Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bahrain, Ecclestone and F1’s expansion

The Formula One fraternity was unusually united in agreement that the Bahrain Grand Prix should not go ahead – in the circumstances a mere sporting event was completely irrelevant. But is it time to take a good look at what Bernie Ecclestone’s expansionist plans have achieved for the sport?

15 years ago 11 out of 17 F1 races were held in Europe, this season it will be just 8 from 18, is this good for the sport? Most fans would agree that circuits like Turkey and spectacles like Singapore are welcome additions to the calendar but in a similar vein most would agree that bland-fests like Bahrain itself, Korea and Malaysia add little in a sporting sense. Who can remember a truly great race at one of the new venues? There aren’t many...

Mercifully most of the great circuits have survived, the real soul of Grand Prix racing lives at Monza, it lives at Silverstone and more than any other it lives at Monaco. The expansion of Formula One into new nations is not a fundamentally bad thing, but it should not come at the cost of the sporting spectacle.

Whether a track makes the cut into Formula One should not be judged purely on what makes the best economic sense. What gets the juices of the average F1 fan going? The growth potential in the Chinese car market, or the sight of the world's best drivers going tete-a-tete through Eau Rouge? I know which I'd choose! F1 is a sport which thrives on drama and circuits are the theatres for that, Spa delivers that drama, Suzuka delivers it – the Tilke-clones largely do not.