'Tyregate' still damaging as fans shun Silverstone

Litany of issues is driving away usual spectators of British Grand Prix

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 5:10am

The British Grand Prix is struggling to fill Silverstone this weekend according to reports. It is a far cry from last year when 127,000 fans stuffed themselves into the circuit despite the dreadful weather.

It might be the ticket prices. Apparently a family of four would have to pay £840 (HK$10,000) for a place in the grandstand (even with children discounts). Buying the cheapest ticket will even set you back £145, which happens to be the price of the most expensive seat at the men's final at Wimbledon.

Mind you, hard-core petrol heads will not be put off by ticket prices, especially as facilities, including the campsites have been improved. It might be more to do with the lack of British success.

We arrive at the British Grand Prix with no race win so far for a Briton. It has been several years since that has been the case. Then there are the British teams. Although the vast majority of teams are based in Britain, parochial fans will look towards Williams and McLaren.

Williams have yet to score a point and are a shadow of their former selves. Much, much more was expected from McLaren, though. The team had the fastest car on the grid at the end of last season and much was hoped for this season, even without one of the fastest men on the grid, Lewis Hamilton.

And yet the team decided on revolution rather than evolution of that car, and they have been made to pay. The 2013 car is a real turkey, something that sixth in the constructors' championship behind Force India would seem to reinforce. Their decision to reinvent the wheel this year seems all the more odd given that with radical new rules from next year, all teams will be starting from scratch.

Poor old Jenson Button. Team leader this year, he has scored just 25 points. He is only third in terms of Brits, behind Hamilton and Paul Di Resta. That was not in the script, and do not expect it to change this weekend. Button has not won his home grand prix in 14 attempts, in fact he has never been on the podium.

Hamilton must feel he has dodged a bullet, and not just in leaving McLaren this year. His current employers, Mercedes, will be breathing a huge sigh of relief after dodging a bullet of their own after "Tyregate" case played out in the FIA's own sporting court in Paris.

You may recall the team and the tyre suppliers were in the dock for conducting an illegal in-season test. Warnings abounded that the team could be deducted points or banned from races. In the end, there was just a slap on the wrist, and incredibly that punishment was suggested by those in the dock themselves.

Mercedes will miss the young driver days, when teams can test up and coming talent - and by extension their cars - at Silverstone. It is not much of a punishment when you consider what they were found guilty of.

No one came out of this affair smelling of roses. The FIA, the sport's governing body, seems weak and ineffective. President Jean Todt is taking a lot of flack and justifiably so.

A process that should have settled this issue once and for all has done exactly the opposite. Red Bull are so furious about what has happened they are reported to be considering boycotting the young drivers' test and conducting their own private test. It's illegal of course, but if a reprimand is the only punishment then why not go ahead?

If the rule of law is essential in daily life, it's also crucial in the sporting domain. Anarchy is not the best way to achieve fair play, although sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking turmoil is the natural state of affairs in Formula One.

Mercedes may feel vindicated by the tribunal's punishment. Indeed Ross Brawn says the team's reputation is intact after the FIA ruled neither they or Pirelli acted in bad faith. In the current furore, surely those are hollow words from a brilliant man who has always pushed the boundaries of what is permissible and may yet end up being the main casualty of this affair.