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“Thoughts on Ron Walker, modern Formula One and criticism”

March 25, 2014

“Tchaikovsky ‘s First Piano Concerto, like the first pancake, is a flop.”
– Nicolai Soloviev (Novoye Vremya; November 13th, 1875).

Those were the now infamous words of neo-romantic classical composer and music critic Nicolai Soloviev, when he reviewed Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 in B♭ minor in St Petersburg’s Novoye Vremya newspaper toward the tail end of 1875.

There are contemporary examples too. Following a live show with the Sex Pistols at the Screen on the Green in August 1976, NME journalist Charles Shaar Murray proclaimed that The Clash were “the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running.”

Even the movie industry is chocked of thoughts and reviews that have not necessarily stood up to the test of time. For example, the Sunday Times’ James Agate thought Citizen Kane was “nothing to write to Moscow about, the acting middling, and the whole thing a little dull…Mr. Welles’s high-brow direction is of that super-clever order which prevents you from seeing what that which is being directed is all about.”

Meanwhile Vincent Canby of The New York Times believed The Godfather, Part II ”a Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from leftover parts. It talks. It moves in fits and starts but it has no mind of its own. Occasionally it repeats a point made in The Godfather, but its insights are fairly lame at this point… …everything of any interest was thoroughly covered in the original film.”

Few nowadays ever speak of Soloviev, Agate or Canby in awe (although Murray did later redeem himself).

Since the running of the 78th Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park last week, a number of the usual crew have been making their own noise, including Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Ron Walker.
The Independent (UK) today reported on Walker’s recent complaints regarding the new cars, with the former Lord Mayor of Melbourne announcing that: “The sound is a disgrace. When the car comes down the straight you can’t even hear it. Now you have got every promoter worried that it’s going to turn fans away.” Walker added: “You will find promoters dropping out. They will go and get an IndyCar race or something like that to keep the fans.”

In this instance, Walker has also used the threat of a possible IndyCar race as a replacement for Formula One, but Ron might as well not have a race there at all in that instance. Walker commented; “We may as well go and buy an IndyCar race for $3.5m [£2.2m]. It would be hugely louder.”
There is no doubt the IndyCar’s will cost less to bring to Australia, but with all due respect to what is a fantastic series, one can also wave goodbye to any ticket or commercial sales that Formula One can bring.

Walker also boasted that he may sue for breach of contract, but – without wishing to get too harsh – this is full of shit, but of course we all know Ron doesn’t believe this nonsense. According to the 74-year-old notes: “Legal action would not be very difficult. Bernie is clearly in breach of his contract because this is not what we bought. I didn’t buy a wimp. Originally, I bought a giant with noise.”
One is certain Ron was pointing to the paragraph in the contract that specified a specific decibel output level. What a shame the outline of these technical regulations were known four years. All the parties involved were aware of the oncoming smaller sized engines, turbo units and revised hybrid units. They knew the score and it has given opponents to these regulations plenty of time to hone their party political line.

Finally, Walker also pointedly noted: “We haven’t signed a new contract with Bernie, so this is going to put a lot of pressure on the FIA,” adding, “There will be a meeting of all of the promoters and you will find that an enormous voice will come out of that… to say ‘ Bernie, enough is enough. This is not what we bought.’”

Actually Ron, this is exactly what you bought and like the critics above, he is merely sounding off (and probably playing ditties to someone else’s dance), but that does not – nor should it – make the outcome a certainty.

Will the new sound of Formula One turn off some fans? Possibly.
Are the old monotonous engines that sounded identical and soulless the way forward? Highly unlikely.
Is it up to Formula One to manage its product and how it is sold as it attempts to attract new audiences, while holding onto exiting fans? Certainly – and that is where Formula One is failing desperately.

Admittedly, the thought that a relatively small number of people manage to be so loud, just as the sport has dimmed its volume does raise a smile. Alas, Walker has also announced his retirement from the board and will step down following the 2015 event, but it remains to be seen whether his replacement is ‘RW, Mk II’ or an independent thinking with less tolerance for bullshit.

Maybe it is time new blood did replace the old legs. One can only hope business savvy and product progressive minds prevail, because one of the main things killing Formula One right now are the prevalence of old heads cycling redundant thoughts.

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