The chickens are starting to come home to roost for Bernie Ecclestone.
When he embarked on a mission several years ago to squeeze every last cent out of countries and/or promoters willing to put on Formula One races, a number of "traditional" host nations fell by the wayside.
We were in that group for a year. Canada didn’t have a Grand Prix in 2009; the United States hasn’t had one since 2007. Nobody – governments or individuals/businesses – would pay the outlandish prices Ecclestone was demanding. (He caved on Montreal, simply because he couldn’t have a "world championship" without a presence in North America and the teams refused to go back to Indianapolis.)
So he started doing business with a number of countries where, to put it mildly, the democratic rights of the citizens who live there are not anywhere near the top of the ruling classes’ list of priorities.
Those countries now include (as represented on the 2011 F1 Grand Prix schedule): Bahrain, Malaysia, China, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi).
So now we’re watching the start of popular revolutions – bloody uprisings, actually – in the Middle East.
The first cancellation of 2010 came Monday, when the royal family of the Kingdom of Bahrain officially called off the Grand Prix scheduled for March 13. This followed by several days the shooting deaths by security forces of at least six people. Several hundred others were injured.
To its credit, the royal family has initiated a dialogue with opposition groups in an effort to try to reach some sort of accommodation.
But if what’s happened in Egypt and what’s happening in Libya is any indication, there’s an unstoppable force at work in that part of the world and other Middle Eastern plutocracies may soon be caught up in it.
And who knows what fires might be started elsewhere by the sparks coming from there?
Bernie Ecclestone is the genius who took what essentially was a European open wheels series and turned it into a true, international, world championship.
But then, instead of letting Formula One grow naturally and on its own, he upped the ante so much that his short-sightedness is threatening not necessarily to destroy it but to severely hobble it.
Bernie should have remembered what some of us learned in Sunday School: As you sow, so shall you reap.