It’s a shame that a track – for some of a certain age – perhaps best known for the violent death of one of our greatest racers as he ran on the limit (Jim Clark – 1968) should now be associated with an event that demonstrates quite the opposite of true racing.
Team orders at this weekend’s German Grand Prix dictated that one driver – clearly in line for a win – should move over to let his team mate pass and be credited with the win he should have had.
Business and sport are uneasy bedfellows in Formula One. The true fan isn’t sufficiently naive to realise the sport can survive without business money. But business does seem to think it can behave in whatever way it likes.
As my colleague, F1 analyst Joe Saward put it so eloquently in his latest review of the race:
” For the average fan what is important is not just that they watch a straight fight between two competitors, but that the sport itself is portrayed in a good light. Fans are passionate about the sport, about its traditions and they want to be able to say that they are proud of it when challenged by some ping-pong freak or a follower of synchronised swimming.
“…what drives sports fans to spend their money on luxuries such as team memorabilia and very fast cars is not the result, but rather the way results are achieved. They will spend more if they feel an engagement with the team. If it makes them feel good.”
It’s the same feeling I got when Schumacher raced. Again – Joe makes the point which, although talking about Alonso, could easily be applied to Michael:
“There are two ways of winning: one can win in a functional sense and one can win in style…Winning was the goal and the route taken to get there was not important to him.”
It’s why I will never regard Michael as one of our greatest drivers, even though his ‘achievements’ on paper look impressive.
We all admire the skills of those at the top of their game. But we also like to be inspired. And the one thing that F1 isn’t doing at the moment – even though we’ve had the occasional joust and spin – is inspiring the next generation.
Business – take note. Inspired people spend money.
Oh, and by the way, when an engineer informs his driver that the other guy’s quicker, then that driver increases his pace, doesn’t he? He certainly doesn’t slow down and let the other driver by.
And if Mr Massa had led a Ferrari 1-2, the team would still have come away from the GP with 43 points.