The more an American fan looks into the recent history of F1 in the good old U.S. of A., the more he or she (any female F1 fans under 150 pounds and the age of 40 please feel free to call or e-mail me) realizes what a negative effect that nefarious little bastard Ecclestone has had on the sport over here.
As a relatively new fan of the sport -- having only followed it for roughly the last five years or so, and most closely since the end of the boring Schumacher era -- I was aware of some of the back-room politics that led to the mess that was the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix.
We read in the press that the last minute race team pull-outs were perhaps just as closely related to the ongoing feud between many people involved with F1 and the silver-haired geek with the sweet car collection and transvestite bride, as it was based on the Michelin tire issue.
The idea was that maybe by making the only U.S. race a total flop -- by claiming the track/tire combo was unsafe for competition and bailing on race day -- they'd splatter egg on old Bernie's face and somehow drive him away from his place in the sport.
Instead they just killed off the race.
Afterwards, the Mini Me of Motorsport told the press that F1 didn't need the U.S. to be successful or profitable, which is obviously true, but damn him to hell for punishing the fans and Indy track reps for reacting to the debacle that so clearly lay at his feet. And the position displays an incredible amount of arrogance and lack of business acumen on his part. Yes F1, doesn't necessarily need to be in the U.S. to draw fans worldwide, but Americans love racing and could love F1 if it was presented to them properly.
Since then he appears to have softened-up his comments (perhaps because the U.S. is the biggest market in the world for Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Honda, along with a number of other high-profile F1 sponsors) but the fact that nothing has been done to bring a race back Stateside appears to prove that he just doesn't give a damn about us.
However, in reading a recent article on ESPN.com (which does not a bad job of covering F1 for the small amount of attention they appear to give to it) I realized that the damage done by Bernie runs much deeper, and that Indy Speedway head honcho Tony George really had good reason to tell F1 and Bernie to F off in his own right.
As described by ESPN:
"In the early '90s when former Formula One champions Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi were dominating CART, the Champ Car series began to rival (and even threaten) F1 on the world stage. Ecclestone's response was to help cajole George into starting up the IRL as an all-oval series while at the same time convincing him to spend an estimated $35 million on an infield road course at IMS, which would host the revived United States Grand Prix starting in 2000.
We all know now how that turned out -- after taking George's money on an exponentially increasing basis for seven years, Ecclestone sold Indy's spot on the F1 calendar to the highest-bidding Middle Eastern government. If anything positive came out of Indy's F1 experiment, it was that George now recognizes the appeal that road racing holds for U.S. open-wheel fans -- road races now make up almost a third of the IndyCar schedule."
So the little rat bastard pretty much set us up for failure by convincing George to make the investment, and then failing to make sure that his side of the equation was in good steed to keep the race running smoothly.
And then he sold our spot off to the Arabs! Fucker!
Now maybe all the dissident parties involved in the 2005 display decided to screw us over because they knew that the USGP was one of the least important races on the schedule, and saw it as an opportunity to hit Bernie in his man purse. But, from what I've read it certainly seems like he had the chance to make things right but refused to do so, at our expense of all of us fans of course.
I can see why so many American fans are turned off by F1 from the standpoint that it doesn't involve U.S. auto OEMs or drivers, but that's mostly because they're not willing to make the investment, or simply cannot compete, respectively.
But damn, the underhanded nature of the whole scenario just makes me loathe Bernie even more than before. Dude set us up and made the IRL boring as shit in the process.
Let's hope for a day when he steps back and we can hope for a new F1 director who values us as a market and fans.
Until then, it's nothing but CART and IRL for open wheeled enthusiasts in the U.S.A.