Formula One Becomes Exciting – News Corp Start Sniffing

Posted: April 20, 2011 in Sport
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After the second weekend of racing in this year’s Formula One calendar, it has become clear that with the most recent rule changes a different beast has been awakened within the sport. Announced as part of measures intended to increase overtaking, they include a new moveable rear wing that can be used in designated areas of a track, a new tyre supplier who was instructed to deliberately make tyres that wear quickly, the re-introduction of KERS power boost, and the return of the 107% qualifying rule.

All this has made for a very exciting start to the season. In Australia (which was the start of the season due to the difficulties in Bahrain), we saw Red Bull start in a blistering fashion, McLaren confound spectators with a sudden return to racing form, and Sauber exceed everyone’s expectations by finishing seventh and eighth. Unfortunately, due to technical infringements, the Sauber pair were later disqualified from the race, which promoted the Force India of Paul Di Resta up into 10th in his debut race in Formula One.

Malaysia continued in a similar vein, but in China at the Shanghai International Circuit things really took off for the season. It looked as though Seb Vettel was set to continue his early-season dominance with another pole…but his KERS start system apparently didn’t function correctly, and both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were able to get past him at the start. In the end, Hamilton took an exciting victory to announce to Red Bull that he will not be lying down and letting them steamroller this season.

So we have a season that might not give us true unpredictability in terms of results, but in terms of pure racing, those drivers are going to have to work harder than ever for their points. And viewers throughout the UK can watch it all for free on our national broadcast channel, the BBC.

But not for long, if Rupert Murdoch gets his way.

It seems strange to me that F1 has only just come to the attention of News Corporation after all this time on free-to-air television. But apparently the Concorde Agreement between the teams, the FIA and Formula One Administration is up for re-negotiation. A major part of that agreement is that Formula One be broadcast on free-to-air television due to the massive viewer numbers this generates.

News Corp are sniffing around because they think that now might be the time to take another of our great broadcast sports and put it behind a paywall. This cannot be allowed to happen, and thankfully Bernie Ecclestone sees things the same way. Bernie is the ruthless ringmaster that runs Formula One on behalf of its owners, Formula One Administration, and he negotiates all the commercial rights for the sport. People may see him as blunt, but everyone in the sport knows exactly what they will get with Bernie at the helm.

If he were to sell the rights to F1 to News Corp, there would be massive conflicts of interest, as News Corp own rather a large portion of the world’s media as it is, and owning F1 would allow those media outlets to get preferential treatment when it comes to broadcast agreements. This would be a bad thing for Formula One.

Bernie will always act in the best interest of the sport, even if he doesn’t appear to do so, because he knows that if he annoys enough of the teams involved they will break away and form their own championship. This is why the concorde Agreement is so important. And what’s the point in Formula One if there’s no Ferrari, no McLaren, no Williams? News Corp, in my opinion, would rinse the sport for every penny it can muster, and to hell with its history.

I’m actually dreading the day Bernie passes away, as it will open up Formula One to whoever replaces him and to whatever they want to do with it. Here’s hoping mad Bernie is in fact immortal!


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