Why is Bernie Ecclestone posturing over Monza?

Williams Bottas Monza

Bernie Ecclestone is threatening to not renew Monza's deal to host the Italian Grand Prix. But, as ever with F1, all is not as it seems.

If Bernie Ecclestone were to write a book on business tactics, it would go something like this:

Step One – Make a big fuss about Point A, which you don't want to actually happen.

Step Two – While everyone is worried about Point A, make them agree to Point B, which you do want to happen.

Step Three – Gracefully back down from pushing Point A with Point B secured. Everyone feels like they won, but really only you did.

His recent talk of dropping Monza from the F1 calendar after its contract expires in 2016 can only suggest that he's angling for something else entirely. Lets be real here: there will always be an Italian Grand Prix. Ferrari essentially are F1, and so long as the Italian outfit are in the sport there will be a home race for the tifosi.

So, by threatening to take away Monza, what exactly is Bernie trying to achieve? Let the speculation game begin.

More money from Monza. Right now there are only a few tracks which don't pay the mega £15m+ hosting fees for having a grand prix, and one of them is Monza. With money in F1 getting tighter, and rival Italian circuits such as Mugello getting their facilities up to F1 standard, this could well be Bernie telling Monza that it will no longer get a free ride.

Get Monza to upgrade. For years, Bernie waged a war with Silverstone in order to get them to pay more money and upgrade their facilities. In 2000 he scheduled the race for April, with rumours swirling that he did so purely to have rain wreck the weekend and cause chaos for the organisers. The race was left off the 2005 calendar initially after the British Racing Driver's Club, who own Silverstone, refused to pay the huge fee Bernie demanded. In 2008 the race was awarded to Donington Park over Silverstone, although that collapsed in 2010 when Donington ran out of money to redevelop their track. Eventually, Silverstone redeveloped their facilities and signed a new 17-year deal with F1, but it was only after a lot of hardball from both sides.

With Bernie nothing is sacred, and he could now be starting to wage war with Monza.

To slow Monza down. The Italian track is the fastest on the calendar, with average speeds hitting 150mph and the cars being well north of 200mph at the end of the main straights. It means that the teams have to develop special low-drag bodywork just for the race, with the cars sporting uniquely skinny wings. However, with F1's current cost-cutting drive, it might be that there is no room for a track that requires custom bodywork. At the same time, engine and gearbox reliability is at a premium, with gear ratios locked in for the year, and the teams may have had a quiet word that they don't want a track where they'll be bouncing off the limiter all weekend and trashing an engine.

Bernie may well be doing this on the team's behalf, trying to get Monza to throw a few more chicanes in to slow the track down and cut down the killer pressure that it puts on their cars.

To control Ferrari. If there has been a particular outspoken critic of modern day F1, it's been Ferrari. At the moment they're upset with the new engines, the reliance on aerodynamic rather than mechanical engineering, not being allowed more cars, the dwindling attendance, and just about everything in between. They're also a major voice in F1, having the power of veto over some rules and regulations negotiations and being F1's oldest and most successful team. Recently Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo tried to call a conference to discuss the future of F1, something which should be Bernie's job. By threatening to take away their home race, he could be trying to reel the team in.

To distract from negative press. It's also possible that Bernie is trying to give F1 some breathing room from a slew of negative press it's received recently. Artificial gimmicks such as standing restarts and sparking floors, a negative reaction to the new engine noise, dwindling viewing figures, and his own bribery trial have all taken their toll on F1's reputation. By creating a storm in a tea cup, it's perfectly possible that Bernie is going all Batman at the end of The Dark Knight and trying to give the sport a break by taking on some column inches of negative press himself.

Whatever the reason for Bernie's comments, rest assured that it isn't as simple as him thinking about scrapping the race at Monza.