'Cash is King': Australian GP nightmare highlights the greed of F1
Formula 1 will be bringing in a spending cap for the 2021 season, but maybe this cap is a sticking plaster attempting to repair the Hoover Dam - the problem of greed and a 'money above all else' culture exposed as F1 chiefs failed to recognise the global health problem that is the coronavirus.
When even the International Olympic Committee are considering holding the Olympic Games behind closed doors and UEFA are meeting to discuss moving the European Championships back by a whole year, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not a situation to be taken lightly.
Then you remember that the Olympics begin at the end of July, and the European Championships will be competed in June. These are two of the largest sporting bodies in the world, and they are looking at events five or six months down the line and making tough decisions.
The FIA are a sports governing body, equal in stature to either of these, but because Formula 1 is a money making behemoth, the FIA, and championship majority share holders Liberty Media, could and would not look beyond their nose.
Questions were being asked long in advance of touch down in Melbourne, many being asked during pre-season testing as the Chinese Grand Prix was cut, but no answers were forthcoming until the driver press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Sebastian Vettel suggested that drivers should take the initiative and 'pull the handbrake' themselves, while Lewis Hamilton confessed to being 'shocked' that the weekend was going ahead.
Then came the suspected cases - initially two from Haas and one from McLaren. The impenetrable bubble that Liberty Media and the FIA believed Formula 1 survived inside had burst.
The positive test forced McLaren to withdraw, the team making an announcement at around 10pm local time, and the writing was on the wall for the race, or so we thought.
In a meeting between race organisers and team principals, Mercedes, Williams, Racing Point, Red Bull and AlphaTauri all voted for the race to go ahead, but when Mercedes parent company Daimler instructed Mercedes and customer teams Racing Point and Williams to change their votes, only the two Red Bull teams remained willing to race.
This meeting was concluded at around 3am local time, but the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) say that they were not informed of any decision ahead of 9am on Friday morning.
By the time that the announcement of cancellation was eventually made, 10am local time, twelve hours had passed. Twelve long hours with teams and media alike being left in the dark over what to do.
Should people be self isolating? How do you do this? Should people be heading to the track in the morning? In short, what was going on?
Confusion reigned and one thing became evident, the was no plan for this scenario. The scenario that had been talked about globally and the one the should have been at the very forefront of race organisers minds had gone forgotten.
It transpires that the reason for so many delays, as was evidenced by the separate statements released by Formula 1 and the AGPC, that money had been the sticking point in calling things off.
Ticket refunds, commercial agreements, broadcast rights - the bill for cancelling the grand prix will be massive, but this all could have been saved if F1 had of recognised the global problem and called things off sooner.
Not minutes before free practice one was due to begin, not after teams had landed in the country, but weeks ago.
Liberty Media CEO Chase Carey was in Vietnam on Thursday, holding crisis talks to save the race from becoming a third casualty and, with McLaren unlikely to be able to travel to Bahrain, it is now conceivable that the gamble to press on by Liberty Media could result in no racing until May at the earliest.
Formula One has always been a sport for the rich and the elite, but the money involved now is too vast, too gargantuan and it needs to be reigned in. Not only the money being spent by teams, but also the fees charged by Liberty Media.
This embarrassment will haunt both F1 and Liberty Media for years to come and has shown that those running the show value money over anything, including the health and well being of both those within and outside of the paddock.
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