Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Formula lost

Could the Singapore Grand Prix be collateral damage?

Jun 20, 2009

"SHOCKWAVES from the pull-out of eight marquee teams from next season’s Formula 1 are being felt by fans and race organisers across the world, and Singapore is no exception.In the sport’s biggest upheaval in 60 years, the eight teams including the likes of Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes have begun preparing for a rival series, after failing to resolve their dispute with motor sport’s governing body.While this should not affect the rest of the season or Singapore’s second F1 race this September, it would mean that from next year, much of the race’s glamour would be gone - along with legendary personalities such as Ross Brawn, and champions Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
The Republic is contracted to host the Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix until 2012, and has invested more than $100 million in fees and infrastructure in the first year alone. The annual returns for the economy is estimated to be just as much.How the teams’ departure will affect the numbers or whether courting the new series could be an option for Singapore, no one knows yet - and Singapore GP chairman Teo Hock Seng would prefer, for now, to focus on hosting this year’s night race at the Marina Bay Circuit.
“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the ongoing discussions between the Formula 1 Teams Association (Fota), Formula One Management and the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). The exact contractual terms under which the Singapore Grand Prix is staged are confidential,” said Mr Teo. “But we will continue to closely monitor the ongoing developments regarding the 2010 season.
”Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, speaking on the sidelines of the annual Singapore Sports Awards Night on Friday, said: “This is something the teams and the F1 management will have to sort out. We hope they will be able to come to some agreement for the good of motorsport as a whole.
The teams’ split from F1 came after talks with the FIA over budget caps and new regulations for next year broke down, on the eve of the British Grand Prix this weekend.The eight outfits, grouped under the Fota umbrella, are Ferrari - a feature in every season since the start of F1 in 1950 - McLaren-Mercedes, BMW Sauber, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull Racing, Toro Rosso and championship leaders Brawn GP.In starting a rival series, they would deprive the F1 of US$2.2 billion ($3.2 billion), which industry research monitor Formula Money estimates is their total yearly investment in the sport.
The bone of contention is a voluntary budget cap of US$40 million on technical developments the FIA is introducing for the 2010 season, to put the brakes on costs. The teams’ breakaway has escalated calls for FIA president Max Mosley to step down, with former world champion Jackie Stewart saying: “A lot of people are kind of fed up with his dictatorial attitude.”
Will race turnout crash?Fans in Singapore were shocked. Property investor Denis Chang, who splurged close to $2,000 tickets for this year’s race, said it would not be the same without Ferrari and McLaren. “They have a big pull and I can’t imagine going to an F1 race without seeing them on the track,” he said.
But Bruno Gillet ( That's me !! ) , who travels to races in Australia and Malaysia, isn’t giving up on F1 yet. “I don’t know if the teams can set up their own series. It will be difficult. F1 is still the world championship, so I won’t give it a miss,” he said.
Malaysian organisers are worried the split will add to the impact of the woeful economic climate on turnout.“My paymaster, the Malaysian government, is concerned how it will affect the Grand Prix in Sepang,” said Sepang International Circuit chairman Mokhzani Mahathir. “We have a contract with Bernie to hold the FIA F1 race until 2015 and it says he will deliver. “What will turn up on the grid next year, we don’t know, but without the big names, it will definitely affect crowd attendance.”
But Drew Ward, chief executive of Australian Grand Prix Corporation, is not too worried that a Ferrari-less series will upset plans to stage the season opener in Melbourne early next year. They will work with F1 rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to make it a success.“This is not the first time a new championship has been proposed and it is not unusual for threats like this to be made by the teams in F1,” said Mr Ward. Mr Ecclestone has so far refrained from commenting, and could still play a role in bringing the teams back into the fold, thinks journalist Fredrik Petersens, who has attended every race since the mid-1970s.“It happened in 2000 when the same teams threatened to start a new series and then Bernie brought Ferrari to heel, and the rest followed. “Right now, it is all words and posturing, so we haven’t seen what Bernie might do.”";

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