An Open Letter to Donald Mackenzie, Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and every member of the #F1
community, past and present.
Waking up today in my sleepy, midwestern America town that once had a strong connection with motor racing, I can no longer remain silent as I watch Formula One -- a sport I have devoted far too many hours of my life to following -- continue to dissolve into a parody of itself.
It’s not bad enough that this marvelous season is about to be concluded with “double points” being awarded in its final race -- a decision clearly taken by people who love and understand money far more than they could ever hope to love and understand what makes motor racing special. But having to read that the sport is seriously considering having its wealthy teams field 3-car entries for 2015, and with HRT and Marussia gone, Caterham on the thinnest of ice, and teams like Sauber, Lotus and Force India crying out for help to get them through this rough patch, it is becoming increasingly more clear each day that the overly-wealthy people “in charge” of F1 have lost the plot, and need to rejoin the rest of us back here on planet earth.
I started following F1 in those pre-internet days when following the sport meant hours in the stacks at the local university’s library, poring over foreign newspapers for any snippet of news about what had recently transpired. Or dialing the shortwave radio to the BBC World Service for any precious insight into that day’s Grand Prix they could squeeze into a bulletin of world news. When the drivers had names like Jacky Ickx, Carlos Reutemann, James Hunt, and people who spoke about teams like Surtees, Tyrrell or Arrows knew they were speaking about something special.
The “double points” bunch who would have us watch the 3rd entry of the rich teams or the customer cars being “driven” by pay drivers seem oblivious to what the midfield teams like Sauber, Lotus and Force India bring to our sport. Even with 3rd entries, there are not hundreds of engineer, aerodynamicist, engine design, mechanic etc. jobs on offer at the top teams. Midfield teams provide vital employment opportunities for talented people who have not been captured by one of the top teams to ply their trade, build their knowledge and experience in an environment in which innovation is at a premium, where doing more with less is the way it has to be, where daring to conceive of a different way is encouraged.
It’s Adrian Newey at March. It’s Frank Williams and Patrick Head starting from scratch on a shoestring. It’s the audacity of Giancarlo Minardi wanting to mix it up with those guys an hour up the A14. It’s Ross Brawn answering opportunity’s knock to create a season where drivers who only ever needed a chance, like Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, could finally prove their worth.
I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider your positions in F1. You ought to act more like stewards of the sport, which would be nothing without its fans. I urge you to stop acting as if maximizing profit is the be all and end all of our sport. As if as long as the stock is offered, the TV contracts carefully drawn, and the money keeps flowing in from the likes of the royal dictatorship of Bahrain, or mafia-like despots like Vladimir Putin or Ilham Aliyev, the sport will continue to prosper. That is a false future for our sport.
Our sport’s future lies instead in the places where it became great. Not only physical places like Spa and Monza, but in the hearts and minds of the fans for whom a race weekend continues to offer a few hours of escape rather than a champagne pouring, glitzy night of hobnobbing with the very wealthiest people who are scheming to get wealthier. It lies in the notebooks of the dreamers who could care less about IPOs, LBOs, P/E ratios and the lexicon of money, and far more about KERS, "squeeze tests", blown diffusers and tire wear.
Our sport is about magic and possibility. It’s about a team that grew from a genius making calls from a telephone booth to the zenith of success with perhaps the greatest driver to ever have sat in a motor car, which survived tragedy after tragedy, fighting back against the greatest adversity, becoming a back-marker, only to rise once more like the proverbial phoenix, with a driver who came from death’s door, to have the most callous and rude things said about him in his previous job, to ascend the podium at Interlagos to feel the love of the people -- race fans -- who desperately need a seat at the table as the next round of decisions are made about F1’s future.
I never thought I could turn away from IndyCar racing, but then I never thought that a big money pissing match would break out in the very cathedral of U.S. motor sport, turning The Greatest Spectacle in Racing into an asterisk-laden pale imitation of itself for too many years when I would have preferred to have been watching it.
I never thought I could turn away from NASCAR like I have, but I guess it was one too many caution flags thrown for “debris” on the backstretch, one too many post-race fisticuffs session, one too many finish where the drivers’ safety took a back seat to “giving the fans a good ending”. By the way, the advent of mega-teams may have kept a full field of cars starting, but it also gave us the era of “start and park”, where there was no place in the sport for the James Hyltons, J.D. McDuffies and Ramo Stotts, and where North Wilkesboro wasn’t glamorous enough a place to race anymore.
I never thought I could contemplate turning away from F1 like I am, but the sport is moving away from fans like me. So don’t.
Akron, Ohio, USA #GrandPrix #F12014 #Rosberg #Interlagos #LewisHamilton #F1 #NicoRosberg #Rosberg #Hamilton #Motorsport #McLaren #McLarenF1 #RedBullRacing #RBR #Vettel #Ferrari #STR #ToroRosso #Massa #Bottas #Kimi #Alonso #ForceIndia #Lotus #Caterham #Marussia #F1onNBCSN