The Formula One Scene

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One thing about the world of Formula One you do know where you stand. Nobody tells the truth, decisions that are made can be revoked and any statement of clarification is invariably made to fog the real issue. If in any doubt at all then form a new committee and give it a title with initials that can be pronounced as a word. But it is all good fun and none of it should be taken seriously, it is all part of the scene to keep people interested. As Max Mosely said at Hockenheim one year when everyone was getting uptight “don’t worry, at the end of the day nobody is going to get shot”. What he didn’t mention was that at the end of the day somebody was going to lose some money and someone else was going to make some, and to some people that is more important than whether they get shot.

After the FIA had imposed fines and sanctions on the striking Grand Prix drivers from the South African Grand Prix a number of them gathered together in Paris and officially disbanded the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association). In its place was formed the PRDA (Purdah!) which stands for the Professional Racing Drivers Association and it has been made available to all professional drivers, not just Grand Prix drivers. Back in the dark ages Stirling Moss and Louis Chiron formed the UPPI (Union des Pilotes Professionale et Internationale) but the English connotation of “union” was not popular so it was changed to GPDA. Now that has gone and the PRDA has taken its place. A drivers’ union by any other name is a drivers’ union

In the United States of America there already exists a PRDA. but this stands for the Polish Racing Drivers Association, formed by Osca Koveletsky and the qualifications were simple. You did not have to be Polish, and you did not have to be a racing driver, though it was desirable that you should drive racing cars. I believe our Features Editor, A.H. was made a member as he wasn’t Polish and wasn’t a racing driver. i hope the PRDA does not clash with the PRDA.

All this unionism and togetherness is the result of many of the drivers refusing to pay their fines and refusing to accept the sanctions imposed on them and the “small print boys” have been brought into the arena to say what is legal and what is not, and what the FIA can do and what they cannot do, and so on, and so on, and so… it gets very boring. The sad part of it all is that the fracas in South Africa and the argv-bargy in Paris has frightened the South Americans into cancelling the Argentine Grand Prix, which should have been held on March 7th and at the time of writing the Brazilian Grand Prix due to be held two weeks later looks distinctly shaky. The United States West Grand Prix is due on April 4th, but if Chris Pook was to cancel it and run a race for Indy-Cars in its place it would not surprise me. For those who follow the USA professional racing scene it is a well-known fact that the Indy-Car people would like a race at Long Beach, for over the past few years the Super Speedway racers have also been taking part in circuit racing, the present-day track car with its turbo-charged 2.6-litre engine being in effect a very big and powerful Grand Prix car, suitable for going round corners, braking and accelerating. If the trouble-makers in Formula One do not watch their step they could lose a number of lucrative races from their calendar.

Amidst all the uncertainty of drivers’ licences, races being cancelled and unions being formed, came an announcement that we would not be seeing the Brabham BT50, powered by the turbo-charged 4-cylinder BMW engine, again until the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola on April 25th. Not because the engine proved fragile, as you might think, but because the engine was too powerful for the Brabham chassis, a splendid piece of company PR wording calculated to please everybody, especially Gordon Murray and Nelson Piquet. Of course, it is just possible the way things are going that the next Grand Prix will be the San Marino race on April 25th. If so it will be a remarkable coincidence; but Formula One is full of little coincidences like that, which is what makes it so intriguing and such a good source of copy for the daily papers and the weeklies.

At the beginning of the season the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama was struck off the World Championship list because the organisers had defaulted on their payments to FOCA. Some outspoken team-owners said they would not go back to Jarama, even if the Club did pay up. Now they have paid up what was owing and with the Argentine Grand Prix being cancelled the Spanish Grand Prix has been reinstated, with a date in June. This now puts the Dutch Grand Prix in the list as first reserve, always assuming the Zandvoort people want to get involved, so we are back to square one. One thing that does seem to be certain is the race round the streets of Detroit on June 6th as official words about the event are beginning to appear in the post, which is all very encouraging. It will be a circuit through the streets, not in a car park, but will be safeguarded by concrete barriers and loads of old tyres, as in Long Beach, all of which should give the Circuit Inspector a few sleepless nights. With this race in the Motor City of the United States one wonders whether the “spherical elasticated attenuators” will be made of brand new tyres rather than old ones? — D.S.J.

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