The tweet that lit the fire

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…

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7 thoughts on “The tweet that lit the fire

  1. As the most senior guy of the Commercial Rights Holders, Bernie Ecclestone should be really interested in keeping viewers, therefore he should be bending backwards to support those teams who have filed for bankruptcy or facing it if things don’t improve. He’s worth billions therefore a handout to keep these teams going would be pocket money to him. Let’s get this season over then look at the way the money is allocated, so that the minnow teams get a fair share of the pickings to make it viable for them to continue. Bernie has made his money from the fans and race organisers, therefore now is the time to give some of it back. Otherwise Formula One could fold up all together and Bernie would lose his income, however he’s got enough to retire well more than comfortably and doesn’t need any more, so share it out and keep Formula One going.

  2. Well if the TV broadcasters signed contracts stating that at least 16 cars must be present on the grid, then surely they must be happy with 16 cars…

    Bernie has said last night that following a meting with teams, that there would not be any teams running 3rd cars next year, but he’s tying to find ways to give the smaller teams more money, but because it’s all locked into contracts, that will be difficult.

    Put yourself in his position: Ferrari (or Mercedes or Red Bull) say they want more money, or they’ll quit the championship, but that means less money for lets say Force India. Which is a better F1 grid for the majority of viewers, one that contains Ferrari but no Force India, or one that contains Force India or Ferrari? I know which team i’d be more inclined to keep on the F1 grid.

  3. Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to win the championship as Mercedes wont a 100 percent German win across the board

    • No. Mercedes just want a championship.. The Austrian owners of the team based in Britain with the British workforce with the British engine don’t mind if its the Brit or the half Finnish half German Monaco resident that does it

      • I think if you look from a sales point of view, Hamilton’s vague ethnicity makes him appealing in far more markets than the very Teutonic Rossberg.

  4. It needs to be remembered that Adam Parr was, during his time at Williams if not before, privy to the secrets of the commerical deals between the teams and FOM and therefore knew that they contained the 3 car provision, which could be enforced in order to ensure that FOM did not break it’s minimum field size agreement with the FIA. (and possibly with other parties)

    Adam will have seen the diminishing prospect of sponsorship supporting the smaller teams and mused upon the likely outcome. This is not new I have been suggesting the demise of F1 as we know it for two or three years now, it still seems logical to me……… Unless we can tear up the financial structure and start again.

    Logic says that there is plenty of money to support all the teams, however this is where the greed of the top few becomes much more publicly known, currently they are refusing to budge and clinging to their lion’s share of it, the few crumbs that are left are not enough to support the 5 back enders.

    Unfortunately the “Greed id good” cult is alive and thriving in F1, it has been encouraged for many years, the rich have got richer and left the poor in the gutter.

    Christian Horner has publicly (and perhaps extremely unwisely) said he sees no reason why the top teams should give up anything to help the poorer teams. I think he will come to regret that. His stance may see the end of F1 as we know it. if so he will be demonised in the F1 press and blogosphere.

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