In Memory of Bianchi: More F1 politics that fails to put safety ahead of cash.
New F1 bosses, same old desperate cash dependency. The simple reason this year’s F1 opener in Melbourne was not cancelled until a handful of hours before the cars were due to hit the track, was once again about money.
For most normal folk watching the news over the past week or two, the notion of sending 6 Jumbo Jets worth of Formula 1 kit halfway around the world as the current Covid-19 virus crisis developed, was absurd. Yet we’ve seen this F1 brinksmanship over the cancellation of races in the not too distant past.
The last time this mighty tug of war between the three-headed F1 Hydra over whether to run or not run an F1 weekend, resulted in the death of the 26-year-old French protégé, Jules Bianchi. In his determination to enforce the host race sponsors were forced to cough up around $30 million for the 2014 Japanese GP, Bernie Ecclestone insisted Charlie Whiting start the race, despite conditions being absurd for anything other than powerboat racing. That monetary decision cost Jules Bianchi his life.
It is believed Sebastian Vettel and several other F1 drivers have already left the country to return to Europe.
So here we are in a new decade, 2020. The big bad Bernie, who ruled F1 with the singular pursuit of more dollars, has been banished; CVC – the F1 evil bankers – have been bought out and the new friendly Liberty owners of the sport have taken charge.
Yet once again we face the same dilemma. To race, or not to race – that is the question. And once again, the values behind those driving these decisions have been found badly wanting.
Sky Sport crew and Johnny Herbert just left. #F1 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/5fvzecKK3y
— Ben Waterworth (@benwaterworth62) March 12, 2020
Yes, FOM logistics had sent a substantial amount of kit by boat several weeks ago; timing equipment, hundreds of miles of cabling, TV cameras and a plethora of other kit required to manage and televise an F1 racing weekend
Yes, the 6 or 7 Jumbo Jets were chartered in the back end of 2019 to carry the team’s equipment and all the flights for some 3000 folk who are the travelling F1 circus were booked and paid for pre-Christmas.
The inevitability of all this long-term logistics meant that pulling the plug on the F1 opener in Melbourne would always appear too difficult as the journey to Melbourne begins months before the race – and the momentum of that journey just builds and builds with each passing week. And with the passing of time, the costs accrued grow incrementally.
Further, were the FIA or Liberty Media to pull the plug at any moment, then Rolex who sponsor the Australian event would be will be able to duck from their multi-million fee payable to their F1 masters.
We are just witnessing the usual standoff between the obvious players over who will take the proper responsibility to do the right thing – and subsequently who will pay (or not) for the non-event that is the 2020 Australian GP.
The Australian GP has – in my opinion – quite rightly been cancelled, but the comparison with the 2014 Japanese GP is odious. The Japanese GP was run in conditions that were clearly dangerous for the drivers and trackside personnel, and a combination of circumstances ultimately led to the tragic death of Jules Bianchi.
Nobody could seriously suggest that the coronavirus would make driving more dangerous, or to send drivers out on Sunday could possibly increase the chance of injury or death. The GP cancellation is to reduce the chances of coronavirus contagion, and the chance that some who attended could fall ill with flu symptoms (I am fully aware that flu in any form can result in death in some cases). The headline – ‘In memory of Bianchi, F1 once again puts money ahead of safety’ – is pure nonsense.
I’m sure that none of us wants to lose money, or to be denied the pleasure of watching the first 2020 GP. The FIA may have dithered, but they were not juggling with drivers’ lives.
If you stick around here long enough, you’ll get used to the sensationalist nonsense that this site puts out