Ecclestone: Europe will ‘disappear’ as F1 heads east

As F1 oozes east toward the Asia-Pacific geographical landscape of emerging capital markets and economic growth, the burden is becoming increasingly weightier for the legacy circuits who are clinging to wafer-thin contracts of fading ink. No question F1 is leaving Europe and perhaps faster than fans would like. The history of F1 is seated in Europe but the future may very well be washed ashore on some Pacific island.

In an interview with BBC’s 5 Live, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, celebrating his 80th birthday Thursday, commented on the future of Europe and F1. You may be surprised at his strong words but not shocked at his reasoning for leaving the storied home of F1.

“I’ve always believed we should go east,” he said. “Twenty years ago when we started I thought that was where the world was going to go, and Europe’s not what it was in any shape or form.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to live but I think it will more or less disappear as the current force before too long. I don’t think Europe can afford many things.”

In America, the past 18 months have taught us new terminology for political and economic purposes. One of those terms is “Too big to fail”. Used by our current President to signify the magnitude of an organization that is so big, it’s failure would be catastrophic to the economy and citizens of the United States. In short, is F1 too big to fail?

If there were real love of the history of the sport and a strong desire to keep F1 in Europe, it would have to drastically reduce in size and scope. The Money is not there and the teams have become so accustomed to a life-style and revenue stream that thousands depend on their viability for a living. Families, lives, education and bread on the table are all reliant on Ecclestone’s machine squeezing as many billions as it can from the hands of third-world and emerging world governments. Is this a good model? Depends on which side of the table you sit.

If you are a CVC (commercial rights holder of F1) partner then yes, this model makes a hell of a lot of sense. If you are a fan, this model is not the best option as the European tracks still hold the history and nuance of what made us fans in the first place. What Ecclestone means is that Europe can’t afford F1 anymore. They can afford Le Mans, DTM and myriad other racing series all summer but what they can’t afford is F1. The track economics don’t work.

So you have it from the General’s mouth. F1 is seeking the least common denominator…cash. It is looking for the money tree’s of the world and right now, they can be found in the tropic climate of the Asian-Pacific region.

One final thought, some teams or team members may not like the move to the east but you rarely hear any of them contradicting Ecclestone’s moves. They all carry water for him and heap praise on the new circuits and locations. This past Korean Grand Prix, which was marginal at best, was praised as a heaving success. Why? Simple, the teams understand the economics and they too are looking for the cash.

The only people in this equation not looking for the cash are the fans. They are looking for the F1 racing they have loved all these many years. What they are getting is a loss of history, exciting circuits and sense of competitive racing. It makes you wonder why they still watch doesn’t it? The fans are the key to where F1 goes and as long as they consume the CVC’s product, it will only continue moving east.

Last one in Europe pleas turn the lights out.

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