Monday, November 17, 2008

Bye Bye Formula One

It's no big secret that I am a Speed Freak of the first order, from my video game experience to my real life addiction to any form of speed or racing, from karting to those crazy nutsoids in the Red Bull Air Races. So to say I'm a fan of Formula One would be quite an understatement. Unfortunately this is a very dark day for Montreal racing fans as the final attempts to appeal to one Bernie Ecclestone (CEO of Formula One Management, hereafter named "Bernie" as he does not deserved to be called "mister") met with complete and utter failure as Bernie wanted garantee deposits the likes of which can only be paid by Arab oil magnates, who ironically will be the ones getting what used to be the Montreal slot in the 2009 calendar.

Before I go into full rant mode let me give you a small picture of where my love for F1 comes from. In 1978, F1 was quite a different beast that it is today, but it was still regarded as The Premier form of motor racing and its cars were so advanced that they were more akin to fighter jets than cars even in those days. After just over a decade of the canadian stop of the F1 circus being shared by two tracks located far from any city that could be called "a city", and one of the two tracks, namely Circuit Mont-Tremblant, was declared too dangerous to hold F1 races, which left only the Mosport track in Ontario, Montreal started to push for a completely new venue located 15 minutes by public transit (literally 30 minutes by foot... I've done it) from Downtown Montreal. Mr Roger Peart of ASN Canada sat down at a drawing board and drew THE track that would become the bane of many an engine and a set of brakes for the next 30 years.

At that time, being only 8 years old, I was not exactly up to speed on everything F1, but one person made me a believer at the very first race held in Montreal, on an extremely cold October day. Mister Gilles Villeneuve. Now HERE is a man who deserves the title! Before this initial win Mr Villeneuve was known to either finish in the top ten, or destroy the car entirely. But from this race he made me want to see more and more, and to see him want to go faster and faster. His epic battle with René Arnoux at the Grand Prix of Dijon, with the Ferrari being clearly much slower as it was not a turbo engine, is the stuff of legend. Unfortunately Gilles's carreer came crashing down in 1982 in Belgium when his front tire came in contact with the rear tire of Jochen Mass, and the Ferrari was sent cartwheeling at over 200kph, ejecting Gilles across the track and into a guardrail. The event brought tears of disbelief to this then-11y-old boy.

Grand Prix '79 mod for rFactor, Gilles Villeneuve leading

But I knew this was part of racing as I had been witness to many accidents, lethal or not, but there was always new pilots who were just as eager to push their cars beyond what they could do: Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Gerhardt Berger, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton... the things these guys can do with 4 wheels, an engine, brakes and a steering wheel are nothing short of an art form, if maybe an extremely dangerous one. But to show their art these masters need a canvas.

Bernie E. as long been the procuror of this canvas, but over the years this canvas is becoming more and more expensive. What used to be a sport that appealed to small teams of car designers like Chapman (Lotus), Tyrell and even Ferrari in the good ol' days has now become a test bed for the big... no... HUGE car companies like Toyota (who dumps in the most money despite their lack of wins), BMW, Mecedes-Benz, Honda, and Ferrari, which is still a "small" company but the amount of cash they dump into F1 is just obscene. And Bernie's solution to the money-pit problem? Dump even more money if you want a race. He doesn't care if a race or track has the stuff or legend or not, if he doesn't have 50 million bucks clean in his pocket by Sunday afternoon, next year's race is forfeit. He doesn't like the toilets at a track? The next year the race is re-scheduled at an brand-spanking new venue that the pilots have never even seen before, and are expected to give everything they got. Now Bernie wants 175 million over 5 years? The answer is easy: FUCK HIM! Let the Arab princes have their own little private race in the middle of the desert where only they and a very select few will be able to go to.

So it is that the Grand Prix du Canada, a race that save for one year in 1987 (sponsor war) has continued to be host to record-breaking crowds despite sometimes extremely bad weather has come to a crashing halt due to one man's love of money. Very Sad. I know there is talk of other race series to replace Formula One, but it just will not be Formula One. The Formula One I had grown to know and love is now dead.

A very sarcastic Thank You Bernie...


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