Sunday, 29 March 2009

The agony and the ecstasy of Formula 1

So the start of the Formula 1 season is upon us.

Another year of pain, heartache, and bewilderment.
Another year of scandals, incomprehensible rule changes and stupid mistakes.
Another year of hoping, wishing, and crossed fingers.
Another year of joy, excitement and, most of all, action!

Every year I tell myself that I will not watch another race, that I've had enough of the stupid, childish politics and arguments that goes hand-in-hand with what should be the pinnacle of motorsport. Yet every year I get up early to watch the first race of the season.

Why do I do it? Why do I put myself through so much? It's not as if I'm a fast driver (we have a Honda Jazz, for goodness' sake), and no-one would ever accuse me of being a petrol head. I don't do any competitive sport - I prefer to challenge my own body and mind, not take part in some macho competition.

Despite all this, I love watching twenty overpaid drivers go round and round a twisting circuit for 90 minutes, 18 or so times a year. The reason is simple. At the final race of last year, in Brazil, I went through so many different emotions on the same lap - horror, excitement, anguish, pain; then, finally, joy. Lewis Hamilton needed fifth place to win the F1 world championship over Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Going into the last lap, he was sixth in truly awful weather. However, Glock was on dry tyres on a wet track. Hamilton overtook him on the penultimate corner, sealing the world championship.

So many races, so many miles of racing, and the championship came down to the penultimate lap. It was exhilarating to watch, yet my joy for Lewis Hamilton was tempered by my sympathy for Felipe Massa, the man who would be king. The expression on the face of Massa's father in the pits sums up formula 1 perfectly - joy as Massa passed the line, winning the race, then horror as Hamilton made his move to win the championship. Only the hardest of hearts could have felt anything but sympathy for the Massas and Ferarri.

Yet the year was dominated by stupid mistakes by all the major drivers. These are to be expected, especially as so many of the top drivers were young and relatively inexperienced. The real shame was that the championship was riven by political infighting and particularly incomprehensible decisions by both the FIA and the race marshals, who have an inordinate amount of power over each race. The championship was decided in closed rooms, not on the track.

That is bad for everyone.

Yet the racing is just part of it. The technology is also utterly fascinating. This year is a case in point - the rules have undergone massive changes, and this has led to a reversal of the field for today's race - the two best teams of last year, McLaren and Ferrari,are at the back and in the middle of the field respectively, whilst last year's back marker team, the re-badged Honda, is at the front. Why have Brawn managed to get such a good car, and McLaren failed (they share the same engine)? The answer is simple; great people, great minds and the application of great technology.

Every one of the drivers is superb. Yes, all of them. Even Sato. Go onto any Formula 1 website or forum and you'll get criticisms of drivers (some justified, much of it not). Yet all of them, even the perennial back-markers, are all far better drivers than I will ever be. They are fit men (you have to be to be able to cope with up to 5 time the force of gravity on your head and neck), and all are undoubtedly intelligent. You need a superlicence from the FIA just to compete, and those are not granted without good reason.

More than anything else, Formula 1 is a thinking man's game. Again, this is part of its appeal.

It is surprising - and perhaps alarming - how much my heart rate increases during dramatic moment in a race. My heart feels as though it is busting out of my ribcage, working far harder than it does on a walk. How can such a static activity as watching the TV cause such ructions within my body? The answer is simple. I'm in love.

Yes, I'm in love with Formula 1. And that, my friends, is the agony and the ecstasy of the sport.

1 comment:

rfwitch said...

I will say only one thing about F1: it is great fun watching you watch the final laps.