We reflect upon the end of another season of Grand Prix racing, and the crowning of a new British World Champion, in this, our 1001st issue. But as usual we’re not content with looking back. Motor sport is facing up to an uncomfortable reality, and in the context of a disturbing global recession, change on an unprecedented scale looks sure to be the result.
Racing, of course, always develops and Formula 1 has a wealth of talented young superstars to keep the flame burning. Happily, we can safely predict Lewis Hamilton isn’t about to dominate Grand Prix racing in a Schumacher style. There’s too much competition for that. And the racing might – just might – be better than we’ve seen for years. As I write, the new generation of F1 cars are hitting the track for the first time in anger (below), featuring ‘cleaner’ aerodynamics and the return of slick tyres. They ain’t pretty (then again, they haven’t been for at least 15 years), but if the right balance of mechanical grip over aero downforce has been achieved, overtaking might no longer be restricted to the brave do-or-die moves Hamilton has specialised in during his first, incredible 35 GPs. Here’s hoping.
Off-track, the GP teams have publicly questioned the management of F1 – at last. They want a bigger share of revenues after discovering just how much interest is being paid by CVC Capital to service the billions of debt it heaped on the sport when it bought F1 two years ago… Read that back to yourself. Something’s wrong there, surely.
Meanwhile, the FIA is hustling the teams to agree on ways to slash costs. It’s usually tiresome when the governing body ‘nannys’ car manufacturers over how much they spend, but given the perilous state we’re all in, one cannot deny action is needed. F1’s excesses have echoes of the last days of Rome, and it is far from impervious to the fast-approaching recession. But standard engines? We’ll end up with IRL Grand Prix racing at this rate. Perhaps the FIA wants to drive out the big manufacturers once and for all…
Television remains central to F1, and not just as a means of making money. For the British public, the BBC is back, so it’s goodbye to those pesky ad breaks. But will the Beeb be allowed to make the most of its deal? The potential to deliver more across the mediums of television, web and radio are massive. As ITV discovered, a certain Mr Ecclestone stands in the way. The basic circuit feed is light years behind NASCAR, but that was all ITV had to work with. And the same will be the case for the BBC unless Ecclestone opens the way for innovation. But will he do so or will he continue to be obstructive to TV companies? At times his control seems to throttle the sport he has built. And he rules F1 without even owning it any more!
These are vital times for motor racing. Hold tight for a rocky ride.
As Richard Noble says in this issue, motor racing is governed by formulas to control speed. Such restrictions have no place in the quest for the Land Speed Record. Technical brilliance is the only control required for brute force over the measured mile. That the aim of the BloodhoundSSC project is to encourage the next generation of engineers as much as blitzing an almost unthinkable 1000mph ensures the primal chase for speed still has a place in this ever more restrictive world. We’ll be tracking the Bloodhound on your behalf, all the way to the record.
Damien Smith, Editor