It was the day of the 2014 Italian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton had won the race following a mistake from his team-mate Nico Rosberg. That battle had taken a twist in the previous race at Spa, with much of the press leading up till Monza speculating about what may, or may not, happen between the two in the race. Following the race, there were much bigger issues on the table.
Sunday 7th September 2014. 15:34 UK time. Adam Parr, former chairman and CEO of Williams, wrote on Twitter: “This is the last year of F1 as we know it. In 2015 eight teams will contest the championship, with several teams entering three cars.” The replies to Parr’s tweet are amusing to look at in hindsight, one declaring that Parr is “of no relevance. No source. Goodbye.” Sky’s post-race broadcast was in the middle of #AskCrofty analysing the race, when focus quickly changed to Parr’s bombshell on Twitter. The mainstream Formula 1 press did not cover Parr’s tweet that much for whatever reason, whereas some journalists went to Twitter to counteract what Parr had said.
Eight weeks on from that tweet and Parr’s prediction is turning into reality. Two Formula 1 teams have collapsed. Caterham collapsed just under two weeks ago, with Marussia following on from that last weekend. There is also said to be the threat of boycott from three teams at tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix. To say that the situation looks bleak is an understatement. As of writing, three car teams has not yet been confirmed for F1 2015, but as the weeks pass, it looks like that is becoming ever more possible.
On the broadcasting side of things, I cannot imagine any broadcaster being happy with only 16 or 18 cars lining up in Melbourne in 2015. Does the BBC, for example, want to broadcast a motor racing series with only 16 cars lining up? Dieter Rencken for AUTOSPORT (£) believes that the TV contracts contain a clause saying that at least 16 cars participate in each event. Is a 16 car championship attractive to viewers? Would the casual viewers care if the likes on Force India, Sauber and Lotus collapse? Would the casual viewers care if three car teams are introduced? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but if viewers reject the idea of three car teams, that would send viewing figures downwards, again.
Going back to Parr’s tweet. One thing that intrigues me is how someone from outside the paddock broke the news before anyone in the paddock. How does that happen? Considering the Formula 1 paddock is close-knitted circle that travels the world every year, how does one of the most explosive stories of the year get broken by someone who is not part of the paddock circles? About half an hour after Parr’s tweet, F1 Paddock Pass tweeted this: “Rumour up and down the Paddock this weekend (and now made public)? 8 teams fielding 3 cars each in 2015. Fact or fiction? Source says: fact.”
I do wonder whether the third car story was ever meant to make it out into the public domain. Given the silence from the paddock at the time, the answer to that appears to be ‘no’. Had Parr not tweeted about that, would the outside world have ever known about the possibility of three car teams for 2015? One suspects not. Or at least the news would have been hidden from the public eyes for many more weeks before being made public. In future, I think we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss things people outside the paddock say, especially if they have had contact with paddock circles before. In the case of Parr, it looks like he was telling us what those in the paddock knew, but were simply afraid to reveal…