F1 – Sport or Show?


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Brought to you by first time TJ13 writer Ben Kolb

I now conjure up the power of the F1 genie who appears before and says: “I offer you a choice – In my left hand I have some Sport, and in the right some ‘Show’.. Which do you desire?” Sport or show, Show or sport, sport-show?  Answer now, preferably on the internet, and angrily!”

WHOA – Just for now hold back those itchy fingers – ready for a world wide web rampage because before we select a left, right or a swift left-right to the chin for asking silly questions we should try and get at the heart of the issue and attempt to define what we are really fans of.

What is it that elevates F1 to that special place in our hearts and why is it more alluring than other motor sports? Because its not just attention that we give to Formula One but our devotion, more waking moments than we should and of course our fandom.

Well to answer the question in short, F1 is something which brings together the best brains in engineering and an ever increasing array of other technologies split off into various competing tribes, each with their own culture and histories.

These teams of world class wizards are hell-bent on outdoing each other to produce the fastest, most efficient 4 wheeled grip machines on the planet harmoniously married to the bravest, daring yet simultaneously calculating pilots available – the drivers. We are captivated by this finest group of personnel, cars and drivers at the best tracks in the world all aligned to give us the greatest chance of a compelling motor sporting contest. We crave sporting moments that will live long in our memories, duels, feuds and rivalries – competitor against competitor, peak performers giving it their best with the highest of stakes.

From a sporting perspective whether it be Tennis, Golf or Tiddley-Winks at the most compelling of moments, no one is concerned with ‘The Show’. Sport creates this for us and should be framed in such a way that it will do so again in the future.

And herein is the key to F1’s lost momentum. Its not due to the demise of the show, but aspects of ‘The Sport’ are now lacking.

All this began with the rubber stamping of the 2014 regulations, which unwittingly allowed a powerful manufacturer in Mercedes AMG to spend years and an eye watering amount of money creating a beautifully engineered hybrid masterpiece. Their power unit is simply the envy of the pitlane.

Yet even this was not a terminal state of affairs until harnessed with a system of Power Unit regulation which cemented Mercedes’ head start until such a time when the regulations were to change once again

Instead of the top 10 Qualifiers separated by a few Tenths of a second, with tiny mistakes punished with a poor grid slot, it quickly became the norm to see Rosberg and Hamilton about a second a lap faster than the 3rd place man, with another sizable gap behind them to 5 /6th. It was almost the case that a Mercedes could drive into a wall head on at the start, come in for new everything, rejoin and scythe their way through the field to the podium with little worry.

This was where the Sporting aspect of F1 began top drift away and fans rightly became disenchanted, but fear not – it can be re-found.

If performance differentials are reduced as is now intended for the 2017 rules; if cars can follow another without destroying tyres and if drivers can divert less attention to tyre conservation, we’ll be on the way to renewed competition proper.

Many would welcome the removing of ‘intervention’ in the competition too. DRS and 2016 tyres merely create faux-overtakes.

Car 1 on 6 lap old supersofts attempting to pass car 2 on 12 lap old mediums (which that car is working well on today, etc), simply muddies the viewer’s sense of the competition before them.

Genuine competition is compelling, and as a 4 Time F1 Champ recently said of Formula One: “For me, is a Sport, then a show.” 


11 responses to “F1 – Sport or Show?

  1. I’ve never seen it as a show. I think it’s one hell of a sport. These drivers have to be top fit. In the most demanding cars on the planet. Until, suddenly, it seemed even a sixteen year old boy could do the trick. Since then I somehow feel it’s not that amazing anymore. Not that I hate max or anything. He’s a gifted boy. But f1 should be for men..not boys. Imo. I want it to seem hard. To be this thing on a pedestal. Which 99.999% of us could never do. At this time I do believe lmp1 is the harder category of racing.

  2. getting ever more irritating from time to time on here, having posts blogged and or appearing instantly and than suddenly disappear, sometimes waiting “a pass” for over 24 hours.

  3. I strongly believe that the powers that be are so caught up in putting on a ‘show’ they’ve lost sense of what F1 was and should be.

    We as fans should look at everyone who puts their feet into that cockpit as gladiators, mad men who seriously need to have their head examined. The sport has become so sanitised from the one track action, politics and drivers now acting as PR driven robots.

    The sport needs to regain some of the essence that made it what it was, the danger, the bravado, the fierce hatred of driver v driver, team v team. Everyone is too pally pally now. Though I didn’t like it, but I’d like to see incidents like Schmacher storming into the McLaren garage to rip DC a new one after their Spa crash.

    I strongly believe the moment they return to focusing on the sport side of things first, then the show will take care of itself.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more.
      Back in a day it was dangerous activity, and only the brave with balls made of steel were doing it.
      Today…it all became somehow sooft and aparenty too easy.
      It make me wonder how well I could do it (provided I can fit in a car). 🙂
      While before I was admiring those who dared.

      Also, what’s wrong with more than one tire manufacturer?
      If there are more than one PU manufacturer competing for the glory, why not tire manufacturers as well?

  4. As Frank Williams said, “F1 is a sport for 2hrs on a Sunday afternoon, the rest of the time it’s a business.”

    The “sport” comes from the fans, the “show” comes from the businesses.

    I’ve always thought of the “show” as a direct consequence of the “sport,” rather than the other way around, or somehow being one and the same thing.

    If the “sporting” regulations ensured the cars were within a few tenths of each other, the “show” would take care of itself.

  5. DRS and crap tyres spoiled everything – although I’m not 100% purist. In Hungary, Barcelona and Monaco I’m fine with some extra aid at overtaking – even with DRS it’s hard.

    All went wrong when McLaren accidentically created DRS, so instead of the real solution of ground effect we got Bull shit. For the tyres we strangely have to blame Bridgestone – if they hadn’t messed up in Canada nobody would’ve thought about ‘designed to degrade’ .

    The last year before Pirelli and DRS is still one of my favourite seasons. Good battle for the WDC, real overtaking and proper low fuel qualifying.

    As we’ve seen with Toyoya you can’t simply buy championships, you have to spend well. Old Renault was good at that, but got lots of help from Michelin.

    So now what? Simple: get the notes from the original overtaking workgroup and use them. It’ll make the cars harder to drive but easier to overtake.

    On the engines, I would skip most rules, except for the amount of joules you can use. Some will do more with Kers-like systems and others (Audi) might try diesel or hydrogen.

    And accept that there will always be domination. Some are better then others. You could try to have a budget cap, but even then you could end up with domination. If there are no tokens, others can catch up.

  6. I have never really seen formula 1 as a sport but as a competition and a show based on a sport. In my humble opinion, competition is not sport since competition has the virtue of extracting not only the best of the players but also the worst, whereas sport is supposed to be based on strict and high moral standards and on fair play. Seeing what engineers and drivers, sometimes, do to win I can not consider formula 1 a sport.

  7. I am fairly certain that it only started to be considered as a “show” by the big nobs in biggin hill, when sky tv started sniffing around

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