HERE'S SOMETHING that might have happened. Recently. An F1 team is left in the lurch by the sudden withdrawal from the championship of the parent company. A buyer is desperately being sought.
Not only is the management working hard on finding a new owner for the team, so is the sport's commercial rights holder, as it's in the interests of the championship to have as many teams as possible in these difficult times - and it gives him some potential leverage in the ongoing battle for long-term control of the sport.
The current team unity represented by FOTA is a very worrying thing for the commercial rights holder. The teams are effectively contracted only until the end of 2012. Beyond that, there's a real prospect they could go it alone without him. But they need to remain united, and they know this. If just one team switches allegiance, the power of that unity will quickly crumble.
VIRGIN TERRITORY = OPPORTUNITY
Now, let's imagine the commercial rights holder opens talks with one of the world's most famous and successful business entrepreneurs - a guy who, incidentally, is a bit of a racing buff - with a view to him being the new team owner. Let's suppose this businessman owns, among his many operations, a global commercial airline.
This is one very smart move. In many ways, this guy would be perfect for F1, perfect for the team - and perfect for the commercial rights holder. But would F1 be perfect for him? The money required to run the team would be peanuts for him; that wouldn't be the issue. No, there's the matter of image. He's smack in the middle of trying to position his airline's brand as environmentally-responsible. Aligning it to F1, despite the sport's nascent environmental effort, may not be the best way of doing that - it is potentially very bad, in fact.
But this guy isn't as staggeringly successful as he is by chance. It's because he's very, very smart. Such people often sense opportunity in what the rest of us would see as an insurmountable problem. That's a very clear character trait. So, on one level the answer to the enquiry about him buying the F1 team might be, "No, F1 has the wrong image for what I'm trying to do with my core business," but on the next level the reaction might be, "Well, if I could help you make F1 have the right image - and do a lot of business with you at the same time - then yes, I might be interested in helping you out."
But how? Well, this guy is pioneering biofuel for aviation. In fact, only last weekend one of his jets became the very first biofuel-powered commercial airliner to cross the Atlantic. There were no passengers on it - the technology is way too embryonic for that. It was just to prove it can be done - and the sort of publicity stunt at which he is quite brilliant.
There are problems to be overcome in getting a supply that is sustainable - in other words, not by way of deforestation or loss of food-growing land - and which doesn't freeze at high altitudes. It's a tricky - some might say impossible - combination. But he's convinced it's the way to go and plans one day to have his whole fleet on this fuel.
So? Well, given that he's right in the middle of all this just when the F1 enquiry comes along, what about saying to the commercial rights holder, "Why don't you run all the F1 cars on my fuel? It's a fantastic environmental message for the sport to be sending out, it would publicise my business and it would enable me to help you by buying the team. Rather than it detracting from the image I'm trying to give my business, it would add to it. And everyone would be happy."
Well, not quite everyone, actually. Teams have existing contracts with their own fuel suppliers. Fuel development, in fact, has been the biggest factor in squeezing more power from engines frozen in spec since the end of 2006. This is still very much part of the technical and commercial competition of the game. Plus there is some very real cynicism about the environmental benefits of biofuel from the car manufacturers.
They wouldn't necessarily want to be railroaded down that track on their F1 programmes.
Then there's the matter of the politics of the FOTA/Ecclestone/CVC/FIA situation and how all the other teams might be hostile to the idea of a Bernie-directed outfit splitting their unity.
At this point the businessman might recognise that he really doesn't need F1 badly enough to get involved in all this; the more he looks, the more he sees that it is a potential energy-sap. Being the smart cookie he is, he turns his mind to other things. In his world, it was probably an interesting idea for about a week.
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