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Just a litre will do, ...

This article was published in The Business, Weekend FT 22.04.2000

Just how many mechanics does it take to change a tyre?

Tomorrow’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone will be the first of the season in which artificial driver aids, such as traction control and pit lane speed limiting, are banned. This is part of a concerted campaign by the sport’s ruling body to make sure that, for all the technological advances, the essential man-versus-machine dynamic is maintained.

This approach seems to work. The sport has a global audience of 5bn people, among them the devoted Ferrari fans, known as the Tilosi, who will be cheering on race favourite Michael Schuhmacher. This session is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the world championship, and the sport is more popular with public and sponsors every year.

Its myriad, constantly changing rules now govern everything from tyre widths to the size of the sponsor’s logo on baseball caps. But it wasn’t always so: one single change to accepted practice altered the whole way the sport has developed. All is explained in The Power Game, a new history of world championship racing. In 1980, after winning grand prix in Argentina, and acting on the orders of the then new Fl power broker, Bernie Ecclestone, champion Nelson Piquet removed the traditional laurel wreath from around his neck. He didn’t want to obscure the sponsor’s name on his chest. The result was more interest from sponsors, more money into the sport, and the real beginnings of a £2bn a year business.

The Power Game, by Ivan Rendall, published by Cassell f25

This article was published in The Business, Weekend FT, 22.04.2000