Dubai: “They’re killing this sport” is a phrase batted around with liberal intemperance by pretty much everyone. The “sport” they’re referring to is whatever sport they happen to like, and the “they’re” refers to a non-specified person or persons who may or may not be in direct control of whatever it is they’re on about.
Still, there’s no denying that the world’s sports-fans have a gripe. Be it about ticket-prices, boring spectacles or their mega-rich teams being beaten by a rag-tag bunch of English midlanders.
Formula 1 is no exception. Ever since CVC Capital Partners took 35 per cent ownership of the sport they have siphoned off money of such high figures that there aren’t enough zeroes left to type it out in full. They drain the sport of its money, they charge promoters horrendously high fees who in turn have to charge high ticket prices, and don’t they don't invest back into the sport. It's a cash cow, pure and simple.
TV viewers don’t get off lightly either. The move towards Pay-TV has cut viewership by millions. Many people are turning to illegal streaming online to get their pixelated-fix.
The whole business model, if it warrants the term, offers the money-men a short-term boom but the long-term damage to the sport is yet to be realised. A promoter that can’t sell all his tickets and an audience switching off in droves is going to make the sport much harder to sell, and make it much harder to attract new business.
Add this to the fact that CVC want a reported £6b for their stake and it’s hard to see anyone other than another load of soulless financiers taking the reigns.
That’s before we get to the actual governance of the sport. FIA President Jean Todt is on a very noble quest to improve road safety around the world. However this has taken his focus away from the business of actually ensuring Formula 1, the world’s most popular racing series, is being run properly.
Bernie Ecclestone wants the sport to move away from hybrid technology and wants to improve the show. His job is to make money and it’s clear that this has overtaken his desire to promote a healthy-looking sport.
Then there’s the teams. One minute they’re at each other’s throats and the next they’re trying to form a trade union to bring about change for their own interests – which are never aligned.
We could go on and on about the cooks and their over-done broth, and I feel guilty having only offered a crumb of text on the subject, but that’s not the point of today’s post.
What with all the behind-the-scenes politicking and billion-pound sales and falling viewing figures and empty grandstands, 2016 has given us three excellent races.
And isn’t that all we really care about?
While the dominance of Nico Rosberg could be argued as a dull factor, the fact that he’s overtaken Lewis Hamilton as the top-man has brought a new angle to the fight. More so because Mercedes aren’t as far ahead this year. Ferrari, and seemingly Red Bull, have closed up too.
It’s game on.
We’ve seen Hamilton humbled which, even if you’re a fan of his, is giving us all a chance to observe just how ‘great’ he really is. How will he respond to the pressure of being second-best? Will we see a new side of him as he tries to get back on top? Rosberg has stepped things up a gear and as such has won six races in a row. Only the fourth man to do so.
It’s been fantastic to see the Ferraris get up close and both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have, despite being unlucky, driven out of their skins.
In fact it’s hard to pick out a driver who hasn’t done something special this year. Even Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein briefly fought gallantly in sixth in China.
Ok, Rio Haryanto hasn’t done much, but he’s not done anything silly either.
After just three races we may have only had one winner, and I’ve no doubt that if Rosberg carries on his winning streak we’ll all be moaning. But the action that has gone on behind has been superb.
Whether it’s down to the addition of an extra tyre, better cars, or the tightening of radio usage regulations, or a combination of all three, there’s no other way to describe it…