F1’s tower of Babel is collapsing


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?

26 responses to “F1’s tower of Babel is collapsing

      • And I’d prefer my wife let me use my insurance cheque to buy another bike; but the fact I’m still slightly limping doesn’t exactly work in my favour… #TheSpiritIsWilling

        C’est la vie… +1 will have to do. 🙂

        On another semi-related note, the survey’s; what a poorly questioned and executed initiative… What’s your take?

        • It is an Ecclestone inspired initiative and Alex Wurz is a willing collaborator. Deniability is then an option, should the results not come in as hoped.

          Conversely, it will be used by Bernie to beat everyone with a stick should the findings broadly suggest his view of the world is what the fans want.

          More interesting, how did Autosport come to run a global fans survey just days before the GPDA effort?

          • F1 likes to regurgitate ideas, was just a quicker turn around on this one!

            We’ll know if Bernie gets anywhere near this survey if things like paywall don’t get brought up.

          • GPDA survey is a farce! Long, poor questions, and then at the end they reveal you have to sign up to finish it! If you do get sucked in to giving them your email, be careful you read the terms and the last two check boxes.

            It’s less of a survey and more of an exercise to create a database and sell your profile on to “select third parties.”

            Is this the first time Autosport have done something right?

        • Ah..you need to try the rehab approach,’but honey,the bike will help my balance and get my muscles working again,I could go to the gym at £7000(insert huge fig here) per year and have nothing to show but this way I can sell the bike once I’m fit’…I talk from experience here, I got a tractor out of mine lol

          • Interesting strategy… I’ll give it a go.

            However I think in my case, to replace my Duke, it will take a pair of diamond earrings and a weekend away…

            What is it with wives not wanting their ageing husbands to die?!

  1. w/r/t the GPDA fan survey – two details were brilliant:

    1) “Corrupt” was one of (iirc) a couple dozen choices for words to describe what comes to mind when you think of F1 (pick 5).

    Criticize survey methodology, the Pirelli-like servers that gave up before 1/3 of the way through completion attempt, Bernie’s alleged involvement, etc. – but being able to declare that one of the top-5 descriptors for what I think of F1 is that it’s corrupt was mildly satisfying.

    2) The inclusion Bernie’s “sprinklers” as one of the choices you could select for changes that should be made to F1 to make it more interesting (paraphrasing) was brilliant.

    Either the survey authors are trolling Bernie, or – if he pushed for its inclusion (and everyone knows sprinklers = BE’s idea, even if his name didn’t accompany the listing) – this is a more concrete example of how out of touch with fandom he is, and/or how persistent the delusions are that he’d still suggest that.

    I hope the survey authors were just trolling him.

    • +1
      Just completed the survey and had a chuckle at several of the questions – pity there was no freeform text box to highlight who exactly is corrupt – although the taxman has got the right idea!!!!

  2. how does my last comment end-up being held for moderation? no urls, no html, no profanity, no feeding the Hippo, etc. please explain.

  3. One of the basic ideas of behavioural economics is that when agents in an environment are incapable of regulating themselves then the environment itself must become the regulator. In this context, the Strategy Group was F1’s attempt at self-regulation. It has clearly failed and now the FIA has to step in and kick it all back into shape.

    The F1 Strategy Group should segue into an advisory committee to a three-man board of F1 directors appointed by the FIA. An F1 dude, a technical dude and a commercial dude.

    Toto’s coming across as entirely out of touch or at least incapable of changing course when things aren’t working. MB are winning though so he has an enormous stake in the status quo.

    The massive helpings of humble pie that Little “Jack” Horner has been served at the Corner Restaurant recently seems to have shifted his thinking a bit. In pushing RBRs wheelbarrow with the intent of swinging benefits for his own team, Horner may inadvertently score some wins “for the good of the sport” #gottabehappywiththat

  4. The GPDA survey is working now. I got to 99% complete and pressed submit and it kept displaying the same 99%. So no idea if it got submitted.

  5. ” 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”.”

    What is he babbling about? Who the heck voted for Merc to be part of the “government”? It ain’t like that. The poisonous dwarf made sure to put big teams with big c*cks (and hanging bonuses) on the Strategy Group, and to disenfranchise small and poor teams. And the FIA cornered themselves into giving the Commercial Rights Holder as much regulatory sway as the FIA itself, the sport’s nominal regulator.

    ““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.”

    Again, WTF? Since when the CRH *should* decide what the regulations will be? Didn’t the EU have something to say about such an arrangement, something mentioning the word “illegal”…

  6. I had hope for the GPDA survey but now it’s being to resemble Bernie which is not a good thing. By the time Bernie passes, Formula 1 will be on life support and a Bernie run dictatorship with only what he wants will drive Formula 1 further towards the catastrophic wreck that it’s headed for. It makes me sick and today, we have learned that talks involving a extension for Monza have stalled. Many people have said if Monza is no longer on the Formula 1 calendar that they are done with the sport. He’s 84 years old; what’s he planning to do with all the money he is lining his pockets with in the time that he has left. There are ways to make the strategy group productive for the good of the sport too but that probably won’t happen until Bernie passes. Where are the sack cloth and ashes?

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