The rumble down under is less about the noise than it is about the contract when it comes to the Australian Grand Prix and the supposed possibility of replacing Formula One with the Verizon Indycar Series.
There has been long standing tension between the organizers and Bernie Ecclestone. There’s been pressure to go through the increased expense of adding lighting to the circuit so that it could start prime time for the primary European audience. There’s also been growing tension between the organizers and their primary funding source, the Victorian Government, over the constantly growing sanctioning fee, which now reaches $38 million according to numerous published reports. The tensions have risen so high that Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker has publically admitted the organizers are at least considering breaking contract and bringing in the Verizon Indy Car Series because of Formula One’s new engine noise.
Ron spoke to (Ecclestone) after the race and said the fans don’t like it in the venue…. “We pay for a product, we’ve got contracts in place, we are looking at those very, very seriously because we reckon there has probably been some breaches.” Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott told Australian radio station Fairfax Radio
Dynamic Automotive Counsulting posted a comparison between a current Indycar and Formula One engine. The classic high-pitched scream of a Formula One car is gone, and Indycar has a louder, throatier pitch, but is it really enough to dump an existing contract?
Is there a chance that Australia will break contract with F-1 and bring in Indycar? Not really. Before the race Walker was trying to negotiate a multiple year extension beyond the end of the current contract 2015. Most likely it’s a negotiating ploy to try and bring down the sanctioning fee. It’s a common tactic that when negotiating a price you talk down the value of what you’re purchasing, and this noise issue is the first time GP promoters have had to knock down the value of what Formula One is selling.
I believe it’s less about the noise and more about contract negotiation, but maybe it’s Walker preparing a soft landing for the GP. This could be a way to soft peddle the shift, by saying, “Look, I’ve saved you money and brought you a better product,” but I doubt it
Obviously if Indycar could pick up a successful race from Formula One it would be a great thing for the series. Mark Miles has talked about the possibility of starting off with international races, and a well-attended national Grand Prix would be a massive win for the series. Given that three of the series top drivers are from Australia it’s logical that Indycar would want to go there. So, it would be a win for Indycar if it happened, but it probably won’t.
The most likely scenario I see is that the Australian Grand Prix will win a contract extending Formula One’s involvement through 2018. As an Indycar fan it’s nice to see the name out there, but I don’t think they’re actively pursing getting Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon to lap the circuit.