Friday, July 15, 2005

Mr. Berinie Ecclestone. British Grand Prix, 2005.
All in all, this season has been gratifying since Fernando Alonso has been so incredibly quick and consistent. For his youth, he seems a very mature driver, and he appears to have the balance of his emotions and ego placed in proper perspective. In short, the guy is super talented and very cool. This is the best thing that could happen to Formula 1.

As far as Indianapolis is concerned, I believe there were unseen forces that may be quite pleased to see Formula 1 fall flat on its face here in America. Of course, when viewed from a strictly fan perspective, the entire episode was one giant farcical disappointment.

Several matters come to mind. Michelin, the internationally known and recognized tire company somehow did not do the necessary research and showed up in America without a tire that was capable of performing on the Indy track surface. Granted, Bridgestone had been at the 500, so they naturally would have had more data on the track surface and so were well advised in what compounds they had chosen prior to arriving at the Brickyard. It is astounding however, when you analyze the sequence of events. That first and foremost, a tire company participating in Motor racing at the highest level of international competition with billions of dollars involved throughout the entire enterprise, would be capable of going in blindly without having at least examined what options they might need to have or what kind of obstacles they might be expected to incur. It was not a secret that the race track had been resurfaced in some way or another which resulted in a grittier more abrasive characteristic.

Michelin shows up and discovers that the tires they have are relatively useless and worse yet they are dangerous. Ralf Schumacher goes off in a high speed shunt, and one other driver whose name escapes me now, goes out as well, and all the while Michel in have no clue. Except they do realize and admit that the safety of the drivers precludes them from simply pressing forward and acting as if everything would be alright. For this I give them a certain degree of respect.

So when the windup ensues you have the race itself, and all that it represents in terms of the perennial desire for Formula 1 to someday, somehow establish itself firmly and loyally in the minds and hearts of American racing fans.

And then you have the internecine intrigue between the intricately drawn factions of the International Grand Prix circus. Here we enter into cultural, financial, philosophical, and not the least, personal conflicts and long standing animosities.

From the Bridgestone perspective, why would they have wished to smooth over a gaffe that exposed their world’s greatest rival as something of a complete incompetent?

From the FISA point of view, I suppose they felt they would open a Pandora’s box of possibilities wherein which rules that are so incredibly complex, must be continuously revised and reformatted to account for so many variables within the sport and the technology that it draws from in large measure. These rules would perhaps then be the constant point of negotiation as other points of departure would come into question.

Finally, Scuderia Ferrari was showing as much compassion as the Italian Expeditionary Tank forces extended to Hailee Sallase and his vastly out numbered, camel bourne , sling shot bearing defense force in Ethiopia. Another less than memorable episode in 20th century Italian history.

FISA was in no way potent enough by way of silent persuasion to effectuate an ultimate compromise. Max Mosley would have been wise, in my opinion, to have made his way to the paddock and the negotiating table, because the entire BRAND of Formula 1 was suffer ring a devastating blow to its credibility, marketability, and general point of popular acceptance.

As it turns out, he remained somewhere in Europe, Paris I suppose, and from that distance felt safe enough while allowing Ecclestone to bear all of the justifiable ire and resentment from those fans who made their weekend around seeing a genuinely competitive International Grand Prix. They deserve, and I believe they eventually will receive, their money for admission refunded.

Furthermore, Mr. Ecclestone is one person who would have, if he were able, in and of his own will, put together a compromise solution so as to have the racing fans enjoy what they had come to see. There is no one that I know, in or out of Formula 1 who is more desirous of establishing a permanent presence and appreciation for Grand Prix racing in the U.S. than Bernie Ecclestone. He has made repeated attempts to educate, if you will, the civic leaders here in Las Vegas about the kind of product that Formula 1 confirms as unique and attended by a very high end marketing segment with disposable income far greater than what is demographically described by the NASCAR and other forms of all American motor racing.

The unfairness in regards to Ecclestone and the vents at the recent American Grand Prix, is that there are limits to what he personally can do without risking the opposite side of the critics corner wherein which he is accused of wielding totalitarian and dictatorial control over every aspect of the entire enterprise.

To my way of thinking, to the extent that in every instance where to a greater or lesser degree, "The Ecclestone as Czar model" is accurate, then the entire Formula 1 world and everyone involved in this endeavor in any way large or small, should be thankful for all of the years of incessant determination and unrelenting focus and vision with which Bernie Ecclestone has dedicated himself towards bringing together the very essence of what is accepted as the world?s premier Motor Racing series.

Most knowledgeable people with even the slightest awareness of Motor racing in general, will acknowledge that Grand Prix Formula 1 exists on a level of technical and physical challenge unlike any other form of entertainment in the world today. The very fact that Ecclestone has traveled from year to year from race to race, from airport to hotel to airplane to helicopter to jet to hotel and back around again is testimony to the superior discipline, motivation, intellect and abounding business genius that mark the achievements of this leader of the world of Grand Prix Motor Sport.

His comment about the women being advised to wear dresses the color of kitchen appliances was simply his "East End" London sense of humor flexing itself as a leit motif to a very stressful situation.

I know from first hand, personal experience that Bernie Ecclestone is a genuine humanitarian and extraordinarily generous to those he loves and cares about. He is unsparingly loyal to those loyal to him, and he is a person who has done innumerable acts of great kindness to help those less fortunate through times of overwhelming adversity.

His financial success should not be held against him, because every pound note Bernie may hold he well deserves because he has worked his butt off and taken many risks, suffered many personal setbacks and disappointments integral to the dangers of Formula 1 and survived it all to stand as the single most influential leader in the world of Motor Sport since the beginning of organized and sanctioned competition.

No one that I can identify comes even close to having been able to accomplish so much from every angle to see that so many people realized so much more as drivers, team owners, promoters, journalists, photographers, and accessory entrepreneurs of every ancillary stripe.

All persons related to this unique form of incredible excitement and test of competitive skill and technical expertise owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Mr. Ecclestone, and those persons who have character and real integrity within the sport itself realize this only too well.

Without him, Grand Prix Motor Racing as we know it today, would not exist. Case Closed
Michael P. Whelan Las Vegas, July 12, 2005.
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