The Melbourne grand prix took place yesterday – not that you’d really have noticed. It’s the first race of the season and is a highly anticipated event largely because the teams get to see whether the eye watering amounts they have invested in research and development in the off season all comes to nought! Granted – they may have been assailed at every turn down Mexico way (all that whiff of fuel in the air, whining of finely tuned engines and traffic congestion) but you can’t tell me you’ve been swamped by promotion nor even give a fig about it? Whilst there are apparently millions around the world salivating at the prospect of the green light fewer and fewer Australians seem to be among them sharing their consuming passion. We’ve fallen out of love. The reasons are perhaps as wide ranging as the nationalities of the drivers involved. Is it the fact that the money shelled out by the Victorian government (around 55 million this year) doesn’t match up with the 35 million of mooted economic benefit? Is it that our egalitarian society baulks at lining the pockets of some tawdry European billionaires with hard earned public money and the lost opportunities this leads to? Maybe it is the fact that those self same billionaire entrepreneurs hold organisers to ransom at every turn? It is likely a combination of all these. When Melbourne snuck in and pilfered the GP from Adelaide in 1996 it cost them a paltry 1.7 million – a hefty sum sure, but chump change to any self-respecting billionaire and palatable to the majority of ratepayers, especially in a voraciously sports mad city such as Melbourne. But now it costs nearly forty times that amount and some of the lustre has worn off with the continuing ramblings and rumblings of Ecclestone and his playboy mates do little to buff the image. The latest attempt is to turn the race into a twilight event largely to assuage the concerns of the broadcasting sugar daddy’s up north and fit better with their schedules. Inevitably this will cost taxpayers more in infrastructure on top of a likely race fee hike! Ecclestone’s reaction smacks of concern for his own back pocket and there are plenty of places eager to sell their souls for an F1GP! I’d like to think that as a society we would take stock of the true value of the race, forget the bluff amnd bluster and make a decision based on rational thought rather than testosterone charged, ego driven bullying.
This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on March 19th