December 23, 2008

Dancing on the decks of the Titanic

Of course you have been following the latest bickering between Bernie Ecclestone and Luca Di Montezemolo.

I'm guessing how you feel about it has largely to do with your stance on Ferrari, haters will be only too glad to have confirmation of what was an obvious open secret, that Ferrari has received a larger share of the revenue pie. Ecclestone's comment that "we bought Ferrari's loyalty" was especially nasty with its mafioso tinge.

Truth is Ferrari and F1 have done well for each other and while it's very hard to imagine one existing without the other, I would not put my money on Formula 1 without Ferrari. In the past Mr. Ecclestone's organization commended 70% of profits, and after the last round of squabbling it's now said to be 50/50. Ironically, in this time of crisis and with misguided ideas such as the standard engine for all, teams find themselves with much more leverage. They can just walk away perhaps to start their own series and keep more of the profits.

If there are any, because one thing Bernie has is his proven track record creating those profits. It remains to be seen if his divide and conquer power holding strategy will continue to work. Montezemolo claims he would renounce Ferrari's "extra special super friend" bonus and share equally with other teams in the context of a new agreement, or at least , more equally. It seems other teams are down with the notion some teams can be more equal than others including Ron Dennis and recently Toyota, so Mr Ecclestone's tactic may not work this time.

In the background of this money squabble on the edge of the abyss there is a more interesting subplot, the battle to keep Formula 1 roots alive. Montezemolo has been vocal in his criticism of new venues and circuits which only get seen on television. Fine, I applaud the sentiment and I agree that F1 belongs at Spa, Silverstone, Monza, the Nürburgring. I await his comments on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix home of one of Ferrari's biggest sponsors ... Certainly it would be great if others like Ron Dennis and Frank Williams were more outspoken rather than letting Ferrari take the heat from the little big man.

To me this constant chasing of new F1 venues in, frankly, unlikely parts of the world is vaguely reminiscent of certain financial schemes popularized in New York and Palm Beach lately. And who can afford to attend F1 races halfway across the world? Even if you live reasonably near a circuit, have you priced a Grand Prix ticket lately? I would hope that in their future cost saving plans teams might consider entertaining their sponsors in the paddock a little less and the public in the stands a little more. Otherwise it's just rich old men fighting.

But hey, Let's Dance!

Merry Christmas and a tire smoking New Year from Axis of Oversteer!

And go elf yourselves!


  1. I think that Montezemolo has a lot of great ideas on how to save F1 and restore it to its former glory. He has been talking about wanting more races in Europe and less in the Middle East and Asia. IMO they are doing the same thing that NASCAR has done over the last 4 years, they have tried to expand to places of the world that simply don't really have any interest in racing.

    Thats the only major thing that bugs me about F1 today is why dont they cater to their current fan base who are fanatic about its sport, rather then a mass of people who have never even heard of F1 before. Yes if you want to try and reach new markets you need to bring races there but......Its like soccer in the US, sure its popular in the rest of the world, but for the most part 98% of Americans just don't give a shit about it.

    Montezemolo also brought up ticket sales as well, they really do need to go down. IMO it is very important to have a huge fan base at the track. For instance at Spa, instead of selling 40-50k grand stand tickets @ $200 a piece (just a guess) why don't they lower the price to $100 for a grand stand seat and sell 80-100k. Not to mention they should also allow for really cheap tickets for like 10-15 bucks that just allow you to enter the track and find anyplace you can to sit.

  2. I agree that F1 ould go a long way to fix its ticket and seating issues. As an example this past (final) year at Montreal it was over $1000 USD for three days in the stands across from the pits.

    While I enjoyed the seats, it was obvious that F1 management still treated us like persona non Grata. It took over an hour at the track to pick up tickets, there were no "general admission" areas in case you wanted a different view and the souvenir prices were off the charts, try $75 for a hat.

    I'm not sure if these are normal prices for folks, but I make decent coin and I found them to be kind of high. So I would find it amazing difficult for someone to take a chance on F1 with that sort of pricing structure in place.

  3. I was just thinking, if I wanted to take my six year old son to see and F1 race, like my father did with me back in MIlano...well the most convenient venue from New York would probably still be Monza, a mere eight hour plane ride away. Or Silverstone but then I would have to contend with traffic!

    No races in North America is a joke.


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