THE MOLE

The times they are a-changing

When The Mole was a youth and battling bad guys in Indochina there was a funny little fellow called Bob Dylan who turned up in America and started singing songs that he thought would change the world. The human being has an enormous capacity for self-delusion.

But the world did change and The Mole sees the same kind of things happening now in Formula 1 circles. The wind of change is whistling through the awnings of the paddock and some are feeling the cold.

These are the days of transparent corporate governance and it is the people not the images that are important. It is a time when the sport needs people who can be trusted and respected.

The Mole has always believed that anyone can be successful is they have no morals but, being rather old-fashioned, he was brought up to believe that achievement can only be measured by oneself. Achievements have no value if you know that you have not played fair.

Many in the modern world will tell you that ethics do not matter and that the only measure of success or failure is the amount of money that one has in one's bank account but The Mole has always found that as successful people grow older they find that this is not the case at all. Once they have money they crave recognition and respect.

But that is something which money cannot buy.

In the modern world people in power are very protective of their images and they try to stop criticism of any kind. If some politicians had their way there would be no journalists, just woolly-aheaded and amiable press officers with no imaginations and little self-respect.

Formula 1 is a microcosm of the world and these days any criticism is met by attacks on the critics. We make history, they say to the journalists, you just write about it. The Mole remembers years ago a team boss saying just that to a journalist and being taken aback when the journalist replied: "No, you are wrong. You do things. We write the history books."

Having the right place in history is ultimately down to the fairness and the objectivity of the journalists. If they do their jobs well, they will consider everything. The Mole has always felt it sad that Colin Chapman of Team Lotus is remembered today as a genius who broke the rules and ended up being branded as a crook. His towering achievements in motor racing were placed into the shadows because of dodgy financial dealings. That was the reality and it is a shame.

The Mole reads all the newspapers and believes that people in Formula 1 get more or less the criticism they deserve and that means that as more and more money arrives in the sport from the corporate world there are going to be victims amongst the old style buccaneers.

The proposals put forward over the weekend by the Grand Prix World Championship organisation were apparently very impressive with several of the team bosses being shown how they will all get a much bigger share of the revenues generated by the sport. The GPWC put out a statement later saying that these would include everything from race promotion fees to trackside signage, hospitality, merchandising and TV rights.

It sounds wonderful but more than one team boss reported to The Mole that they are still worried that there needs to be a central figure to be the power and the front man for Formula 1 in any post-Bernie Ecclestone era. Bernie is not finished yet and everyone agrees that the best thing is if Ecclestone stays where he is and does what he does best but there is no doubt that one thought has crossed the minds of many in F1: Who is there to take over? None of the current team bosses have the skill, intelligence and desire to do the job that Bernie has done. One or two of them might have dreams of taking over but they would never win the support of all the others.

It is important that whoever is in that role understands the way that the sport operates and has the passion that is at the centre of the fascination that those involve feels for F1. The word from the Silverstone meeting was that the chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Jurgen Hubbert gave the very distinct impression that he could be the man for the job.

Hubbert retires from his current role in 2004. Those who were at the meeting say that Hubbert might stay on with the GPWC.

The idea that the current status quo will be unchanged until the end of the Concorde Agreement in 2007 is a nice idea but the commercial reality means that there must be a solution to the problems before then. There are still a lot of question marks over whether the GPWC will actually become a reality or whether it is all an elaborate bluff. The best course of action would probably be a compromise solution involving all parties and the 2004 season might be a good time for things to begin. The pressure now must be on the bankers who own the commercial rights to Formula 1 to come up with a deal which keeps the teams happy.

In the words of that funny little fellow Dylan, the times they are a-changing.

Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive

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