Ron Dennis has lauded praise on the host of last weekend’s European Grand Prix, and within the same breath also criticised England for failing to successfully host major sporting events. Dennis’s words will be likely be criticised, himself admitting as much when he spoke to the press. But what the McLaren boss had to say was primarily in support of Valencia, it’s commitment to host international sport and invest time and money in making venues worthy of the world stage.
The European Grand Prix came off as a mixed affair. The track was great, and many have suggested it will only get better as the years pass. It is hoped that with more yachts in the harbour, more glamour in the paddock and pro-overtaking rule changes will all combine to make Valencia the talking point of racing seasons to come. Conversely, although Dennis didn’t actually commit to saying this, it is clear from his choice of language that Ron is ashamed that the UK government are not offering monetary support to the British Grand Prix. He took his opportunity with the world’s media listening to loosely compare the commitment of the two nations to motor sport.
I have to say something a little controversial which I’ll probably regret. When I go back into England and I go through Heathrow airport, I’m ashamed to be English.
Valencia is an area that is not the gateway to their country, and yet the local government showed vision to stage the America’s Cup, to commit all the resources they did to turn it into a world-class venue.
To see what they’ve done demonstrates what you can do if you are committed as a government, local or national. Valencia is a testament to how you should do it. I applaud the efforts of Valencia. They’ve gone the right way about it, they’ve committed to putting in the infrastructure, to getting the resources right. Ron Dennis.
Silverstone will host their last race in 2009, after which the venue will change to Donington Park. This announcement came as a surprise to many on the eve of the 2008 grand prix, and many people fear that Donington will not be able to get permission or funding to develop the circuit in time for 2010. The really cynical among the Formula One fraternity believe Bernie Ecclestone has done this on purpose. The theory goes that Bernie switched the race to a circuit he knew would be unlikely to fulfil its obligations, at which point the race can be dropped and Bernie can replace it with another more profitable venue.
Regardless of theories and speculation, the point of Dennis’s words (as far as I can make out) are that he is ashamed that Formula One isn’t considered a sport worthy of UK government funding, and the fact that Valencia, which is only Spain’s third largest city, hosted an event the local people, attendees and organisers can be proud of. Although the racing wasn’t as exciting as other circuits, the atmosphere was said to be top-notch, as were the facilities.
Ron’s words are bound to come back and bite him at some point, but as the McLaren boss said himself, if people to not talk openly about these issues, then nothing can be expected to change. Unfortunately for Ron, just speaking out, I fear, will not be enough. What needs to happen are talks between Formula One employers and the government. The sport needs to be sold to the government, and whining will not help in the long-run. To add more cynacism though, with the 2012 Olympic Games coming to the UK, I don’t see how the government will want to ad to their own monetary pressures when already the planned-budget for the games has been laughed off as ridiculously small.
Well done to Ron for speaking up. And well done to Ron for sharing his thoughts on the Spanish circuit. But will this little moan make any difference? I doubt it.
I I was in government I would not fund a grand prix circuit. F1 is swimming in money so why would I put taxpayers’ money in to make the rich richer? I know that the way Bernie has structured things means that the BRDC cannot make any real money out of it so if I pay for them to upgrade now I am going to have to pay again every five years or my initial investment is worthless.
I am not over optimistic about the 2012 Olympics either. Britain never delivers on time or on budget. Look at the millenium projects. Some of those were not delivered until 2005 and had been thrown together just to finish them then. Look at every major government project whether it is IT systems that don’t work, military equipment that is not up to scratch etc.
Until the UK government – regardless of political party – gets to grips with getting a good deal from business we will always have problems delivering on any project. I worked for a company a few years ago and the main government contractor which is a houshold name company which used to be government owned sent us some parts to be built into the item we were making. 15% of the parts were faulty and our finished product had to be returned to us for us to disconnect the faulty part and fit new. 15% of them were faulty etc etc etc. When I asked how long this had been going on I was told 15 or 20 years. No-one had made any attempt to fix the problem they just kept bumping the taxpayers’ bill up. So you can imagine how much this added to the already over the top price.
As an example of how much government pays industry compared to what a commercial entity would pay I give you this. I was called over and asked how much I would charge for the repair to two items returned from the same customer. I was asked by someone who was new to customer returns and who knew I had been around the industry for years. I said that it looked like £5 pounds worth of work so the company would probably charge £30-£60. He handed me a note accompanying the items which said ‘The normal cost of these repairs is £625. You are due a price increase so we will pay £750 each this time and sort out the new price in the future.’ Any competent business would have told its employees to get any repairs done before the price inrease was due and would never have contemplated an increase of that magnitude. Many commercial contracts actually have annual price decreases (yes decreases) built into them and many companys will not deal with suppliers unless they commit up front to five years worth of 5% decreases.
If governement gets involved in Silverstone every million pounds it should cost to get something done will end up costing the tax payer at least £10-£15 million and then it will be delivered 3 years after we have lost the race anyway..