Competition in F1

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I detect the suggestion in DSJ’s recent article on the relationship between Honda and the Williams team (MOTOR SPORT, October 1987) that a sponsor’s right to apply team orders is pre-eminent over that of the team owner, and also that it increases with the value of the sponsorship.

But ideally, sport is the competition of unequal contestants under equal circumstances and even if, in this less-than-ideal world, different makes of car mean that motor sport cannot ever be pure between teams, then it is a worthy approach towards purity to adopt the general proposition that the faster man should lead his team-mate.

Certainly, there are special circumstances when this should be varied (particularly towards the end of the season), but to prevent the faster driver on the day from defeating his teammate is as contrived as the deplorable anti-competitive fuel consumption limitations.

It should be remembered that motor racing to Honda is part of promotional and product development “mixes”. To the motor racing team, it is the focus — the central substance of their enterprise and, thankfully, at least one team understands that competition is what gives motor racing its spectator appeal; and in the long run, it is the spectator who pays the bills. Competitive motor racing is supported by spectators who buy the sponsor’s products; high-powered processions are not.

The alternatives?

1. Watch professional wrestling for scripted results in less time.

2. A Honda GP Team, owned and managed by Honda, with preferential treatment bestowed on the driver of its choice — an Eskimo driver if it helps!

3. Reductio ad absurdum, a sponsors’ committee meeting before each season to decide the champion. Suppliers of all subsidised parts should be included, of course, and heaven help us all if the garment manufacturer chooses the more photogenic driver against the choice of the brake-pad supplier.

Oh, and Honda will be pleased to know that both Nigel and the Honda brand achieve considerable exposure on this side of the world. The exciting rivalry between the two Williams drivers (which has so chagrined Honda) is what keeps us glued to our sets at 2am. Perhaps Frank Williams knew that all the time!

TREVOR DAVIES

Melbourne, Australia