Why You Should Watch Formula 1 (F1)

I was going to write about the Belgium GP preview, but then I looked at the calendar and dear me, it’s another week of waiting for the race to start again. However, I did promise an F1 post, and here it is! I must say, even though it is a F1 post, I still have to brainstorm as hard as I do with my other ones as there is so much to write, where do I start? Maybe, I’ll start with something more personal, something I don’t share with people for the very simple reason, that it is because they don’t watch. Though the sport is garnering more and more attention in Singapore, many stop at “oh, the very very noisy cars go round and round on Sunday”. I understand that people have different tastes and are entitled to it (like how 90% of the people I’ve encountered love K-pop music, and I don’t see the appeal), but given that it’s been 9 years since the inaugural race, you should at least give some credit to the hype. Also, there is more to the sport than a bunch of cars going around in circles. So, here is my personal view on why you should watch Formula 1, in this day and age.

(warning: long, detailed post ahead)

(Genuine) Competitiveness 

I grew up in the era where Ferrari dominated. My first memory was watching (Michael) Schumacher in the Red Ferrari winning every race with the occasional (well…rarely) win by his brother Ralf and (Mika) Haikkinen. (I digress, I must admit, MS is the reason why I am a Ferrari fan – I will elaborate in another post) Well, it was like that for 5 years. Now, things have changed drastically. Gone were those days where Ferrari won 1-2 every race with Mclaren just right behind. Red Bull Racing and Mercedes are now at the top, and teams that were once the best seem to be slipping down the constructor’s championship laddder. (It pains me to watch the Ferrari not at its best) With all that being said, it is more enjoyable to watch, it’s a lot more exciting to see teams that were in the mid-section come up and compete with the big boys. Oh, so entertaining!

Team Strategy

“HUh?! what strategy?! They just speed round and round right?” Ah, these are the ignorant fools that simply ignore the poor engineers and strategists in the back room. I don’t think even Alain Prost (great 4x world champ, living legend) could have done everything by himself (or maybe he can – after all, he is the professor). Behind every driver, there is a team of engineers and strategists that work closely with him to make sure he gets the maximum points the car would allow. You may be think, how hard can it be? Well, it is. First, there are many approaches/strategies (e.g. 2-pit stop/3-pit stop). Secondly, tyres. For all you F1 fans out there, you know where I’m heading with this. There are so many types of tyre compounds allowed, and which one you choose to start could cost you points for the championship. Moreover, tyres degrade. They burn and pretty soon, you’ll have to box (pit). That ties in with my first point, the strategy you adopt will also impact which tyres you put on the car (unless it rains, then the obvious wet tyres will the choice, if you don’t want to skid and crash). Thirdly, that anticipation and predicting which strategy your competitors are adopting. It doesn’t matter where you start on the grid, you have competition. So yes, even those that start from 16-22 have to have a strategy to get ahead of the other. Afterall, it is a race. 

Radio Entertainment 

Yes, there is entertainment. During a race, the driver is allowed to communicate/complain to their team on their radio and more often than not, absolutely live for these. It doesn’t matter whether they are complaining about the slow drivers blocking their way, they’re swearing on the radio or they simply need a listening ear – it is entertaining. Here is a compilation by Formula1.com on how entertaining it can be. On a more serious note, I think it gives a small insight into the perspective of the driver – how his mind works while racing at 300 km/h at 5Gs (more than a fighter pilot!) – something I quite enjoy! It’s also quite amusing to hear a driver panic on the radio to his engineer while furiously pressing buttons on his steering wheel, and likewise engineer panicking while scribbling on his notepad. Now that the FIA have relaxed on their “NO HELPING DRIVER AT ALL COST” ruling, it’s safe to say, we’ll be hearing more of these radio panic sessions more. No race is complete without the drama and swearing on the team radio.

Team-mate Drama

In the more recent years (ie 2012-now), there has been a lot of tension between team-mates. Recently, it has been (Nico) Rosberg and (Lewis) Hamilton in the Mercedes garage. I’m not a fan of either, but I will give them their due credit of being great racers. They both know what they are doing, and are one of the older drivers (hence, more experienced ones) on the grid. But what takes the icing, is the tension and how much they evidently want to kill each other. Something as little as Nico throwing his cap at Lewis and throwing shade at each other keeps it entertaining. A few years back, it was (Sebastian) Vettel and (Mark) Webber – yes, the multi 21 incident in Malaysia. Who could have forgotten such a race. For my new readers, Vettel was given the order not to overtake Webber (he was ahead) but he didn’t hear it and overtook – causing controversy, a lot of hate and unnecessary fire which many speculative newsrooms capitalised on. This isn’t new, and there are many incidents dating back to the 70s that have inside drama amongst members of the team. If you do happen to watch the upcoming race in Belgium (or in the case of my Singapore readers, our night race), look out for this – I implore you.

The Actual Race 

I know most of the points is tied back to entertainment, but nothing beats the feelings you feel when you watch 22 fearless, crazy men putting their lives on the line to do what they love for the honour and glory of being on the podium, and eventually winning the championship. Yes, motorsports is dangerous. I think, arguably, Formula 1 has seen more deaths and near-deaths encounters than any sport in the world – but yet, they still do it. They do it because they love it, and we watch them do it because honestly, it’s admirable. It’s admirable because they are willing to put everything on the line, they risk everything when they climb into that car knowing that, if something goes wrong, it could be their last race. I have watched the sport change over the years, engineers come out with a university degree instead of work experience, the technology used is getting more advanced(inevitably)  and it is harder to race without the aid of brain capable of breaking down the complexity of what’s in front of them. It’s exciting, to see everything fall into place and watch something spectacular in front of you.

Ah, I should stop here. There are many, many more reasons why you should watch Formula 1, and be part of this hype that only gets greater as the years go by. For those who reach the end, thank you so much for bearing with me! Let me know if there is somthing else or if you disagree with what I’ve written. This is my personal views, and it is not the reflection of anything else. For the fans like me that have watched this sport grow into what it is now from the Schumi-Haikkinen-Alesi-Villeneuve era, hõla! I am aware that some of these fans are not interested and don’t see the point in watching anymore as it’s “no longer just racing” – I disagree, and there are so many more reasons why you shouldn’t lose interest in the sport. I’ll be happy to have a discussion with you in the comments with regards to what I’ve written, and until Monday, have a great day/night! 🙂

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