Eric Silbermann: Fans can't fix F1, but new races can

“Them that’s got shall have, them that’s not shall lose” - Billie Holiday

Clearly three weeks without a race has affected his brain. Like a house fly swatted with a newspaper, but not hard enough, Eric Silbermann buzzes around all over the place, before eventually coming to rest … on a way to save European races.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Italian Grand Prix - Race Day - Monza, Italy

The current mini break in the F1 calendar, in between the rigours of the opening quartet of flyaways and the first European round in Spain, is something I always look forward to. Two weekends at home is a gift to be used wisely and being a Bank Holiday in the UK, there’s plenty of fun to be had. I’m heading Oop North to watch the final day of the Tour de Yorkshire, a major cycling event born on the back of the huge success of the county hosting the opening stages of last year’s Tour de France. Then on Monday, I’ll nip across to Oulton Park for the British Superbike Championship, watching eight races for the princely sum of £32.

I’m a fan of pedal powered and engine driven two-wheel sport and reckon I’m fairly knowledgeable about both, but if Christian Prudhomme or Jonathan Palmer (who will be the subject of our next 'Breakfast with' tomorrow) said, “Eric, you’ve run a national rally championship and been a Formula 1 team manager, so how would you run these events?” I wouldn't feel capable of telling them how to do their jobs, which is why I shouted at my computer screen a few days ago when Clare Williams told Sky F1 that we should ask the spectators what they want from F1.

The whole point of being a spectator is you buy into whatever event you’re watching and then by all means criticise it, but that doesn’t mean you are qualified to fix all of its problems. Input is fine and should be encouraged, but fans aren't the magic bullet to repair the sport. For starters - just like the F1 teams - you'll be hard-pressed to get them all to agree on anything. On top of that, and there’s no way to sweeten this statement, the most vociferous fans are the sort of people you dread sitting next to on the bus; the ones who speak with a nasal twang and whose trousers are a bit too short.

Nature abhors a vacuum and that’s what we have at the top of the sport right now

However, nature abhors a vacuum and that’s what we have at the top of the sport right now, leading to everyone and his dog having an opinion about what needs fixing in F1. That’s partly because we have a virtually powerless FIA president, who has to live with the fact that when Max Mosley was in charge at Place de la Concorde, he sold the sport’s commercial rights to Bernie Ecclestone for a mess of pottage. Then, in 2000, the deal that was due to expire in 2011, was extended for a further one hundred years, until 2111, by which time Bernie Ecclestone will no doubt be preserved like Davros from “Dr. Who,” basically a brain in a jar on wheels.

No wonder Jean Todt is preparing his FIA exit strategy, with his recent appointment as the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety. Mind you Jean, even with one of those huge, bright yellow floor-length raincoats, hi-vis School Crossing Patrol Hat and a giant “Stop” lollypop, I wouldn’t step off the kerb in front of the Bernie bandwagon.

Charles Bernard is on a roll right now, apparently having taken on half a dozen people to run his company’s social media activity, to prove he is down wit da kidz, appointing a head of communications – never mind that it’s the same bloke he employed to do the job back at the start of the century – and continuing to plunder new venues for Grands Prix. Let’s face it, he’s unstoppable and no amount of talk about “history,” “tradition,” or  “legacy” will prevent him from taking us to warzones, s***holes and countries of dubious moral standing if there’s a dollar or two to be had. Would this be the time to mention that a handful of races, including Germany, had protected species status under the now defunct Concorde Agreement?

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - German Grand Prix - Race Day - Hockenheim, Germany

So here’s the thing, all these countries we don’t really want to go to, they can have their vanity Grand Prix, but to show they are sincere about wanting a motor sport culture, they have to establish a national programme to support young drivers to come to Europe – you remember Europe? The centre of the motor sport universe.

And apart from that, with the small change they have left over, they can pay for the cost of hosting an iconic Grand Prix, be it in Germany, France, Italy or the UK. After all, it was only the incredible wealth of horse racing enthusiasts from the Arab world that saved the sport of kings in the UK , so why not get them to save Formula 1 too. We might even grow to love them for it.

Click here for a look at the radical Honda power unit design

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