FEBRUARY 24, 2009
Tony Teixeira is an unusual man. The Portuguese South African has a most colourful background, having started his career as a soldier and ended up parlaying these skills providing protection for mining operations and ultimately into controlling mines. Along the way he has been linked to some controversial activities, notably being named as busting UN sanctions in Angola, a charge he denied. Teixeira is well-connected at government level throughout Africa and in recent years he has used the A1GP Series to meet the business and political elites in other countries.
A1GP is a loss-making venture but Teixeira does not seem to mind that much.
Many in F1 believe that the A1GP concept is fundamentally flawed because the single-engine, limited-cost series is based on national teams and racing fans are not really interested in soccer-style nationalism. The series also lacks the technology of F1, but more importantly has few star names, becoming the home for drivers who have not quite made it to F1 or are on the way down after their F1 careers are over.
The tradition in motor racing since the 1950s has been about the drivers, rather than the countries they represent. The first question asked by F1 fans after each A1GP race is not "Who won?" but rather "Who was the driver?" The self-styled World Cup of Motorsport breaks convention by running in the F1 offseason but, inevitably, it is heavily weighted towards the countries where the racing industry is highly developed. One cannot expect Pakistan to be able to run a competitive team when there is no tradition of racing in that country. Thus the teams are little more than rebranded GP2 outfits, making some money in the offseason.
In recent weeks Teixeira has been spouting off about F1 copying his ideas. This is stretching it a little. F1 has realised the need to have cost-effect racing, but that is not rocket science. Teixeira has not really explained why a hugely-successful global circus like F1 would need to borrow ideas from a championship that consistently loses money and it is easy to suggest that some of A1GP's activities are based on F1 ideas: notably the exclusive Pangaea hospitality facility that would appear to be a very similar concept to the F1 Paddock Club.
Teixeira may, however, be getting bored with losing money as he has recently joked that F1 should buy him out. For now there is no need for that but if the discussions over revenues in F1 get out of hand it is always possible that someone might do just that. A1GP might not work well in its current format but the structure of races might make it an interesting concept for someone looking for "an off the shelf" championship.