Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars. And there we go summing-up all monetary policy since... well, Noah had difficulty securing a personal leisure-craft loan.
Douglas Adams wrote so many paragraphs of glory it is rather hard to select a top three hundred, let alone a top ten. In his many re-writes of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of them highlighted how odd it was that dollars moving around the planet made so many people sad, while the green notes were not themselves unhappy.
Such is the curious nature of money. Miss Physics has no use for it, yet if you wish to peek even for a moment into her universe, you will need a vast amount of it to prise open the door and gaze in wonder at some very small part of it. Lights might well guide you home, but unless your lode stone spins to the mystic rhythms of a good life those lights could well be hurrying you to your mortal doom.
To smoking guns; Bond in a swimming pool full of sharks and F1 seeking to be greener than a fairy convention in an Irish Bog. Is it possible that there is nothing Guinness cannot fix? When does the purity of spirit, forged in the furnace of competition, turn into the flickering yellow light of avarice? National Gold medals at the Olympics, about as pure as sport remains at the elite level these days, can be accurately mapped to government spending per medal claimed. Grass roots. Kids clubs, quality facilities, strong national competition. All built on the bedrock of a stable society allowing people time to safely train. Full-time coaches that actually know the sport, not just how to obtain state-sponsored doping products from their equally morally corrupt doctor friends. Sporting victory at any cost is a sell-out of the soul.
Yet money is required in equal measure by the blessed and the blaspheming if either is to win on the field of sport, by methods various, and many of them foul.
The Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund, and more directly within F1, ARAMCO, are seeking to leverage existing power and money into a better future for themselves. Williams, back in the halcyon days of Alan Jones, swept Saudi dollars into their bank account to fine effect. Do we see Alan, Sir Frank and Sir Patrick as demons from the seventh circle of Hell for accepting such dollars? No, no we do not. Nor should we. Have human morals transformed so much in a few decades? Or has the Twitter-verse served to make us more informed, and hence increasingly 'enlightened'?
Did the "Western World" get where it is today by telling potential colonial states: "Not what we want, but what you want?" For those of you who have missed the last three thousand years, well no. Our current ability to be nice to folk in other nations is mainly built on having been at war, at one point or another, with all of them, and for the most part winning.
Does this now provide the emerging world with free reign to simply repeat the utter distress of the past because that's how we did it? Well, again, no. Enlightenment, reason, and, regardless of religious bent, generally acceptable moral and ethical compasses should be pointing to our golden path. As such we want the emerging nations to get to the state of stability and health which we enjoy, without all that nasty going to war stuff. Or requiring energy sources so toxic Satan himself would be writing angry letters to the local council from the relative peace of his lakes of fire and brimstone demanding his neighbours be shut down.
Most nations have moved from the literal battlefield onto the sporting fields of the world to continue our obsession with competition, and the satisfaction of respectfully burying the opposition and then dancing for joy about it. Vicarious thy name be! When one sees football fans (pick a code, any code) talk breathlessly after a match: "We beat them!" No! The team you support beat them, while you drank over-priced beer and howled at the sky. You personally did not play any part in the victory. Yet such is the passion of sport that the vicarious spiritual delight flows in waves outward from the actual team on the field in victory to each and every one of their spiritually connected fans.
Our tribal desire to compete and win goes back to the first multi-cell organism that back-stabbed - well at the time, back-tentacled - another to gain advantage. It is hardwired within our genes to compete to the death. It is a luxury of modern living that we can move this desire to kill all around us to a sporting field of non-lethal combat. Tennis? Golf? Swimming? Cycling? Long jump? Motor Racing?
As varied as the human condition is, we each elect to follow a set of sports which most appeal to us. I have a mild interest in every sport ever. Yet my passions align with cycling, golf, tennis, combat sports and Formula One. That's a top five. Then we meander into windsurfing, yachting, winter sports, ah! So many! I love them all, and respect all their heroes. Each requires skill, dedication bordering on psychotic obsession, huge amounts of informed, purposeful practice and money. Loads of lovely money to grease all the cogs within the mighty sporting machine.
Humanity loves sport because it is in our genes to love a battle. We have evolved (just) far enough to value not killing every loser, such that they get to fight another day. Yet how hard to press for the win?
Train hard. Have passion. Love the spirit of the fight. Understand what you are trying to do.
Money. More money. Extra, unending money.
Want to train harder? Someone pays for your living.
Want more passion? Someone pays for your sport to be your only focus.
Love the fight? Someone pays for you to train with the best, and then do nothing but compete.
Understand what you are trying to do? Someone pays for the best support staff. Analysts; sports physiotherapists; data analysts; review of competitors... it goes ever on.
Technology? Well there is a never ending bucket. Simulators, AI to assess weakness in competitors. Optimised diet. Flawless training plans. Perfect practice, to make perfect.
Formula One used to take tobacco money. Few team members smoked, fewer drivers, other than dear James and Keke, yet they were happy to take the money. As Max Mosley so joyfully stated at the time: "Formula One never made anyone take-up smoking, only switch brands." And he managed not to laugh his head-off before he was off camera! Max M. We salute you!
Then alcohol. The racing Martini colours of the 1970's, and a Williams sponsor, being well known to many of us. Jordan was all bitten and hisses. Lotus was immortalised by JPS, McLaren by Marlboro. Then Chandon at McLaren, Kingfisher at Force India.
So LIV, and let me lighten your wallet. Crypto sponsorship in F1 is going to be so short even DTS might miss it with their high-speed HD cameras. The Saudis want success. They want global brand recognition and they want to connect to business and people outside of oil. Not exactly a crime by Western standards is it? As their middle-class continues to evolve and gain ever improving education and living conditions, so they will be forced to play nice at home.
Vision 2030 is a publicly released document and clearly states the aim of moving Saudi Arabia onto the World stage outside of oil. So is F1 wrong to take the golden dollar from the sands? Is the next Saudi street race likely to witness a mobile version of the Moulin Rouge centre stage, plus pop-up Tiki bars on every street corner? Possibly not. Is the world better for that... probably yes... Will Liberty media somehow engineer collateral living improvements for the lower classes in Saudi? Stranger things happen.
Celebrating difference and respecting difference is vital to a healthy global community. Taking money from those who are thrusting gold doubloons into your pockets faster than you can spend them? Well, blood money is poor form, and ripping from the poor to enrich the wealthy further is similarly a bit of a moral low. But once again, on which moral bedrock does the Western World build a shaky tower of enlightenment...?
It will be an endless human quest to be ever better as a race than we were the season before. Progress is never a straight line from the current to the future desired condition. It is a meandering walk, sprint, stall and fall backwards, all in equal measure. The only way in which we have a small chance to get countries such as Saudi to improve is to engage.
Is F1 engaging in an optimal manner for humanitarian outcomes? Is that Liberty Media's remit? How loud should Lewis, Vettel et al be allowed to sing from Liberty's rooftops? We nod to Miss Physics for some guidance. In a rare show of interest in things mortal she highlights that the more data one has the more accurate the statistics produced. This can be translated into the wisdom of mobs, whereby societal views can be monitored and adjusted by what statistically meaningful numbers of people believe. Just as she slips off inter-dimensionally to join Hawking for a fresh Milo, she highlights the problem right now is humans confusing opinion for fact, money for joy, and mortal life as immortal. Changing her mind Miss Physics suddenly feels a quick G&T with Douglas is a finer plan, prior to the evening Milo.
So dear reader as we commence another circuit around the Sun, look around, smile at all that is good, give thanks for the warm souls in your life, look to your guiding lights. Then look to all that is fine, remarkable and built on honour within F1. Racing spirit still flows freely. Every driver on a team roster has shown focus, determination and grit to have this briefest of chances. Cheer them on! Enjoy the race, and hope all their accountants apply the same grit to getting the spreadsheets correct this year. All of which is only possible because it is underpinned by the coin of Caesar.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here