F1: Is Bernie Getting Soft?
No, this is not a dig at the 81 year old Brit that has recently tied the nuptial knot for the third time. I’m wondering if the external hardened shell is showing signs of softening in it’s old age.
We’ve recently to come to know that Bernie’s generosity is alive and well by some of his acts of kindness. You see, Bernie has forever been known as a bit of a hard ass when it came to business negotiations. Imagine my surprise when a little birdie told me about Bernie being sensitive to Spain’s economic situation during negotiations, recently. Or when the story broke about cutting Canada “some slack” with the GP fees after a one year hiatus from the F1 calendar. All second-hand stories mind you, however, parts of me really want to believe them.
On the eve of one of the most revered (by fans) Grand Prix at Spa, comes the news of a new deal inked between the Wallonia provincial government and the F1 Supremo’s band that will see Belgium on the F1 calendar for the next three season. This is fantastic news for true Formula One fans both young and old and perhaps more so for the drivers that relish the opportunity to lap this wonderment. It is understood that Bernie dropped the fees somewhat to allow this to happen. In part I imagine that this was done to meet the minimum of historical protected circuits, however, I don’t care. Three more years at Spa is enough for me at least for the time being.
I was gutted in 2003 and 2006 when the race was cancelled over political and financial problems. Alas, F1 is a business more than a sport at the end of the day. Unlike the 70s when the circuit was just deemed too dangerous, since it has been restructured in the name of safety, there should be no reason to ever abandon this marvelous circuit. It is true that the attendance numbers are less than adequate, but the GP is of great importance to Belgium. Financially it is beneficial, however, the fact that the event puts the region on a world stage is indispensable.
To be honest, I would have accepted, reluctantly, but nonetheless, an alternating Belgian GP with a French GP, if it meant to have it on the calendar at all. Originally, when I heard that France might finally be back on the F1 circuit, I thought it might take Spa’s place. France may be in better financial position and has every right to own a spot on the calendar. The words Grand Prix are of French origin after all.
One final point to be made on Bernie’s behalf. His comments during the London Olympics where he lobbied to have GP in the streets of the world-class city, on his own expense no less. What? Bernie parting with millions of his beloved pounds? In reality, I belive this is really something that may never happen. In part because of the amount of work and disruptions it would take to make the streets of London suitable to race an F1 car on, then in part because some studies suggest a 200 million pound price tag that Bernie would have to flip. The other side of this announcement, was also to help favorably manipulate perception through global media at a time when his image took a pounding due to alleged bribes in the Gribkowsky trial.
Whichever way we slice it, it does seem that the odd little man who runs the sport we love so much…is softening, for the good.
I’ll take it!
Author: Ernie Black