Firstly, the news that the BBC has captured the TV contract for Grand Prix racing inspired the biggest response to any of my Motor Sport blogs so far this year. Thanks to everyone who contributed some intelligent and pertinent debate.
As I write this latest contribution to our platform for debate, I have half my mind on preparing to travel to Bahrain for the F1 Business Forum. The what? Do I hear some yawning out there? I hope not because it’s not as bad as it sounds. Yes, we all dread going to conferences, or ‘forums’, don’t we? Whatever job we may be doing. They are always held in some horrible hotel near Heathrow airport, or in some Holiday Inn in the middle of several unnavigable roundabouts, at least that’s the way it’s always been for me. Too much central heating, no air and piles of files and notepads, jugs of water and cheap ballpoint pens to take away and never use. And have you ever come away from a conference feeling a better person, better empowered to do your job? Probably not.
Anyway, in Bahrain next week – as the teams prepare for the third Grand Prix of the season – many of the F1 fat cats will be taking time to speak at the Motorsport Business Forum. I went to the last one in Monte Carlo at the end of last year and it was good, even very interesting. Max Mosley spoke about his master plan for Formula 1 and Jackie Stewart responded with some carefully worded criticism of the president of the FIA. All good stuff and nice to see someone, especially Stewart, putting the case for the opposition.
This time, in Bahrain, the FIA is not to the fore, except of course that it is running the Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. This time the speakers will be, in the main, from the teams. The ‘keynote’ speech will be given by Ron Dennis (above), a man I have always much admired and whose life has been devoted to McLaren and the sport he loves. Ron is an enthusiast, a racer and – when he has to be – a politician. What he has to say will be worth hearing and – I hope – worth reporting in the next Motor Sport. Also on the panel of big cheeses will be Nick Fry from Honda, Christian Horner (below) from Red Bull Racing and David Richards (bottom) from Prodrive/Subaru/Aston Martin/You-name-it-he’s-involved-in-it. This man is a dynamo and let’s hope he succeeds in bringing his own team into Grand Prix racing despite the misgivings that others may have about customer cars. What about an Aston Martin F1 team? There is no doubt that Richards would make a terrific job of that – doing everything Jaguar should have done with its attempt.
The point of the forum in the desert is that the Gulf means business, the Gulf is awash with cash, and a consortium of Bahrain business folk already owns a big chunk of the McLaren Group. You may have seen the London taxis bearing the message: Bahrain – Making Financial Connections. What does this mean? I have no idea, but all will become clear next week in the course of the build-up to the Grand Prix. I will be talking to Messrs Dennis, Richards, Fry and Horner about the importance of this region, the significance of new finance in the sport and – oh, yes I nearly forgot – the racing itself, the season so far and all that stuff.
Many of you may be asleep by now, not caring much for the business of sport. Well, it is here to stay, it is how Manchester United can afford Ronaldo, it is how Tiger Woods earns squillions of dollars and it is how President Sarkozy gets to kick a football on the hallowed turf of the new Emirates stadium. Personally, I preferred Highbury, but that’s all irrelevant now. You can make your own judgement in next month’s magazine when I will attempt to penetrate the fog that so often seems to hang over the business of modern motor racing. You can be assured that one of the big men will say something of real interest. If not, there’s always the cars on the track in the sunshine outside.
I’ve got my pad, I’ve got my biros and I’m sure there will be some jugs of icy water. I just need to put my towel on a seat in the front row and make sure I’m close enough to hear between the lines.