>>THE ISSUES THAT MATTER, FROM THE PEOPLE INVOLVED
When Michael Schumacher drove his Ferrari on to the tarmac at Melbourne earlier this year, he must have done so with a heavy heart. For eight years, he and his team had dominated the sport of Formula One racing. But now, after some controversial rule changes, life was going to be much harder. And so it has proved.
Since that first race in Australia in March, Schumacher has won only one Grand Prix in 2005 - the American race, in which very few cars actually competed. This time last year, his famous red car had passed the finishing line in first place an amazing 12 times.
For a cynic such as myself, the rule changes appear to have been prompted by a desire to stop Schumacher and Ferrari. Officially that’s not the case, but there is no denying that it is now more difficult for the team with the deepest pockets, the best driver and the most advanced car to win everything.
Five months into the season, Formula One races are getting harder to predict, but a couple of new heroes are emerging on the track. There’s more excitement. And for racing fans this is turning out to be a great season.
The sport’s governing body must be delighted. It took some tough decisions, but the results and response from their customers show they were probably right.
Now, Ferrari isn’t the only team proving too successful for its own good. Team Tesco is the Ferrari of the game we call grocery retailing. As it has shown again this week, with a deal to buy 30 forecourts, Tesco works within the existing rules to ensure that it keeps on accelerating away from opponents. With the best driver, the best team supporting him and very deep pockets, it seems there is little chance of Team Tesco ever being overtaken.
Little wonder everybody else is calling for the rules of our particular game to be changed. But the OFT and Competition Commission are not listening. They don’t think the existing rules are flawed. They don’t have a problem with one team lapping everybody else. And they are not going to modify the rules just to prevent that particular team winning all the time, because they don’t think hobbling Tesco would actually benefit consumers. If rival teams are to stop Tesco taking the chequered flag again with this latest deal, they will have to persuade those bodies governing our game that they are wrong. And that will take some doing.
time to slow team tesco?