Formula 1 has long been considered one of the richest sports in the world, mainly due to the gargantuan amounts paid by merchandise producers, sponsors and event organisers. Bernie Ecclestone, the major force behind securing merchandise, sponsor and track site deals is rapidly becoming a hate figure amongst fans of the sport for his uncompromising pursuit of profit.
One of the primary causes of discontent amongst Formula 1 fans has been the creation of night races. The original cause of these races was to make race times more appealing to fans in Europe when races were being held in place in different time zones. Naturally sponsors and merchandisers were more than happy with the situation as Europe is now the largest market for Formula 1.
The first night race was to be held in Singapore as the temperatures in this part of the world are incredibly hot during the day so a night race was hoped to combine lower night temperatures and increased European audience numbers. Perfect for sponsors and merchandise companies alike who would benefit from more trackside spectators and wider worldwide audiences.
Ecclestone however has been accused of greed as he has suggested that the Australian Grand Prix also be held at night. This has angered Australian Formula 1 fans greatly, unlike the Singapore GP the grandstands in Australia are packed every year and so the need for a night race is negated. It is seen as a move purely to provide further revenue to sponsors and merchandise companies who seemingly make enough as it is.
Ecclestone has become somewhat of a scapegoat to Australian Formula 1 fans as he has previously stated that securing a large European audience is his main objective. Understandably fans in the southern hemisphere feel offended at what is essentially an insult.
Putting the requirements of one set of fans over another in a sport that is so international is a dangerous precedent. Ecclestone is believed to have pushed the idea of a night race to the Australian event organisers. Ultimately whether it goes ahead or not, any deal will result in more money for the Formula 1 authorities.
This is however one of the ways Formula 1 makes money. Not just by sponsorships and merchandise deals but by threatening tracks that they will be removed from the race calendar. In the past this has been an effective way to drive up the fees the tracks must pay. Ecclestone has a history of doing this, as the almost constant headlines of 'British GP in jeopardy' will testify. The calls for Silverstone to improve have been unending and through this pressure fees have been increased and work on the track has been forced.
But why is Ecclestone insisting that the Australian GP be staged at night? Why not put pressure upon the Chinese and Japanese event organisers? There are a number of reasons behind this. As the first GP of the Formula 1 season Australia needs to attract as many viewers as possible for sponsors and merchandise producers to continue their huge deals.
Also as the Chinese government has invested millions in the GP track, any changes to their contract will result in strife for F1 authorities; as will forcing anything upon the Japanese who already pay extortionate fees to host their national event.
Critics have asked why the European audience is held in such high regard by Formula 1 chiefs. Until a few years ago revenues for sponsorship and merchandise in Europe were paltry. It was only Britain and Italy who followed races consistently and only in recent times, after the successes of Schumacher and Alonso has the sport became popular in Germany and Spain.
In contrast Australia, Brazil and Canada have followed races fervently for years and are understandably annoyed at Ecclestone's pro-European standpoint. Hopefully races like Australia and Japan will be able to retain their independence from the business practises of this motorbike dealer from Southeast London. If all races that side of the world are played out at night surely the novelty will wear off and the sport will suffer.