince Fer­nando to spend an­other year in the mid­field with Mclaren is very dif­fer­ent from get­ting your hands dirty and bro­ker­ing a deal for Fer­nando to drive the lead, fac­tory Re­nault.

Be­cause that’s what should have hap­pened. The new own­ers of F1 should have re­alised that the “in­flu­ence” needed to place Fer­nando at Re­nault and Daniel back at Red Bull would have been chicken-feed rel­a­tive (a) to the up­lift this would have given the cham­pi­onship and (b) to the money that no doubt will be spent on new en­gines and new car reg­u­la­tions over the next few years.

And let’s not for­get the words of Re­nault’s Pres­i­dent, Car­los Ghosn, to Nigel Roe­buck, a year ago in Paris: “We would kill to have Alonso….”

There are those who say that Bernie Ec­cle­stone would have made it hap­pen. I don’t buy that. We knew how Bernie’s brain was work­ing when Seb Vet­tel left Red Bull at the end of 2014. That was the per­fect time to place Fer­nando at Red Bull – yet Bernie did noth­ing and left Mclaren to do their worst.

In fair­ness to Bernie, we should re­mem­ber that he never made driver place­ment his thing. Yes, he once put Jac­ques Vil­leneuve in a Sauber when he felt the mid­field needed a boost; and he was al­ways sym­pa­thetic to the odd Brazil­ian driver or two. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, how­ever, Bernie’s ap­proach to rac­ing driv­ers was pretty raw: they were dis­pens­able and they could be re-cre­ated overnight.

Lib­erty, though, are dif­fer­ent. Their man­date from the start has been to make F1 The Great­est Show on Earth. Lib­erty’s John Mal­one didn’t start life in se­cond-hand car yards; his em­pire grew di­rectly from the me­dia busi­ness – from ra­dio, TV and ca­ble.

Which is why The Show is so crit­i­cal to Lib­erty. As an or­gan­i­sa­tion they’re clearly not cut out for un­der-the-ta­ble deals. They crave a nice, clean, glob­ally watched show that gen­er­ates bil­lions in spon­sor­ship and TV rev­enue.

Which brings me back to Fer­nando. You would have thought that a driver line-up that in­cludes Ric­cia­rdo-ver­stap­pen and Alon­so­sainz (I sus­pect Fer­nando would have loved to have had Car­los in the other car) would be much bet­ter for The Show than will be Ver­stap­pen-gasly/ric­cia­rdo-hülken­berg?

And please don’t think that the teams are not open to per­sua­sion. It’s just that it’s eas­ier, as I say, to fo­cus on the gravlax and the se­cond glass of Château Lafite than it is to sit down with Re­nault and Red Bull to see how they can work to­gether to make an Alonso deal hap­pen. It would have in­volved se­ri­ous in­flu­ence – but it would have been in­flu­ence well-spent at a time when pay-tv au­di­ences are con­tin­u­ing to de­cline and Alonso him­self is go­ing to be gen­er­at­ing ma­jor view­ing stats else­where. And as a dou­ble-whammy you would still have had Daniel scor­ing a win or three at RBR.

“But Re­nault didn’t want Alonso – and vice versa!” I hear you say. Non­sense. Of course Fer­nando’s dif­fi­cult. You’d have to be a cretin, though, not to ap­pre­ci­ate how good he is on race days. As for Fer­nando: don’t make me laugh. You’re telling me that he would have re­fused a num­ber-one drive at Re­nault for the right money? Maybe, if he was re­tir­ing… but he’s not. He still wants to race. It’s just that he doesn’t want to race where he is….

Bot­tom line: leave it to the teams and, gen­er­ally speak­ing, it’ll be a mess. They will act only in their own in­ter­est and not in the in­ter­est of F1 as a show. Ergo, Lib­erty should be the only game in town when it comes to see­ing the big­ger pic­ture.

Prob­lem is, they haven’t been watch­ing it. No pre­vi­ous com­mer­cial rights holder “in­ter­fered” with team-driver ne­go­ti­a­tions, so why should they?

“Why shouldn’t they?” is the bet­ter ques­tion. A few years ago, I sug­gested in a Christ­mas edi­tion of F1 Rac­ing that an F1 of

the fu­ture should fea­ture a driver auc­tion be­fore ev­ery race. And I still think it’s a great idea: no driver can be hired by the same team for two con­sec­u­tive races; the auc­tion be­comes a huge TV event – watched glob­ally, live, with teams sav­ing wild cards or hir­ing jok­ers as they wish. The build-up is full of un­knowns and sus­pense. Ev­ery driver at some point races quick cars and back-of-the-grid makeweights. The best driv­ers are paid the most – but the salary scale (auc­tion price), in ef­fect, is based on re­sults – and the to­tal amount of money spent is self-reg­u­lat­ing, so there is no need for dead-end con­cepts such as bud­get caps. Such a for­mat would be per­fect for Lib­erty Me­dia. It is about mar­ket­ing, pro­mo­tion, pay-tv, so­cial me­dia and huge num­bers.

We’re a long way from that; in­deed, given the way most F1 peo­ple think, it will prob­a­bly never hap­pen.

The Alonso move, how­ever, would have been do-able and great for the fans. More fans mean more TV view­ers, more spon­sors and more rev­enue – in Spain where pay TV and Alonso’s poor car per­for­mance in re­cent years have been killing the coun­try’s F1 pro­file, but also world­wide, for the Fer­nando name is still that big.

Most of all, though, it would have seen a pro­moter ac­tu­ally pro­mot­ing. Not wast­ing loot on unim­por­tant pe­riph­eries or over-com­pli­cated tech­nol­ogy. Just en­sur­ing that we have the best pos­si­ble driv­ers in the best pos­si­ble seats. Sim­ple.

YOU’RE TELLING ME THAT HE WOULD HAVE RE­FUSED A NUM­BER ONE DRIVE AT RE­NAULT FOR THE RIGHT MONEY? MAYBE, IF HE WAS RE­TIR­ING… BUT HE’S NOT. HE STILL WANTS TO RACE

Alonso and Sainz might have made a good part­ner­ship at Re­nault; now Sainz will re­place Fer­nando at Mclaren

Fer­nando Alonso wasn’t tempted by an­other sea­son in a Mclaren

Could or should Chase Carey and Lib­erty try to per­suade the top teams to keep the top driv­ers in the sport?

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