The Reuters global sports blog
Speaking about the Formula One calendar and the continuing expansion to east and west, the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone declared this month that Europe was “finished“.
“It will be a good place for tourism but little else,” he told Spanish Sports daily Marca. “Europe is a thing of the past.”
With the financial pages full of Europe’s woes and the rise of the fast-moving BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) bloc, the 81-year-old was not just being his usual deliberately provocative self.
Formula One has always followed the money and there is still plenty of that sloshing around in the Middle East and Asia.
It is not by any means something that can be taken for granted in Formula One, but commonsense seems to have prevailed at last.
Silverstone’s deal with Bernie Ecclestone for the circuit to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years makes sense on so many levels and yet has been tougher to resolve than any of the controversies and scandals of recent years.
A lot of people are getting quite excited about the possibility of Michael Schumacher coming out of retirement to race for the new Mercedes F1 team (formerly known as champions Brawn) at the age of 41.
The German’s spokeswoman Sabine Kehm feels it is highly unlikely while Mercedes said at the weekend that “some speculations are nothing but dreams which will not come true” (although note the carmaker did not specifically say this particular piece of speculation was one of them).
While the Formula One world champion faces the difficult decision of whether to go to McLaren on six million pounds a year or stay with Brawn/Mercedes for what still amounts to a salary of lottery proportions, other drivers are not so fortunate.
With the departure of leading manufacturers and the effects of the global credit crunch, next year’s starting grid will see the return in numbers of a once familiar species that has been almost extinct in recent years — the paying driver.
If Bernie Ecclestone had got his way before the start of the season, Jenson Button might have been crowned Formula One champion in Singapore on Sunday.
The commercial supremo’s plan for the championship to be decided by an Olympic-style medals system, with the title going to the driver taking most golds, would have left Brawn’s Button out of reach.
Toyota-owned Fuji’s announcement that they are pulling the plug on hosting the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix leaves a question mark over the country’s future on the championship calendar.
Fuji had been due to host the race next year as part of an agreement to alternate with Honda-owned Suzuka. However since that deal was done, Honda have pulled out of Formula One and may not have too much of an incentive to pick up the slack.
One month on, and it appears to be all over. Ferrari won. In the war of the brands, it was no contest. And, in the end, it was Bernie Ecclestone who saw the writing on the wall for F1, too.
After a Paris breakfast with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo on Wednesday, he told FIA president Max Mosley it was over. No more crusades, no more rows over rules and no more daft outbursts. Ecclestone had to save the F1 brand, protect the investment of CVC Capital and his own interests, and make sure his old friend and ally knew what to expect: Game Over, Max.
The disagreement, which centred on Mosley’s plans to introduce a budget cap for the 2010 season, had threatened to end Formula One’s 60-year existence with eight teams including champions Ferrari prepared to walk away for good.
However the parallels being drawn at the Spanish Grand Prix this week have been less alluring — more to do with size zero health concerns than sexy looks or fashion sense.
Even in the often bizarre world of Formula One, this week’s points system controversy takes a bit of explaining.
Ultimately, inevitably it all comes down to politics.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) wanted to show the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) who called the shots while the teams were determined to demonstrate their own new-found unity and leadership.