Sayonara. Au revoir. Arrivederci. Auf Wiedersehen. Adios.
Or, as we like to say in Hoosier, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out.''
The Formula One folks, or as I prefer to remember them, The Guests From Hell, are leaving the Indianapolis sports calendar, preferably forever.
Goodbye. And good riddance.
Please excuse me if any of this sounds xenophobic. I have nothing against people from other countries -- except maybe France. And Kentucky. But during their eight years of coming to our fair city, the F-1 leadership turned arrogance into high art. They engaged in the worst kind of snobbery -- as opposed to the best kind? -- wearing out their welcome like an ungrateful in-law.
They gave us a contrived finish, Michael Schumacher moving aside to let his teammate, Rubens Barrichello, win a race.
They gave us the Michelin fiasco, which should have spelled the end of the race right then and there.
And along the way, they acted like petulant children who were doing us some great favor by gracing American soil.
It all started at the top with a spectacularly unusual bloke named Bernie Ecclestone, who liked to show his gratitude by insulting us. The F-1 boss' most recent outrage came the week of this year's race, when he started negotiating the next contract with IMS by criticizing Indy and talking up the qualities of alternative sites.
That's not shrewd business; that's bad manners.
On this one, I give IMS chief Tony George credit. You know it hurt him deeply to lose this event, especially after investing tens of millions of dollars to make the track F-1-worthy. This event was running against traffic almost from the start. The second year came on the heels of 9/11. Then came date changes. Then came the contrived Ferrari finish and the Michelin fiasco and more date changes.
"There were a number of hurdles that contributed to our inability to get the traction we hoped,'' George said.
It was a noble try, one that cost the city nothing and enriched the city dramatically. But the price got too high to pay. And with MotoGP in his pocket, George could afford to say no this time.
The MotoGP will not bring in the kind of crazy cash the F-1 crowd throws around, but it will help ease some of the pain for all those Downtown businesses.
The last year of the F-1 race, we had approximately 100,000 people at IMS. Who's to say they can't do nearly as well with MotoGP? That's an event, populated by American riders, that can be grown in Indianapolis.
The F-1 race reached its apex its first few years here, then spiraled downward. That wasn't Indy's fault. It was F-1's fault. They acted like colonialists, ordering the natives around. Combine a sub-standard product and a restrictive media policy that made basic coverage next-to-impossible, and the race turned into a novelty act geared almost solely toward out-of-towners.
Will they be missed?
Well, their dollars will be missed.
But listen: Indianapolis existed as a city well before F-1 arrived in 2000, and Indy will continue to flourish long after the world's most boring race is a distant memory.
If there's any minuscule chance F-1 returns -- George kept talking about 2008 as a "hiatus,'' which troubled me deeply -- it can only happen if the city of Indianapolis gets financially involved and helps pay the sanctioning fee.
Say what you will about George, but he has never asked this city for a handout, never pigged out at the public trough.
"I think the city is willing to consider how they can help promote our speedway to continue to attract events like F-1 to Indy,'' George said. "That may be part of the due diligence we pursue as a necessary step to bringing F-1 back. But direct financial contributions, I don't see that at all.
"It's been interesting having been involved in the Super Bowl bid process a little bit to see that dynamic. And while it's not all about money, money is a factor. And right now there are a lot of countries and organizers who want F-1 in a bad way. As badly as I want it, it has to be a prudent business decision."
Here's my dream scenario: F-1 decides its American future is based in Las Vegas. They run a couple of years worth of races, Steve Wynn bankrolls the whole thing, and after two, three years, the fans there decide it's more interesting losing money playing the slots and watching David Cassidy.
So F-1 starts shopping its race to various cities, finally deciding that Indianapolis, the center of the racing universe, is, after all, the best spot for F-1's American race.
George tells Ecclestone he'll let him use the Speedway if he A) pays the city $5 million, preferably in small bills; and B) washes and waxes my Subaru Dentmobile, which really could use a good scrubbing.
In the meantime, three words to send F-1 on its way:
Bugger off, Bernie.
Bob Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or e-mail [email protected]