When history and business collide in the modern world, there is only one winner. The ongoing charade that is surrounding the continued inclusion of the legendary Monza circuit in next season’s Formula One calendar is merely the symbolic confirmation of this depressingly self-evident truth.
In many ways no one would be surprised by this. In a sport where you pay around £20 million a year for your engines, something similar to host a race and ticket prices just to stand on a grass bank at Silverstone are over £100 – the imperative of the financial squeeze is never far away.
By looking at the situation totally rationally, if that is your sort of thing, it makes sense. You can’t go racing for free and F1 teams are not a charity. Full time employees work the big hours and give the big commitment – all small cogs in one massive machine. Money funds the pursuit for perfection and ultimately, arguably, this is what the pinnacle of motor sport should be about.
I’d love for it to have been a great poet who once said ‘where is the love?’, however it was Will.I.Am – but the point is valid. Maybe it is that at heart I am a hopeless romantic, with an emphasis on the hopeless, but I just cannot get excited about the clinical march to the future the sport seems so ruthlessly engaged in- at least not in isolation.
I am not entirely sure what got me in to motorsport – I think it was probably my father. However, I remember being bought up mostly on stories of daring do. Formula 1 echoed with the great names of Fangio, Clark and Senna. Historic marques like Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus reverberated through the record books and between the concrete walls of Imola and trees of Hockenheim – before the latter was made into an anodyne shadow of its former majesty.
With its current clean cut, media savvy pin ups, what mystique is there to capture the imagination of the next generation of youngsters? Keke Rosberg was always synonymous with the image of his era, the irreverent gladiator, smoking and stroking that fantastic ‘tache. The clean shaven Nico however takes his answers straight from the PR playbook, with all the interest and controversy of an accountancy seminar. But at least the Mercedes PR bodyguard hovering no more than 1 metre away won’t have any fires to put out later on.
I used to stare goggle-eyed at racing when I was young. It all felt so important, so laden with atmosphere and the weight of half a century of rich history that it couldn’t fail to be captivating.
However it feels like this has now been eschewed. With 20 races shoehorned into the year, there are nearly as many races in a season as there are games in the Rugby Union Premiership. It isn’t special. It isn’t an event. It’s just another fixture.
Two weeks time sees the visit to the sport’s most venerable and romantic venue, the home of Ferrari and the last bastion of true racing passion – the Tifosi. Autodromo Monza’s historic banking is haunted by the ghosts of Jimmy Clark, Mike Hawthorn and the other proper boys own heroes of history.
However when the F1 circus congregates in that famous Royal Park to the north of Milan this year, after featuring in every season of Formula One, it may be for the last time.
Bernie has spoken and Monza, it seems, cannot pay the bills. The sponsors, makers of energy drinks and grids full of celebrities will follow the new money and head off to the welcoming arms whoever can afford a race this year. But they’ll move on again when, like Korea and Valencia, the money runs out and the cycle will go on.
In the meantime, us historians and hopeless romantics are left behind with only our memories for company; running our fingers through the dust of history.
The price of progress.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/88134187@N00/6201252476″>Once upon a time in Monza</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>