Fernando Alonso isn’t one to hold back and if you’ve listened to his radio conversations, as he has lamented as a negative element about current Formula 1, then you know he can be very plain-spoken about things.
I was wondering if the gloves would come off once Alonso was finished with F1 and it seems that perhaps he’s now willing to bite the hand that has fed him a little more publicly. How this will be received but F1 fans is important for a couple of reasons.
Fernando is one of F1’s biggest stars. Like him or not, millions do and when he speaks, they listen. He is not as prolific with his social media as Lewis Hamilton is but he’s in the same neighborhood and has tremendous reach across multiple platforms.
If I were F1, I would be watching this closely and getting out ahead of the narrative. Why? Because when Alonso says he’s leaving F1 because it sucks, that isn’t good at all!
“The action on track is not the one I dreamed of when I joined F1, or when I was in different series, or the action on track that I experienced in other years,” said Alonso.
“I stopped because the action on track, in my opinion, is very poor. In fact, what we talk about more in F1 is off track.
“We talk about polemics. We talk about radio messages. We talk about all these things, and when we talk so many times about those things, it is a bad sign.
“There are other series that maybe offer better action, more joy and more happiness, so that is what I try to find.”
“In 2004 [pictured] and 2009, I was not winning any single race in those years. But it was difficult to predict [then] what could happen in Spa and Monza [for example],” Alonso said.
“Now, we can write down what is going to happen at Spa and Monza. We can put the first 15 positions with maybe one or two mistakes. So how predictable everything became is tough.
“We go to Barcelona and we test the first day of winter testing and you know what you will do until November in Abu Dhabi and it is tough.
“For me, it is not too much of a problem because after 18 years I achieved more than what I dreamed of.
“But for young drivers or different drivers, it is tough because they just hope that next year the team does an unbelievable step or they receive a call from one or two teams. It became difficult for ambitious drivers.”
It’s one thing to have a fan bemoan F1’s recent appeal or a journalist hint or suggest at better days gone by and the current quagmire of F1. When a current driver unloads on the series and from a closer, more granular level than anyone, it is a serious public flogging replete with rotten tomatoes, wilted cabbage and eggs thrown in at high speed for maximum impact.
The problem is, Fernando is right. The series has become a shadow of what it was due to ideology, group think, power brokers and those “A Changing’ Times”. It has become a team engineering sport for manufacturers led by the have’s and the have yacht’s. It’s an insular bubble of money, power and politics that creates an ecosystem sustaining the livelihoods of teams, employees, journalists and the limited circus of hangers-on that travel with it.
Even under new management, the bravado at which the new bosses entered the series simply added a VW Passat Wagon full of large marketing buzz phrases, pie-eyed ideas of “market activation” and “energizing” and a few key, fan-patronizing websites, survey’s and an OTT TV service on an iron lung in the glove box.
What you have is one of the world’s best drivers leaving what was once one of the world’s best motorsport series because one part of that equation has lost its way. The former still drives, win races and championships, the other re-broadcasts a backhaul feed of another country’s broadcast, removes grid girls, falls short of adding a new American race, can’t decide what a consistent penalty should be, struggles with sinking share prices, and somehow manages to explain that older, legacy fans aren’t what they are interested in.
Having said all of that, there is hope and that comes in the form of Ross Brawn. In fact, I would suggest that if Ross and team don’t get the 2021 regulations right, even at the risk of losing manufacturers, they may well be calling Mr. Agag and simply merging their series with Formula E to putter around the shortened tracks with two very powerful D cell batteries with some eSports kid taking the wheel remotely every tenth lap with a fan boost for good measure. Hey, they’ll be reaching speeds of 100 mph so you’ve got that to look forward to.
If Brawn gets it right, it could revolutionize the sport with just the right amount of technical, sporting and digital regulations that move the series into an entirely new revenue windfall for Liberty Media. It may cost a manufacturer or two but in the end, what it loses in the short-term could be a big gain in the long-term. They have every opportunity to make the right moves and while I understand the political and financial complexity of it all, at the end of the day, the math can be quite simple.
The balance sheet comprises of revenue generated by fans who digest the sport and the more fans that digest the sport and pay for its races, team wear, broadcasts, hotels, parties, digital content and more, the better that revenue stream is. You may not need Renault or Mercedes in order to maximize that revenue stream. If that stream is in rude health, manufacturers will see the global appetite for it, recognize its footprint on the world’s sporting stage and invest in the sport to prop up their balance sheet revenue streams.
Don’t get me wrong, all of this is much easier said than done and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind at just what a monumental task this will be for Liberty Media. However, what I would say is that I listened to their bravado when the bought the sport and crowed about how they would transform it into a global icon and spectacle that would be one of the world’s biggest brands and best investments.
Let’s be fair here, Liberty Media are only, realistically, a year into having unfettered control of the sport and it takes time to create brilliance so I am certainly capable of finding the patience needed. I’ve no bone to pick with Liberty Media, Chase Carey or Ross Brawn. I want them to do well…in fact, I need them to do well. I’ve offered to help any way I can but they’ve not needed my help and that’s fair enough, they seem to have things in hand over there.
What I hope is that they are wildly successful and that the decisions they make can prevent the sport from losing other world-class drivers prematurely. I hope the next Alonso isn’t compelled to leave the sport to drive late-model modified’s at Tri-City motor speedway because it is a far better series. As for Formula E? More power to ya!…LITERALLY!
Hat Tip: Autosport