A den of Iniquity

There is little evidence, on the surface at least, of the effect of the global recession on two of the FIA’s three champagne categories. With 32 registrations, Formula One retains its unpopular pre-qualifying format. At one stage during the winter, there was concern that there might not be sufficient entries to fill a 26-car grid . . . Similarly, despite budgets being inversely proportional to its promotional value to sponsors, Formula 3000 will be well supported. At the last count, there were 37 cars registered; it’s quite possible that one or two of these won’t materialise, but it still leaves a full grid with several non-qualifiers to spare. While sports car racing doesn’t have quite such rosy cheeks, we should be grateful that the championship survives at all after its winter of discontent.

While it would be nice to sit back and look forward to the season in the belief that the sport is hale and hearty, there are aspects of this year’s F1 line-up which we find distasteful. As these words are written it appears that there is not a fully competitive place in the entry list, for instance, for Alain Prost, and fellow triple world champion Nelson Piquet has similarly been discarded. Proven talents such as Mark Blundell and Eric Bernard have been brushed aside in favour of those with less in the way of ability, but more in the way of dollars.

Cases in point? Paul Belmondo and Giovanna Amati spring to mind. Neither has ever looked like a winner in F3000, yet both have leap-frogged into F1 at the expense of more deserving cases. Between them, Emanuele Naspetti and Alessandro Zanardi won six of the 10 rounds of last year’s European F3000 series, yet are forced to remain in the formula once again this season; between them, Belmondo and Amati failed to register a single point.

The view that money talks louder than talent has been aired many a time in motor racing. Never before has it been quite so obvious. Formula 1, as its name suggests, is supposed to be the pinnacle of our sport, pitching the world’s top 30 or so drivers together in competition. In the present iniquitous climate, that simply isn’t the case. S A