James Lawton: Forces of greed reduce spectacle to a procession

There has never been much accounting for sporting taste. Mick "Jumpin' Jack Flash" Jagger loves a mellow afternoon at Lord's. The late, mystical George Harrison admitted to a "tremendous buzz" along the pit lane of a Formula One track.

But would George have lapsed, like most of us, into near coma at the prospect of watching another processional win by Michael Schumacher and his all-conquering Ferrari team?

The question has never had a sharper edge as the motor racing chiefs Bernie Ecclestone, who has owned and manipulated the sport for so long, and Max Mosley, head of the ruling FIA, wrestle desperately with ideas that might just halt a catastrophic slump in television ratings.

Some of the more absurd proposals reflect the sense of crisis. The booby prize goes to the suggestion that Schumacher should swap his Ferrari for one of the chasing pack at each grand prix, right down to the hapless Minardi. Here we are hitting the practicality level of giving Frankie Dettori a leg-up on a donkey for the 3.15 at Torquay or Blackpool.

What those outside motor racing may not understand is the obsessive need for power and victory of some of the team leaders. Formula One is not so much a test of Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya as a commercial platform for the makers of Ferrari and Mercedes and BMW cars and tyre manufacturers such as Michelin and Bridgestone. All the rulers of the "sport" can do is try to limit the means by which one team can dominate another, but the idea of imposing a handicapping system of weights, as in horse racing, is surely to create a falsity of competition that would make nonsense of the strivings of the engineers and the aerodynamists.

Motor racing at the grand prix level will always be an industry and an "experience" rather than a sport. The once hugely successful Sir Frank Williams, who currently can do no more than peer disconsolately at the disappearing rear end of Schumacher's Ferrari, said a few years ago that choosing his star driver was like "pinning the tail on the donkey". Any assessment of a driver's ability had to be conditioned by the question: "How fast is his car?"

The more the money, the better the engineers, the further Formula One moves away from the duels of great men such as Fangio and Moss, Clark and Hill.

One thing is certain. Frankie Dettori will never ride a donkey, not professionally anyway – and nor will Michael Schumacher ever slip into the cockpit of a Minardi. Formula One has been shaped by the forces of greed and power that dominate the real world. It is simply too late for it to try to make a new one.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project