There are various tales from ancient cultures, which attempt to explain how humanity came to speak different languages.
Following a great flood, the people of earth were united in their purpose. They would stand united, with a common purpose and build a great city in the form of a tower, which reached to the sky.
The project began, and was moving along successfully until an external force confounded their communication abilities, so that the people could not understand each other.
The project was known as the tower of Babel.
The F1 strategy group is proving to be Formula One’s tower of Babel. It was conceived as part of the bright new future of Formula One governance that was to replace the tired old methods of cronyism and lobbying in a true and democratic forum. This forum was to lead F1 into a new age whereby everyone (who mattered) had a voice, and the majority would decide what was best for the collective.
However, in 18 months, the F1 strategy group has racked up over 10,000 hours of individuals’ commitment to debate the future of Formula One. And as Christian Horner observed today, “The only thing that the Strategy Group voted unanimously on is the that fact drivers cannot change their helmets”.
Now, the members of the strategy group have not experienced a supernatural intervention that caused them to speak in languages each other could not understand – yet their inability to express themselves as a group in a coherent manner on common practical measures for the good of Formula One, has resulted in the same outcome as suffered by the Babel folk.
The decisions from the last F1 strategy group meeting, was high on the agenda at the FIA team principals’’ press conference yesterday in Monaco.
As the event progressed Toto Wolff cut an increasingly lonely figure.
When asked about his view on the outcome of the strategy group meeting in Biggin Hill, Wolff replied: “It was a good meeting… we all agreed that this [the F1 vision] is what should be happening, so it was good”.
Bob Fernley, clearly felt Toto Wolff was speaking a different language. The Yorkshire man quipped: “I must have been at a different meeting. I don’t think it was a good meeting at all… the fundamentals of Formula One weren’t addressed at all”.
On the FIA panel was – Paul Hembery (Pirelli), Cyril Abiteboul (Renault Sport F1), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Robert Fernley (Force India) Toto Wolff (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing).
Each individual, questioned the value and the future of the strategy group project at some point during the session, and it was left to Toto Wolff to defend the failed forum that was supposed to take forward the common interest of all the F1 folk.
“This is a professional sport,” the Austrian stuttered. “It’s a global platform. It needs to have proper governance. And I think if we wish for dictatorship, I can see us sitting here in two years and complaining that it’s going in the wrong direction. It is always tricky to find the right government. You vote for one government, you wish for the other one to rule, and the other way around”.
The collapse of the ancient Babel project led to the people of the world being dispersed across the globe into their own language communities, but the good folk of Formula One (bar Wollf and Mercedes) have a better idea.
Mr. Ecclestone and the FIA president Jean Todt should decide everything from hereon in, as Christian Horner succinctly argued. “I think that Bernie and Jean need to get together and say ‘this is what we want the product to be, this is how it needs to be governed,’ and then give us the entry form and see if we want to enter or not. Because I think putting it in the team’s environment to try and agree a set of regulations – you’re never going to get everybody on the same piece of paper.
The problem with this notion is that Jean Todt is no Max Moseley, and would this new double act Dave and Nick type arrangement, deliver anything better than the current talking shop?
Both parties appear to be fundamentally opposed in their views of F1’s futures. Bernie wants a return to the V8’s; Todt is adamant his new V6 Turbo Hybrid’s are the future.
It appears that Bernie, via the GPDA, has launched a fans survey initiative. His new media enterprise Motorsport.com is facilitating this grand census – yet today their computer servers collapsed under the weight of the response from fans that wished to register their thoughts.
Just another example of the sticky tape and brown paper which holds together what is supposedly one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
On the other hand, Monsiuer Todt has been playing a very clever game since becoming FIA president. Unlike his predecessor who cracked the whip, made decisions and got things done; Jean has tasked the various conflicting self interest groups to come to an agreement on how the tower should be built.
But can the Babel of the strategy group in fact be dismantled? And if so, how long will it take?
The conclusion of the tower of Babel story, is that the people were arrogant, they thought they knew best. When clearly their restricted, micro view of the world was inadequate and their efforts to collaborate collapsed into mere ‘babbling’.
Bizarrely, we may now see Red Bull supporting Bob Fernley and the smaller teams in demanding an EU competition commissions investigation into the validity of Formula One’s governance.
Wasn’t all this easier in the old days, when God just kicked some ass – and the matter was resolved?