The retiring promoter of the Australian Grand Prix saw his final event go with off with a veritable bang. A new deal now sees the Australians control the schedule of track action other than for Formula One. So with no GP2 and GP3 in town, there was plenty of other racing for the fans to watch. This is sadly not the case in places like Brazil.
The first F1 Grand Prix weekend of the year, attracts the attention of the world’s media in a way many others don’t. This is why Bahrain were prepared to pay a premium of $10m to be scheduled first on the F1 calendar.
We learned in Melbourne that the new maximum four engines per season rule will affect the running the teams do in Friday practice, as the lap count in Melbourne that day was well down on previous years.
However, the Sauber legal row over Giedo van der Garde had many F1 fans from around the world taking an interest in proceedings down under days before they would usually mentally switch on.
Further, as the weekend progressed, bets were being taken on whether the newly revived Manor F1 team would get a car on track before the cut of when the Saturday Qualifying 1 session ended. They did not.
This consequence of this failure became painfully evident as just 15 cars finally made the grid, and soon after lights out the race had just 13 runners.
With the 2 Mercedes drivers out on their own, it was patently obvious that this field was too thin. The on track action gave the fans few overtakes and whilst Felipe Nasr justified his inclusion in the upper echelon of motor racing, there was something most definitely lacking.
Whilst Ecclestone has stated in the past he’d be happy with just 10 F1 teams competing each year, this nonsense was shown to be the pitiful lack of insight most suspected it to be.
Martin Brundle has criticised the Manor F1 debacle, describing their attendance in Australia as ‘pointless’.
“Formula 1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport and so watching the Manor GP cars being built through the event was painful. It’s our shop window to the world. Build them properly in the factory, shake them down at a track or airfield, then take them to the track when they are ready.
I see no point in transporting all that freight and personnel to Australia and back to Malaysia and basically hold up the build process in a temporary garage restricted by curfew working hours”.
However, at times being too close to something, results in a perspective which can be distorted.
To F1 viewers, the reporting around the Manor F1 team’s struggles for survival was of significant interest; and an improvement on the repetitive and sanitised pre-race driver interviews. Manor F1 racked up over 300,000 twitter followers during the event.
Brundle continues, “From what I could see, that car had no chance of running at all let alone in a representative way. Yes we need cars on track, yes we need David and Goliath battles, but F1 is about excellence of performance, not a ‘build a car’ competition at a county show”.
Yet Martin fails to recognise, that this scenario was played out at the behest of rules enforced by Bernie Ecclestone, whom the SKY F1 presenter has an affinity towards. Brundle conducts at least 1 extended chatty style interview with the F1 supremo most years, and disappoints viewers with his lack of hard talk questioning.
Manor F1 were in Australia for 1 reason alone. They were forced to be there.
Ecclestone made it clear prior to the race in Australia, “I don’t know whether they [Manor F1] have got the money to race. They can miss three races per contract so they would be history if they miss any more.”
The instruction was clear. What were John Booth and Graham Lowden supposed to do?
However, this was not all that irked Martin Brundle about Manor F1’s presence in Australia. “I’m also very uncomfortable that creditors of Marussia have not been paid,” the Sky pundit writes, “while significant future TV revenues remain a key team objective”.
The resolution to Brundle’s problem lies with one person alone. Bernie Ecclestone, who explained his attitude to the Independent the week before the season opener. “What can we do about the teams? Their companies are in the shit because they spend more than they have got. They can spend less money. It’s nothing to do with us. We can’t control people’s spending”.
However, Ecclestone is once again being disingenuous. He indeed does control the spending of the teams and the nature of the creditor arrangements they must enter in to.
The teams complete a season and are then entitled to their prize money. Yet like children they are forced to wait until the following year. Daddy Bernie and FOM pay them their pocket money only in equal installments between March and November.
The irony of Brundle’s complaint is that had Ecclestone paid Marussia their prize money in November, the appointed Administrators of the insolvent F1 team would have ensured the creditors were paid accordingly – and in full.
Equally ironic, is the fact that Ecclestone is now refusing to pay for Manor F1’s travel to and from Australia, something all participants are entitled to for the flyaway races. The farce is that the FIA accepted Manor F1’s explanations for being unable to run their cars on track and refused to sanction them.
But Hey… all in all, it was a great week of publicity for the season opener in Australia, with plenty for F1 fans to discuss.