Thursday, November 15, 2007

US Dollars or Bernies?

As you know I'm a bit of a Formula One buff. This year has been rather interesting for reasons you'd have to be somebody named Gilligan or The Professor to have missed.

Basically, the sport's governing body's head honcho revealed he's actually Joseph Stalin reincarnated, as well as a huge Ferrari fan. Meanwhile the sport's largest shareholder, who is also the world's smallest person, Bernie Ecclestone, managed to oversell Grands Prix to more countries than there are places on the calendar- in much the same way airlines oversell seats then hope that someone turns up late and forfeits their ticket.

Bernie is so rich that the UK will soon re-name their currency after him. The longevity of his control over F1 has been of Castro-like proportions. In fact, there are rumours that when Bernie dies, he has ordered that his corpse be ferried around to F1 venues so that his management company continues to rake the revenue. Although, this will probably be ineffective since a rotting, dead Bernie would not be as scary as the live one. Anyhow, it was this order which inspired the Hollywood film Weekend at Bernie's.

You can prise F1 from my cold, dead fingers...

Ever since Victoria poached the Oz Grand Prix from Adelaide by offering Bernie more than the Gross Domestic Product of South Australia, Bernie's wallet has never quite recovered from the strain. Now he signs up long term contracts everywhere and then finds ways of making them short term.

Before I go on any more, for the uninitiated, here is an excerpt from my new book Running a Grand Prix for Dummies, from the chapter on "How to get a Grand Prix".

Hopeful Nation
: Hi Bernie, we'd like a Grand Prix. We have very little industry, massive unemployment, social problems and crime, terrible lack of infrastructure, but the Government's prepared to pay...
Bernie: Sounds fine. That'll be 50 million...
HN: ...and we've got oil
Bernie: I mean...that'll be FIVE HUNDRED million Bernies.
HN: Great. Here's the cheque. So when will the track be ready?

Bernie: OH, you wanted a TRACK with that?? Goodness me no, it doesn't work that way. Track's not included. Here's the card of someone who can help. He'll build one for you.
HN: (reads card) "Herman the German". Uh-huh. How much?
Bernie. Dunno. Nothing to do with me. Probably another 500 million.
HN: Do we HAVE to use this guy??
Bern: Good Lord no, it's a free country (Well, mine is. Can't speak for yours) You can use whoever you like.
HN: Right then. Who else is there?
Bern: Nobody. You have to use Herman.
HN: How many races do we have?

Bernie: The standard contract is 6 races. But in reality it's one, maybe two, until I get bored with you and come up with an excuse to void the contract or make unreasonable demands on you such as you must stage the race at night or upside down.
HN: What if we can't meet those demands?
Bernie: Well, you'll lose the race and have nobody to blame but yourselves.
HN: If so, will we receive a partial refund of our 500 million Bernies?
Bernie: (loses control in fits of annoying laughter) Excuse me, I have to sit down...(loses it again)
(HN goes back to it's Parliament/Senate Committee/ Caucus/ Tribal Council to pitch the idea)
Tribal Council: It will cost HOW much?

HN: 500 Million. But it will bring IMMEASURABLE benefit to the local economy!
TC: So what you're saying is, you have absolutely no idea whether we'll make any money out of it, but the local corner store will sell more of those cheap little Kodak snappy cameras and toilet paper, and there'll be lots of spoilt, pompous journalists moaning about how bad our taxi drivers are?
HN: Well yes. But, by gosh, we'll get on the Telly! And no-one will think we're a backwards, mountain goat-infested dump anymore!

...and so on. Anyhoo, it turns out even Melbourne is eligible to cop a legendary Bernie change-of-heart. You see, this year Bernie mentioned that he had, after ten years, only just realised the shocking truth- that the Oz GP is on just a little too early for Poms and Europeans to watch it on their tellies, i.e. several hours before they all get up and go to church. So, says Bern, why don't you chaps hire some of those floodlights from Coates Hire and stage a race at night to boost my Telly ratings! Oh, and while they're at it, Coates Hire might also like to build a nuclear reactor in Albert Park to power it.

Count To Zero wins, only to be excluded and fined 100million bernies for receiving a 780 page technical dossier from Efficient and copying their horseshoes

How Melbourne managed to ride that one out I don't know but no sooner had that blown over that the Vic Socialists looked at their invoices and discovered that the GP had lost them $34 million. That's a lot of speeding fines. So, all sorts of novel ideas were floated to make the GP a little cheaper. None of them were really impressive since the Vic Socialists aren't that crash at fixing problems in any way other than throwing more money at them.

One suggestion, earlier in the year, was that a consortium of Geelong people would build a massive racetrack on the western plains near where I live, which would be nice. The problem with this idea was that the consortium consisted of Drag Racing legend and very large man Victor Bray, and there were concerns he would build a track without any corners.

Another suggestion was to stage it at Sandown, a horse race track which has a motor race track running around it. But they already spent gazillions on the very same idea in the early 1980's, only to be gazzumped by Adelaide (huzzah!!). So they're still sulking.

Another more recent suggestion was to stage it at Phlegmington, a horse racetrack which has no motor race track running around it, at present. However, this idea was dismissed as too problematic because Melbournians might confuse the GP with the Melbourne Cup, as well as confuse Bernie Ecclestone with a (very, very old) jockey.

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