A few months ago I alluded to the parallel worlds of football and motor racing when I praised Gary Lineker for speaking out against FIFA president Sepp Blatter in an interview. The comparison sprung to mind again in the aftermath of the 2022 Qatar World Cup enquiry sham.
We think we’ve got problems…
In November former English FA chairman David Bernstein summed up the general opinion of the decision to hand football’s global showpiece to the desert state – indigenous population fewer than 300,000, temperature 40deg C – by describing it as “one of the most ludicrous decisions in the history of sport”. He described FIFA as a “totalitarian set-up” in the vein of “the old Soviet empire” that is now “beyond ridicule” following its handling of the corruption accusations of its World Cup bidding process. He even suggested football’s powerhouse European nations should be unified in a boycott of the tournament. Strong stuff.
In F1, the brief threat of a boycott at the US Grand Prix turned out to be little more than sabre rattling by the ‘poor teams’ from the middle to the back of the (shrinking) grid. They might as well have been brandishing butter knives.
But no matter how remote its possibility, the use of the b-word should always be taken seriously. That’s because boycott threats only rear up at the point of total exasperation, a last resort that no one usually wants and from which nobody will benefit. Not racing in Austin would have been futile, but that it was on the agenda at all should have shaken action from someone in influence. These are desperate times.
Instead, we had useful comments from Bernie Ecclestone and senior team principals that it is not their responsibility to run the businesses of the lesser teams, or their obligation to protect them. That’s true on the first point – less so on the second.
As stakeholders in F1 – or in Ecclestone’s case, the mere employee of the most powerful – we’d argue they do have an obligation: to ensure that running two cars at 19 races around the world is a sustainable business. On a total revenue north of $1.5 billion, that shouldn’t be much to ask. But yet again – we’re getting blue in the face here – the attitudes expressed are an indictment of the greed, self-interest and blind stupidity by which F1 is run.
As for our version of FIFA, what does it think? Well, who knows? And actually, what does it matter? Bernstein compared his world governing body to the Soviet Union. Motor racing’s is more akin to the Victorian economic principles of laissez-faire – in other words, it’s not the FIA’s problem.
“Beyond ridicule”? We know exactly what Mr Bernstein means.
“I’ve never been a world champion before,” said Anthony Davidson. Never mind the ‘world’ bit, he hasn’t been a champion since his junior karting days way back in 1995! Succeeding Allan McNish as the new FIA World Endurance Champion is the career pinnacle (so far) for a talent who’s never had anything come to him easily. It’s richly deserved.
The same is true of his team-mate and fellow champion Sébastien Buemi. Spat out the other side of Formula 1 at the age of just 23, the former Toro Rosso man has spent three years re-inventing himself as a sports car ace, and this title is the culmination of that work. His career route, while enforced, appears to be one that’s increasingly popular.
As Gary Watkins explains on page 52, Toyota benefited from a favourable rulebook that allowed its petrol-powered TS040 Hybrid to dominate the WEC season. Nevertheless, that should take nothing away from its first circuit racing world championship in the face of such well-funded opposition from Audi and Porsche.
Engineering excellence, rather than size of budget, has been the defining factor of Toyota’s success.
But – and it’s a gapingly large but – the shadow over its season has to be Le Mans. Toyota should have completed the clean sweep in 2014, only to fall short at the biggest race of the year. The stature of the world championship is growing, but it doesn’t yet match that of the 24 Hours – and the nagging pain of the one that got away must have increased with every subsequent race-winning performance in the second half of the year.
Budget dictates Toyota’s two-car limitation at Le Mans in the face of Audi’s belt-and-braces triple entry, and as Pascal Vasselon has told us, that isn’t about to change. Would a third car have guaranteed victory at Le Mans in 2014? Of course not. But given its double retirement, a third TS040 just might have saved the day.
It’s hard to fathom that a company the size of Toyota can’t bolster an obvious weakness. Then again, it’s not the first time that the Japanese giant has defied logic on the international playing field.
When we launched the Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 2010, the intention was to create an annual awards ceremony to honour those who’ve made significant contributions on track and stage, or from the pitwall and drawing board, from every era, in a manner that was becoming of this magazine. It was our way of paying tribute to the people around which our sport is built.
Since that first ceremony, 29 great names have been added to the Hall of Fame roll call, and we’ve been honoured by the presence of so many of them at the memorable evenings in each subsequent year.
Now, having established the Hall of Fame as an exclusive club to which drivers, riders, engineers and team owners can aspire, we’re expanding the concept beyond a glitzy VIP evening in London, beyond the pages of the magazine and website, and out to the people who matter most: you.
The first London Classic Car Show takes place at the ExCel exhibition centre on January 8-11, and one of the main features of this new event will be the Motor Sport Hall of Fame. A large stand dedicated to the original founding members – Enzo Ferrari, Tazio Nuvolari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher – will feature a wonderful collection of cars associated with their careers. As a set piece, it promises to be something special. We’ll also be inviting you to tell us who next should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and we will feature the most cogent arguments in a future issue.
The show promises to be a welcome addition to an already packed calendar. So what’s different about this one? Well, beyond its location, the event has a novel approach to the standard car show format. Given the size of the ExCel, a ‘Grand Avenue’ will feature at the heart of the event, described as a ‘catwalk for cars’. Forty handpicked classics representing landmarks in motoring history will be started up and paraded twice a day along the avenue.
They include significant competition cars: an ex-James Hunt McLaren M23, a Lancia Stratos, Moss’s 1956 Monaco GP-winning Maserati 250F, an ex-Elio de Angelis Lotus 87B…
Started up and driven inside? Now that’s something I want to see – and hear.
To find out more, go to www.thelondonclassiccarshow.co.uk