News Wrap, Week 36

Just a few quick updates for this week’s news wrap, as Box Of Neutrals headquarters (a place that shifts between Rob’s car, Michael’s lounge room, and sometimes an actual radio studio) struggles with the recording equipment in an effort to retrieve this week’s episode for podcast.
Formula One in the USA
First thing first, and everyone should be well aware now that Austin’s 2012 US Grand Prix has been cancelled by Bernie Ecclestone after a series of unfortunate and political events.

Race to save the US GP

To sum it up quickly if you haven’t the time to read the full article posted earlier, three stand-alone parties supported the Austin race. The first was the promoter, Full Throttle Productions (FTP), which won the licence to host the race from Bernie Ecclestone. The second was the Circuit of the Americas (CotA), which went about building a circuit for FTP to run its race on, as well as a whole host of other motorsport categories including MotoGP and the V8 Supercars. Third was the Texas state government, which was approached at the time of Bernie and FTP sorting out a contract to supply funding for the $25 million race hosting fee, on the proviso that the money spent would be made back through advertising exposure, tourism, and so forth.
Critically, last week, the government pulled its support from the event. It had previously guaranteed the money one year in advance of the race being held (so around about now), payable to Bernie Ecclestone. However, state comptroller Susan Combs released  statement this week confirming that this was, for some reason, no longer the case. The money would now only be available after the economic events of the race could be quantified – so, after the race itself.
As a result, FTP had no money to pay Bernie Ecclestone’s contract fee, at which point Bernie cancelled the contract. Then, realising that upon the circuit’s construction there would be no race to run, CotA downed tools until the situation could be clarified – which it, as of yet, has not been.
So that’s how it worked. The trouble is that the contract Bernie has offered to save the race needs to be signed within a week – that’s one week for some other organisation to put together a bid for the hosting licence. Moreover, it’s rumoured that this contract is different from the first, and significantly less favourable – US$25 million to host a race is on the favourable side, comparatively. Once Tavo Hellmund left the fray – Hellmund was representing FTP until it lost the licence, and also happened to be a friend of Bernie’s since childhood – Ecclestone dropped the mates rates offer, it seems.
CotA has since conceded that there probably won’t be a race next year – it was just about the only group that might’ve found the money to put a bid together – but says that it will work towards 2013, meaning it has another year to both prepare the circuit, and find investors to buy the hosting licence.
This leaves the 2012 calendar with 19 races again – though there remains significant doubt that Formula One will actually return to Bahrain. Moreover, Korea may be looking for a fast exit, with the race there losing money fast after a steep drop in public interest and attendance between this year and last. So could we see the calendar actually shrink in 2012?
Vitaly Petrov’s outbust
A quick word on Vitaly Petrov, who used an appearance on Russian television to make some less-than-complimentary remarks about his Renault team, blaming poor development direction, pit work, and strategy decisions for both his and the team’s poor performance this year – particularly in the second half of the season.
The Russian told the media that he had remained quiet up to this point because his contract stipulated as much, but after finishing in P13 – one position down from his qualifying classification – Petrov said he had little choice but to speak out.
‘Even without a fast car we could have gained good points, we could have finished with points if we had had a good strategy,’ he noted. You can read Autosport’s summary here.
Petrov has since apologised for the outburst in a letter. It’s interesting that, despite being contracted to the team for another year, the driver went so far as to point out that Kimi Raikkonen had another year to run on his Ferrari contract before he was turfed out for Fernando Alonso
It seems that with a virtually endless queue of drivers waiting for their turn in the Renault machine, and Heidfeld’s unceremonious dumping earlier in the year despite his name inked on paper, Petrov is acutely aware of the team’s volatile driver situation.
Jill Singer Update
You may remember I wrote a column last week in which I looked at the unfolding battle between Jill Singer and the motorsport community after Singer’s disparaging remarks towards racing fans and the sort generally after the deaths of Marco Simoncelli and Dan Wheldon.
This week, another writer came to the defence of motorsport fans in the shape of Australian comedian Corrine Grant. Writing for The Hoopla, Grant put forward that Singer’s articles were ‘born of snobbery’, and that motorsport fans ‘don’t watch the sport to see their heroes die any more than football fans do’.
Read the full article here.
A short-lived but nonetheless curious exchange subsequently unfolded in the article’s comment section between Singer and Grant, which I’ve duplicated here.

Jill Singer:
Corrine, I have never suggested this: ‘According to Singer, people only watch motorsport for the crashes, and the main reason there are car accidents is because people watch car racing.’
You have dramatically distorted my views.
You might disagree with me. I expect that many do. Just don’t misrepresent me in order to give yourself a platform.
And, for your information, I have written about my concerns about the physical risks of AFL – so your exhortation for readers to imagine the ludicrousness of my doing such a thing is more than a little misplaced.



Corrine Grant:
You’re a lot more polite on here than you were at 1am on Twitter last night, Jill. Might be worth remembering Twitter is a public forum as well. Beating your chest and wailing that I have ‘dramatically distorted your views’ after claiming motorsport fans have ‘blood on their hands’ is a bit rich. You wrote two articles insulting fans and drivers. And read the rest of that Wikipedia article on risk homeostasis–or google the actual research. You got the definition subtly but fundamentally wrong.

Jill Singer:
Corinne, this is the first I’ve heard of you engaging in discussion about risk analysis let alone risk homeostasis so thanks so much for the Wikipedia link.
Your academic input is genuinely appreciated. I’ll pass it on to Bettina Arndt and their ilk.
One thing that women such as yourself might like to realise about the particular industry of motor sports is that your name will never rank up there as participants – only as accessories or fans.
You love racing so much? Well stop being a passenger – you take no risk as a female fan. I find it hard, if impossible to support the likes of women such as yourself. You’re a rev head? Sure you are. a very, very safe one – and one who hides herself behind popular male activities.



Corrine Grant:
I’ve participated in three celebrity races and passed and held my CAMS license three times. Granted I’m a crap driver, but I have participated. (I touch on that in the article actually.) Mind you, not sure why I’m not allowed to comment on male dominated sport unless I’m a participant. I should keep my mouth shut on the footy as well. In fact, you make a very good point: what ARE women doing commenting on sports them fancy men folk play? I’ve got dishes to do! Debbie Spillane, stick to the netball! Also, chick journalists comment on politics– another male dominated field of which, as journos, they are not participants. That uppity Michelle Grattan and Annabel Crabb should shut their mouths. My god, when did women think they had a right to comment on anything apart from cooking and fashion? I am suitably chastened. I’ll shut up and leave the sports talk to the men folk. I hadn’t realised I wasn’t allowed to like sport that mostly men do. From now on, I shall only watch competitive knitting.

Singer’s last comment was a curious one, with her apparently departing from her argument in an attempt to turn the issue into one of gender equality in motorsport.
Moreover, despite her persistent claim that her view was ‘misrepresented’, she refuses to correct it. I would argue that her view was accurately portrayed.
You can find my original summary of the argument here, or have a read of Jill Singer’s first articleAnn Neal’s reply, and Jill Singer’s rebuttal to Neal.

 You can follow me on Twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato


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