Ah, F1. My first love, like literally. Some of my earliest memories were pit talk among the likes of Murray Walker and Jim Rosenthal on ITV’s coverage, and of course, watching great legends win over and over again. I grew up in motor sports.
I don’t remember a lot in my early toddler days, but sometimes, I still remember the commentators/pit radio roaring in my head, “OH MIKA’S CRASHED! HE’S OUT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN!”, “OH LOOK AT HIM! CRYING HIS EYES OUT”. I don’t actually know where/which circuit that was, but that’s something I will probably never forget in my lifetime. I don’t know how young I was, either.
I was probably one of the earliest fans/followers of F1 in Singapore. I often went to school and I would be bursting with information about the recent race weekend and how Michael (Schumacher) won, again. When it finally came in 2008, the inaugural night race came. After that, everyone in school suddenly became F1 experts, and of course, a whole string of blind Hamilton fans. I have no problem if you became a fan because he’s good, and undeniably one of the best we have currently. What really annoyed me, is that they didn’t appreciate the sport, or give the drivers the due credit that they deserve. Simply put, “I support him because he won one race!!”.
Formula 1 has a very rich history, though only inaugurated in 1950 (younger than most sporting events), we cannot deny that it has been illustrious. There have been many feuds, most common would be Hunt vs. Lauda (thanks to the movie Rush) and of course, Senna vs Prost. Now, I wasn’t alive when these feuds happened, but my father (& grandaunt) made it important for me to know these great rivalries. Learning these helped me understand the dynamics of the team – how they operated as a team and how it helped boost the entertainment aspect of the sport. Maybe, less so of the latter back then. When I was 10, there was no YouTube to watch videos of them bicker and fight off-track. I had to rely on biographies and my father’s knowledge of the drivers. He would put the VCR recordings of the different races for me to watch on TV after I’ve done my homework.
Looking back, the emotions that ran through me felt different. The drivers were definitely fearless, vicious even. They didn’t care about the team, and they made it known. I remember in an interview with Senna, he said “nice men don’t win .. being second means you are the first to lose”. I probably went “woah”. He didn’t fear fear. He wasn’t afraid to push his limits, and fear was exciting to him. Not only him, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, to name a few. They kept pushing, nothing was going to stop them (unless it was team orders – that’s another issue I should talk about). I felt a strange feeling of excitement, fear and euphoria all mixed in one. Excited when they raced against each other and tried to push each other off the track to save their position, feared when they crashed and euphoria when my favourite won. Nothing else gave me the same best feeling as they did. It was … amazing, to say the least.
Of course, I can’t expect the same old drivers to stay forever and young blood have to come in. I’ve watched drivers like Mika Haikkinen, Michael Schumacher, Jean Alesi leave and (at that time) new ones like Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, the infamous Juan Pablo Montoya and fan favourite Kimi Raikkonen. I must say, the last time I felt the way I did was probably 2010 when Sebastian Vettel won. While I love and embrace change, it didn’t feel right to me. There were too many regulations, too many rules and of course, drivers who didn’t have the same drive as the older ones. I grew up in the era of Michelin vs. Bridgestone tyres, it was fun to see analytics and fans join in the debate about which tyres were better and always watching Bridgestone tyres just completely lose its rubber. When refuelling was allowed, it gave more play for strategy. There was so much talk on how much fuel to first take on board, when to pit and anticipating when the rivals were coming in. When engineers sat on the wall and panicked with the drivers while the race was going on. Technology was still quite absent, so you had a lot of engineer talk and the drivers literally had to wreck their brains when something goes on.
While it is still exciting to watch F1 now as it probably was back then and now, the sport is getting more and more recognition that it should be. F1 right now is at its best, but I can’t help thinking how much it has changed over the years and how different it is. Change is good, the teams you would never dream of getting up with the best in 2006 are now in the top 3. If you managed to read to the end, thank you. It is probably the longest I’ve ever written because of my passion and love. Let me know what you think, and I’ll be back.