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Why Formula One needs a Dan Hannan

NEWS STORY
06/04/2009

It is to be hoped that Bernie Ecclestone, who left the Sepang track immediately after yesterday's Malaysia Grand Prix, will have learned a lesson, though it is highly unlikely.

Yesterday, for only the fifth time in the sport's history, half points were awarded as the race had not reached three-quarter distance.

On three of the previous occasions the race was halted early due to heavy rain, while at Barcelona's Montjuich circuit in 1975 the race was stopped when Rolf Stommelen's Lola crashed into the crowd, killing five fans. The three races stopped because of the rain were held during a traditional early afternoon time slot, unlike yesterday's debacle which saw the race get underway at 17.00 during Malaysia's Monsoon season.

The decision to move the Malaysia and Australian Grands Prix to a later time was purely down to Ecclestone in his constant quest to have his cake and eat it.

While he wants to take the sport east, where the rising nations are willing to meet his extortionate demands in terms of race fees and over-the-top facilities, he realises that the sport's heartland - particularly in terms of its TV audience - remains firmly rooted in Europe. Consequently, as he strives to have the best of both worlds we end up with the sort of situation witnessed yesterday, a situation from which nobody emerges as a clear winner... other than Jenson Button.

While Ecclestone will argue that all publicity is good publicity, the fact is that the sight of cars abandoned on the grid, Mark Webber carrying out union negotiations, Kimi Raikkonen sauntering off with an ice cream and engineers shaking the water out of their laptops made the sport a laughing stock, and rightly so.

In the midst of the worst financial crisis in living memory F1 has yet to prove that it really understands the meaning of the word prudence, while the BBC - which pushes its environmental agenda at every turn - is in a quandary as the sport still has a long, long way to go in convincing anyone that it is turning even the slightest bit green.

Leaving the diffuser argument aside, not to mention the McLaren saga, from which nobody emerges unblemished, the fact is that, despite the rhetoric, Formula One fails to 'get it'.

Today, once again, the sport is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, while we have to wait another week before a decision is made in Paris as to the diffuser row, not to mention the possibility of further sanctions against McLaren and Lewis Hamilton.

Thankfully, what racing there has been, has, for the most part, been highly entertaining, with a new order clearly emerging. However, despite the 'customer surveys' and the mutual back-slapping among the teams that comprise FOTA, the sport still has a long way to go. A visit to any message board or forum indicates that many 'customers' still feel frustrated and disenfranchised by a sport which at times appears to have a death wish.

Two weeks ago, Guido Fawkes excellent political blog Order-Order ran a Youtube link to a speech made by MEP Dan Hannan. Previously little-known, other than his blog for the Daily Telegraph, Hannan achieved global fame for a three-minute 'tell it like it is' dressing down of the British Prime minister during his visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in advance of the G20 London summit.

The speech got little coverage in the British mainstream media, but, courtesy of the Internet, it wasn't long before Youtube had received a million visits, furthermore, it was welcomed by members of the American media who openly called out for a home grown version of Mr Hannan.

As Hannan laid it on the line, in a speech which will have had many members of the public nodding their heads in agreement, Prime Minister Brown could merely sit there grinning. Indeed, during a subsequent, equally no-nonsense, speech by UKIP's Nigel Farage, one expected Brown to stick his fingers in his ears and start humming 'la-la-la… can't hear you', such was his obvious discomfort.

In the wake of yesterday's fiasco, and the fact that this sport shows no sign of learning from its mistakes, perhaps it is time for a new order in terms of management, not merely on the race track.

Perhaps it is time for someone within 'Planet Paddock' to stand up and publicly tell Mr Ecclestone a few home truths, Dan Hannan style.

Chris Balfe
Editor

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