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Gavin Green on why there shouldn’t be a Korean, Indian or Malaysian GP
15 October 2012 10:30
As I write this, I’m not watching the Korean Grand Prix. Most Koreans aren’t either. That is because Korea has the same rich motor racing heritage, and naturally large motor sport fan base, as Pakistan does with American football, or China with cricket.
Similarly, uninterested Malays, Bahrainis and Indians have had GPs foisted on them by rich local potentates, and Bernie Ecclestone, supposedly keen to ‘globalise’ GP racing. (The Turkish GP has come and, sensibly, gone.) It must also be reported that the Shanghainese don’t seem very interested in their local Chinese Grand Prix.
I competed in a ‘celebrity’ support race for the Bahrain GP a few years back – proper celebrities included Steve Redgrave, Michael Johnson and Jay Kay – the sole purpose of which was to attract extra Bahrainis to their poorly attended GP meeting. Depressingly, most would rather watch a few Bollywood actors and some local and foreign celebrities, man handling (mostly badly) souped-up Holden Commodore V8s, than they would the talents of Alonso, Hamilton, Button etc.
Genuine F1 enthusiasm manifest in Italy, Britain and Brazil
Compare this with the genuine enthusiasm, and electric atmosphere, of GPs held in Italy, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan – and other nations rich in motor racing culture. Comparing Monza with Mokpo (benighted home of the Korean race) is like comparing Michelangelo’s David with Las Vegas’s.
The Malays, Bahrainis, Indians and Koreans all host a Grand Prix simply because some local billionaire (or puffed-up investor) can afford it, and because it makes Bernie richer. Meanwhile there is no French Grand Prix, the oldest in the world (and the term ‘grand prix’ isn’t exactly Chinese or Korean, is it?). Spa (the greatest circuit of all) seems continually to be under threat (ditto Silverstone, the ‘home’ of F1 racing). There is talk of no GP in Australia, which has a history stretching back to 1928, has produced two world champions, and has been a championship race for almost 30 years. It’s also usually the most popular race with drivers. I covered the whole of the 1999 F1 season and I remember a piece of advice from a veteran journalist: the best races begin with M (Melbourne, Monaco, Monza and Montreal). That turned out to be pretty sound advice.
Classic GPs must be preserved
In the same way that the Shanghai Masters will never be Wimbledon, the Tour of Qatar will never be the Tour de France, and a football World Cup in the Middle East in summer will never be as good as one in Brazil, so we need the big name evocative events to keep the allure of these sports shining bright. Every time a new Grand Prix is held in a motor racing backwater, on a dull new circuit in front of half empty grandstands, F1 loses a little of its lustre.
Footnote: Having watched the highlights of the Korean GP, it is surely appropriate that, on this most inauthentic and unattractive of tracks, Lewis Hamilton slowed after picking up a strip of artificial grass in his sidepod.