True to form, Bernie Ecclestone has once again fired a fusillade over the Australian Grand Prix – suggesting that it would be required to become a night race to maintain its position on the F1 calender.
Ecclestone used a similar tactic every year with Silverstone – always within a few weeks of the British Grand Prix – demanding upgrades lest the rug should be pulled from under the BRDC. But rather than playing the Shylock, Ecclestone has placed the monkey firmly on the back of the Australian GP Board (and Victorian Government) by somberly stating: “We have other races ready to take the place of Australia– which we don’t want to happen. But it would be wrong of me to have to report to our board (the CVC rights holders), ‘Terribly sorry about this but we have to walk away from wherever to retain Australia.’”
Terrible burden Bernie E has to carry, as his poker face must now be weathering more zyphyrs thanMount Rushmore. That said, despite the obsequious relationship most of the F1 paddock and media has with Mr Ecclestone, its hard to fathom his austere used car salesman act has served so well for so many decades. No doubt Bernie has at least a dozen contracts for potential Grand Prix on his desk at any one time – two-thirds of which are purely there to serve as bargaining chips when dealing with events such as Melbourne.
But how long can the juggling act continue? With mid-field Formula 1 teams reporting (or rather leaking) missing sponsorship payments in the region of thirty-million Euro’s and others barely scraping in the 80 million required to make the grid, it appears that the global Formula 1 brand isn’t as attractive to blue chip corporations as it once was. So if the sponsors are getting cold feet, why should governments be any different? Only twelve months ago Melbourne Mayor, Robert Doyle expressed that from a financial point of view it might time for the Australian Grand Prix to go somewhere else, only to pose for a photo opportunity with a two-seater Minardi the very same week! Foolishly, the Victorian Government had also promised dollars for a track upgrade to an outer-Melbourne circuit promoter – despite the venue unlikely to meet F1 standards.
It’s a case of who blinks first and with stirrings of a Mexican Grand Prix on the horizon, it may just be the nervous man in the sombrero who decides to put everything he owns (or rather has borrowed) on black… Or is that red?
Maybe some of those cash-strapped F1 teams would be best served looking for sponsorship dollars from Banana Republic… Or is that GAP?