Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Dark Day for Formula 1 Grand Prix

Am I a McLaren fan? Yes. Do I think Ron Dennis is an honest man? Yes. Do I think the penalty given to the team is unfair? Yes. Do I think the World Motorsport Council has got it wrong? Maybe.

I was shocked to hear amount of the fine imposed on McLaren. Then I found out that the team would lose all its constructors points. Even worse. $100 millon. Will we ever hear about how the WMC came to its conclusion? Probably not. I for one would think that the public need to know about the why's and what, and how's to better understand the judgement. The team by virtue of the huge penalty imposed on them will certainly take away sponsorship for the team. How on earth can they send the most competitive team to the gallows? It is a complex turn of events leading to the risk of undermining the pinacle of motorsport that is F1. What does the FIA now need to do in order to ensure the integrity of the sport. A single engine manufacturer sport? Not likely. F1 allows car manufacturers to advance motor technology and feed their technology to the everyday man. Think BMW with the development of F1 technology into road cars. V10 engines in their M Sport division. Suspension geometry to the masses. Braking technology saving peoples lives. And lets not forget tire technology. Although it is a sport, it is an advancement in motoring technology that benefits all. The last time we had a huge technological leap in transport was through several furious wars. Do we really need to do that? No. Sport provides much the same for improvement and innovation in technology.

Hopefully history will see this as a blip in F1 and not a turning point in the degeneration our approach to what we gain from a very interesting, strategic driven sport.

F1 does not appeal to everyone. And nor is it supposed to. Football, Rugby, Tennis, Basketball to me is akin to Street Fighter, Doom, R-Type (for those old enough to know) and Pac man. A quick fix of competitive sports. F1 is more like Age of Empire and other suitable strategy based games. There is plenty of chess play involved in F1. The subtle psychological battle field played both on and off the arena. Where for the ill informed or uninitiated, its a bunch of fast cars going round and round a circuit. Some may say that the sport has been diluted and that the spectacle of a car bursting into flames was part of the excitement is lost. This isn't a sport of brutality. It is a game of the utmost in professionalism. Of course there are the diva mentalities of the drivers which is part and parcel of the sport.

This years competition and competitiveness of two great drivers in McLaren should not be overshadowed by the spy scandal that looms over what has been so intriguing so far. What F1 has been missing is not the overtaking and sheer speed of old but the rivalry of totally brilliant and engaging driver personalities. Does this sound like a formula for a sporting soap opera? Of course it is. It is very much like a drama unfolding over a year and not like the total orchestrated dominance of one driver and one team that was Ferrari. The FIA listened to the paying public in our outrage of unsporting behaviour withing Ferrari and changed the rules accordingly to provide a fairer racing spectacle. Irvine and Barichello suffered at the hands of a team in love with a driver who although was somewhat of a miracle and a natural successor to Senna, discredited the sport. This recent event is clearly not on the same level. Espionage has been part of the make up of F1. How else would it have worked in the first place?

Another thing to consider is how this has come to be. Well into this years season and some wrong doing was discovered by who else but Ferrari. Miffed at not employing the world champion, although supposedly doing well to poach Raikkonen from McLaren, Ferrari knew from the start of the season that the opportunity to stamp their dominance on the sport was to be an aborted re-birth. Seeing the new talent Hamilton, a loyal servant to McLaren steal away points right from the start, initiated an intensity of suspicion that would accumulate in this terrible mark on the sport. Can I be bold enough to even suggest that Ferrari made a sacrificial lamb of Nigel Stepney. With his knowledge of intent to deliberately entrap McLaren to be a suspect of spying on Ferraris technology and strategy. Would Ferrari be willing to win the title by delibrately framing McLaren to win this years title? As distasteful as it may sound and also as biased as it may sound from me (after all we are all faced with taking sides now), could it be possible that Ferrari would stoop so low to win a title after the embarrassment of Renault winning twice.

On track form would suggest that McLaren had a rubbish time of it for the last two years. They could have done with a helping hand to be so successful this year. But just look at McLaren's conservate strategy for the times they did dominate the sport. Yes, through fairness towards its drivers and compliancy through the regulations and rules put to the sport. Ferrari regularly would push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour ultimately undermining the rules of the game. Some might say that they identified the weaknesses of the rules. Others might say that they took advantage of the bias of the members of the council. Let us be clear that Ferrari have always been close to being the death of F1. It is through their own arrogance that we are in the position that we are. Ever closer to F1 losing its identity and authority in the world of motorsport.

Most of all I feel sorry for Ron Dennis. A man greatly regarded as the most professional team bosses in Formula 1. His reputation more than tarnished. A man who has built career, reputation and "family" on the one thing special to him. You only have to look at how he has shaped the career and future of a young man from child to adulthood. Why? Because he believes. There are those like me who only believe in one thing about Ron Dennis, that he is the most sincerest operator in Formula 1. I hope this judgement will not see out an amazing man's career. The sport needs Ron Dennis. The sport needs McLaren.

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