A lot of Formula 1 fans complain that there are too many races these days outside the sport’s traditional heartland in Europe. Grand Prix racing used to be all about Monaco, Monza, Spa, Silverstone and the Nürburgring.
There were extraneous races, but the 'World Championship' was actually a bit of a misnomer, although not perhaps on the scale of Major League Baseball’s World Series.
In the last 10 years Bernie Ecclestone has taken F1 global. Where once there were 10 races in Europe and six 'flyaways', today we have 11 races outside Europe and only seven or eight on the traditional European tracks. And Europe’s dominance will weaken further as F1 aims to consolidate its presence in the Americas. These strategic moves offer the world’s largest companies a package that no other sport can match.
This is all the more important when you realize that this year, for the first time, China is almost certainly going to produce more cars than all the European countries combined. Europe’s share of global automobile manufacturing is down to only just 20 per cent of the total.
The new car owners in Asia may not have embraced F1 as yet, but these things take time…
A fascinating prospect
It is going to be a fascinating year for British F1 fans, who are keen to see how Lewis Hamilton will do with the Mercedes team. I have to admit that I am not convinced that this is a good move for Lewis. I can see why he felt that he wanted to get out of McLaren, any offspring wants to leave the nest at some point, but it would have been wiser, perhaps, to wait until a top drive was available.
The idea that Lewis will mould the team around himself and they will all march forward together is a great idea, but Hamilton did not show such team-building skills at McLaren, leaving the older and wiser (and slower) Jenson Button to have the emotional leadership. Lewis seemed lost.
Jenson left Mercedes (then known as Brawn GP) at the end of 2009 because he did not think it had what was needed to win on a regular basis – and he was right. Hamilton is gambling that things have moved on. Lewis is a great racer, but great racers have made mistakes before when it comes to choosing the wrong team at the wrong moment.
The one thing that we do know is that the team will be under the microscope more than ever. Hamilton is a known quantity and we will soon see whether or not Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher have been getting the most from the recent cars, or whether it was the team that was underperforming.
When we were very young…
Many years ago, when I worked for Autosport, the office was across the corridor from 'the grown ups' at Autocar. I remember hoping that one day I might get a chance to write for the grandfather of all motoring titles, a journal as old as motor sport itself. It is a great honour to have been offered the opportunity to do that.
By way of introduction, I have covered Formula 1 for the last 25 years, although I occasionally take in a local French village hillclimb – to remind myself what down-to-earth motorsport is all about…