Op-Ed: Bernie, stop wrecking my sport

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So, Bernie Ecclestone is again floating his medals idea as a way to liven up the sport of Formula 1.

And, sure, as Grace notes in her post, it isn’t like Bernie isn’t known for just tossing crazy ideas out with some ulterior motive in mind.

Here’s the money quote from Bernie:

If you look at the points system, it has made absolutely no difference. If we had the old system it would be exactly the same position as now. Which is strange. Maybe they will wake up and think about my gold medal system now. Because Mark would have four gold medals now and two other guys with three, so the championship could go all the way to the wire.

And, fine, he’s right. But that isn’t the point. Nor is the point whether he’s serious. The point is this.

Bernie, come here for a second.

Stop. Just stop. Keep your money-stained hands away from F1. You’re just making things worse. You just make things worse.

The points system isn’t the problem, Bernie. I guess while you’ve been busy sitting in your ginormous mansion with your abacus figuring out who might be in what position under this points system versus that one, you’ve missed out on something. I’ll clue you in:

It’s been a great F1 season. Sure, Bahrain was Bor-rain. And there have been a few races that were on the less side of more-or-less entertaining, but for every one of those there was a Canada, a Spa, a Germany (if only for the controversy, but that’s part of the sport) and especially a Monza.

You probably missed this, Bernie, but Monza was the most exciting race in years. (Why couldn’t it have happened last year?) Yes, I realize you can’t see past the fact that the race was one in the pits, but why was it won there?

Because Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both drove to their limits, they both pushed their cars to the extreme and neither made a meaningful mistake. It was incredibly exciting to watch Alonso stalk Button and then watch as Button tried to get back around the Ferrari.

But Bernie, you missed that, right?

So you’ve probably also missed the surprise that is Renault, the pleasant coming-of-age team that is Force India and the occasional heroics from Williams and Sauber.

None of that made an impression, huh?

Now, let me specifically address your words about the championship going “all the way to the wire” under your medal system.

Here’s a news flash: It already is. We’ve got five races left and five drivers with credible shots at the title. Sure, the ranks of contenders will likely start to fade here, and maybe somehow all but one will crash out or barely score any points so that by Brazil everything is signed, sealed and delivered.

But I doubt it.

And, further, as you say, things wouldn’t be that different if the old system was in place. Which means what? I’ll tell you: It means the points system isn’t the problem. It isn’t what will make the difference.

Huh. So, if that’s the case, what might be the problem?

Well, I’m sorry to have to break this to you, Bernie, but the problem is you, really. And how you keep the fans at arm’s length, if not farther. It’s how you continue to fail to engage new technologies to improve the fans’ interaction with and enjoyment of Formula 1. And probably most of all it is how you continue to take F1 to circuits that don’t inherently make for the best racing plus — plus! — don’t have a history that, even during a “boring” race, still keep fans excited.

I don’t know why you keep doing these things, Bernie. Maybe it’s greed, maybe it’s daftness. And I admit that you had a stretch, now a while back, where you helped Formula 1 grow. But all you seemed to care about was whether it was growing, not if it was growing in a healthy way.

Still, despite all you’ve done, F1 still has fans and still can claim to be the pinnacle of motor sports.

Now, could you please go away while that’s still true? I’m a bit worried the sport doesn’t have much resilience left. I fear one more Bernie tweak might be the killer blow.

So, please, stop wrecking my sport.

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