Formula 1: Bernie Ecclestone - The Master Plan

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Formula 1: Bernie Ecclestone - The Master Plan

I have had a late night over this one so I am hoping that it makes sense, if not just ignore me, I am babbling on thinking of a sleepier place with fluffy pillows.

Bernie Ecclestone as of late has been somewhat under fire for his decisions, the more high profile ones being:

  • Still no Grand Prix in the USA.
  • Brazil no longer the last race of the season, now it's Abu Dhabi.
  • Silverstone given the chop, Donington Park in.

These are the big ones, but rest assured I could go on. Dealing with all kinds of on goings, the little niggly things that really make us ask that big question, just what the hell is Bernie playing at?

I have been doing a lot of research into why Bernie is dropping the tracks that he is dropping and why he wants to move certain GP’s away and hand a deal to less established GP countries like Russia and India. I am trying to get on his level (which is hard because I am 6’2” tall) and understand what his mindset is with these changes.

Well it just so happens that I think I might know what is going on in that little man’s head, I have a theory anyway. Obviously I don’t know for sure because I don’t know the guy, but this is just my attempt to fathom out what he is doing to our sport. Read on to see what I think and see if you agree.

See below the breakdown of the GP’s up to and including the 2007 season:

  • 1) Australia - Albert Park - 12 GP's (96-07)
  • 2) Malaysian - Sepang - 9 GP's (99-07)
  • 3) Bahrain - Bahrain - 4 GP's (04-07)
  • 4) Spain - Circuit De Catalunya - 17 GP's (91-07)
  • 5) Monaco - Monaco - 54 GP's (50, 55-07)
  • 6) Canada - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - 25 GP's (82-86, 88-07)
  • 7) USA - Indianapolis - 8 GP's (00-07)
  • 8) France - Magny-Cours - 17 GP's (91-07)
  • 9) Great Britain - Silverstone - 41 GP's (50-54, 56, 58, 60, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 85, 87-07)
  • 10) Europe GP - Nurburgring - 16 GP's (54, 61, 68, 74, 84, 95-96, 99-07)
  • 11) Hungary - Hungaroring - 21 GP's (86-07)
  • 12) Turkey - Istanbul Park - 3 GP's (05-07)
  • 13) Italy - Monza - 56 GP's (50-79, 81-07)
  • 14) Belgium - Spa-Francorchamps - 40 GP's (50-56, 58, 60-68, 70, 83, 85-02, 04-05, 07)
  • 15) Japan - Fuji Speedway - 3 GP's (76-77, 07)
  • 16) China - Shanghai - 4 GP's (04-07)
  • 17) Brazil - Interlagos - 25 GP's (73-77, 79-80, 90-07)

TOTAL – 355 World Championship Grand Prix held.

Looking at the list, we have a number of well established tracks who have been key players on the F1 calendar for years. Big guns like Monaco, Canada, Silverstone, Hungary, Monza, Spa, and Interlagos. Tracks that you would think will never be dropped from the calendar, BUT a giant has been slain, Silverstone fell at the hands of the David in this Goliath story.

Bernie is a lot bigger than he actually seems. He has now proven that he won’t take any back chat from the BRDC and warning after warning has been launched, but they have fallen on deaf ears. Now Bernie has lost his cool and taken action, so it’s goodbye Silverstone and hello Donington Park in 2010.

So let's compare 2007 to 2009. There is still no mention on a USA GP and we are getting more new tracks confirmed in the shape of Abu Dhabi, Valencia, and Singapore. The 2009 calendar shapes up below:

  • 1) Australia - Albert Park - 14 GP's (96-09)
  • 2) Malaysian - Sepang - 11 GP's (99-09)
  • 3) Bahrain - Bahrain - 6 GP's (04-09)
  • 4) Spain - Circuit De Catalunya - 19 GP's (91-09)
  • 5) Monaco - Monaco - 56 GP's (50, 55-09)
  • 6) Canada - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - 27 GP's (82-86, 88-09)
  • 7) Great Britain - Silverstone - 43 GP's (50-54, 56, 58, 60, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 85, 87-09)
  • 8) France - Magny-Cours - 19 GP's (91-09)
  • 9) Germany - Nurburgring - 23 GP's (51-54, 56-58, 61-69, 71-76, 85)
  • 10) Hungary - Hungaroring - 23 GP's (86-09)
  • 11) Turkey - Istanbul Park - 5 GP's (05-09)
  • 12) European - Valencia - 2 GP's (08-09)
  • 13) Italy - Monza - 58 GP's (50-79, 81-09)
  • 14) Belgium - Spa-Francorchamps - 42 GP's (50-56, 58, 60-68, 70, 83, 85-02, 04-05, 07-09)
  • 15) Singapore - Street Circuit - 2 GP's (08-09)
  • 16) Japan - Suzuka - 21 GP's (87-06, 09)
  • 17) China - Shanghai - 6 GP's (04-09)
  • 18) Brazil - Interlagos - 27 GP's (73-77, 79-80, 90-09)
  • 19) Abu Dhabi - Yas Island - 2 GP's (08-09)

TOTAL – 408 World Championship Grand Prix held.

Yes I know the figure is higher, BUT we haven’t lost Silverstone on this calendar remember. We have gained Nurburgring, plus there are another two races on the calendar. So because nothing has been predicted for 2010 yet, we can only work on rumors.

Let’s say that Magny-Cours gets dropped, that's 19 total GP’s gone. Then Silverstone has gone the journey, scratch 43 out. That’s 62 less in total, already dropping us below the level of 2007.

I hope your still with me.

It’s rumored that Korea and India will both get a GP in 2010. So does Bernie want to make the season longer or is he going to sacrifice more big guns? If he sacrifices more of the long players, then your GP total will be dropping out of the 300s. And lower still, with the Canadian, Hungarian, Turkish, and Italian GP all still without a confirmation for 2010, it looks likely that we could lose one of them.

So why Bernie? What are you doing?

Why have all these new circuits in place of older more established ones, surely we lose the history, the nostalgia. These are tracks that the regular true fans of the sport come rain or shine, win or lose. The ones who sit or stand there every Sunday that a race is on have come to know and love.

We have many, many great stories about races that have taken place on these tracks. Yet it looks more and more increasingly certain that we will have to say goodbye to old tracks like we say goodbye to old friends.

My thoughts on this is that he is trying to give the sport a brand new fresh face, a new era for Formula One. For the first time ever, I am getting on board with Bernie, I think I kind of understand his methods and what he is thinking.

Let’s think what happened to Formula One while Michael Schumacher was dominating proceedings. As great as he was, we lost a lot of publicity and people lost interest. Ratings dropped and the sport was dubbed as “boring.”

Love him or hate him, when Lewis Hamilton was promoted to the ranks of F1 as the McLaren rookie, the ratings, especially here in the UK, rocketed. They quite literally exploded.

People could relate to the youngster. Not only as a young man with a talent who could succeed alongside the world champion at the time, Fernando Alonso, but as a young, mixed race man in a sport predominantly competed in by white males.

This injected a new passion for our sport, we captured a whole new audience. Not only the original male audience, but a younger male audience, a young female audience, and of course an older female audience. The type who would love to mother Lewis and maybe bag themselves a boy toy in the process.

The UK have a driver in a competitive car who has a great chance to win something. Us Brits like to win but it's unfortunately something that we don’t get to do so often, so when it comes around you can be sure we will be right there behind our hopeful.

So, in the same vein let’s look at the new guys coming through who are dominating the headlines of this sport. Of course we have Lewis Hamilton, also Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel, and Heikki Kovalainen, sorry if I missed anyone. But let’s not get sidetracked, you know what I am getting at.

These are the drivers of tomorrow making an impact today, they are the future of the sport. New guys coming through the ranks in GP2 like young Bruno Senna is nipping at the bud to get to drive.

So, what next? Let’s have a look at car technologies. With the traction control taken away, the slicks being added next year, and the introduction of KERS (See my article on “2009, a new era for F1” for details), the sport is becoming more exciting and faster, also I suppose in some ways more unique to all other motorsports.

These are big changes. Which other sport can boast about being at the very top of the pyramid, the top of the chain when it comes to groundbreaking technology advancements.

Can anyone see where I am going yet? I hope so because my head hurts.

So with all this taken into consideration we then have Bernie and his new tracks. It now seems to me that bit by bit he is trying to give F1 a complete overhaul, a brand new look, a re-design, a fresh outlook for the future.

New drivers, new technologies, and new tracks. Maybe it is time to move to a new era of the sport and capture even more of an audience. With that being successful, surely there will be more money, more sponsors, more media interest, and on the whole all of this can’t be bad for the sport.

Ultimately Bernie Ecclestone is “future proofing” the sport of F1, it’s his “master plan.” Now do you see where I was going with this? I think if I am right, then I am actually behind Bernie.

But surely he must know the bad name he is getting for not only himself but for the sport by not really giving reasons for his decisions. He should be out there beating a drum about what his future vision is.

Now that I have looked at things from Bernie’s point of view I am nearly onboard with Donington Park being the temporary new home for the British Grand Prix, it kind of makes sense. But as it stands, I am still sore and I still want to see a Silverstone track on my calendar. Let's get it updated and get our British Grand Prix back at the home of British motorsport.

So there you have it, my point of view from the man who goes by the name of Bernie Ecclestone, the 77-year-old F1 Supremo, the “Big” chief, the gaffer, the man who holds all the cards.

Do you agree with me? Do you think you can get on board with him should this actually be his master plan? What would you maybe do differently? How would you like to see the future of F1 go? Do you think that all these new tracks are good or bad news?

Let me know people, this is your soap box, use it!

Ben, Over and Out!

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