Formula One is a bit like Marmite. Even in the BBC Sport office. A quick scan around the desks at work and you’ll get the usual chatter of “boring” and “paint drying” mixed in with the more sporadic “what a race that was on Sunday!”
I sit in the latter camp. Addicted to it. Can’t explain why. Just love it.
Yes some races are little tedious, without much overtaking and mainly waiting for somebody to crash or for it to start raining to liven it up a bit.
But in exactly the same way that football produces goalless draws or rugby union produces kick fests, F1’s excitement levels fluctuate.
One thing that critics and aficionados seem to unite on is the behind the scenes politics that engulfs the sport every year. It’s not helping.
Teams arguing about regulations, threatening to withdraw unless they get a better engine, unable to agree on cost cutting, moaning about uneven distribution of revenues, confusion over new regulations, concern over the power of manufacturers – all of this seems to be an unwanted distraction from the main event, which is the racing.
I would argue that this politics adds to the drama and the spectacle of the sport and should not be discouraged.
In an increasingly competitive sporting marketplace, when the consumers are more time precious, especially in a sport that takes a good two hours on race day and inevitably ends with a Mercedes winning the race, the sport has to do more to keep itself in the headlines.
The wranglings behind the scenes are an added dynamic that help drag in those uninterested fans, intrigued as to how such peculiarities exist, and provide a back story, a hero and a villain, a phoenix that rises out of the ashes.
For the hardcore fan, when the racing isn’t all that, it provides them with their fix and their gossip, their talking points when the race has done nothing to inspire.
I think F1 has the power to excite and appeal in so many ways. I love the innovation and originality in engineering and the incredible skill to drive in the most testing conditions and at the most jaw dropping speeds.
Yet even the people running the sport and deciding the technical direction with which to take it next aren’t sure where to go next. They’re not even listening to the drivers!
This can be viewed as a sport shooting itself in the foot. In 2017, when these new rules take effect, it may well be that all those expensively paid brains have got it wrong.
So what?! More to talk about!
Drivers will still be fast. The racing will still have its ups and downs. It’s just the cars that will have changed a bit.
F1 has an uncanny ability to draw out characters that are all too uncommon within sport, when sponsors and contracts dictate a squeaky clean image for all to stick to.
When drivers are discouraged from getting their elbows out on track, why not see Mercedes and Ferrari squabbling about B teams or a tête-à-tête between Renault and Red Bull over their supposedly inferior power unit.
Hamilton/Rosberg, Senna/Prost, Schumacher/Hill. These rivalries play out on track for sure. But the snipes, the remarks, the team bosses trying to control it all adds to the show. And that’s before you get the teams arguing amongst themselves about the latest innovation they’re annoyed they haven’t thought of first!
How often to you get to hear about the inner workings of the Premier League as they try to find new ways to make money? How often do rugby league clubs openly slag off its own governing body? How often do golfers moan that their competitor is using clubs that bend the rules?
F1 has no problem airing its dirty laundry in public. As we’ve seen with Red Bull/Renault engine saga in 2015, it is the media that’s been used for political gain. Bravo!
Sport these days is too sanitised. F1 is not exempt as cars become more complex to the viewer and overtaking and crashes are “never as good as the good old days.”
But how many sports are?! Rugby Union – dominated by the packs now? Golf – favouring the long hitters too greatly and green guides taking the thought away from players?
So when the action itself can’t always compete – why not keep the spice going on the outside. Fill the column inches with controversy and spark a debate that can get anybody talking.
Let’s not discredit the antics of Bernie and co. Let’s applaud it. It might not be fair. If it were – would F1 have much to talk about then?
Monday, 14th December 2015