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What's Wrong with F1?

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On: Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 4:29PM | By: Nick Bakewell

What's Wrong with F1?

In a recent interview, autosport.com asked Formula 1 pundit Martin Brundle whether he saw F1 as a sport, a crucible of technical innovation, or a show. He answered unequivocally that it was a show, a spectacle, that like all major sports it existed primarily to entertain. For if there are no viewers, then there are no sponsors, and if there are no sponsors, especially in a sport with such rampant expenditures as F1, then there is no sport. So why on Earth are the powers that be apparently doing their best to make it so unappealing to watch?

2014 sees a raft of changes to the technical regulations that govern the sport, primarily downsizing of the engines, the introduction of turbocharging, and a much greater emphasis placed on the energy recovery/hybrid systems that now make up a substantial portion of the powertrain. The sport’s governing body, the FIA, claim that this is in the name of making the sport greener, which as an F1 fan, I find a little bit offensive. Surely the absolute top tier of motorsport, the self-proclaimed best of the best, needn’t trouble itself with the appearance of being “green.” Given that all but the four top teams are struggling to find financial backing as it is, adding a swathe of new development costs on top of the already exorbitant budgets required just to compete (much less to be competitive) in the sport seems counterproductive.

Teams that are hurting for money have only a few places to turn, and that leads to what are called “pay drivers.” These are drivers who carry vast corporate or national sponsorships with them, and teams are eager to snap them up, regardless of talent. What results is a grid that is half full of championship contenders and half full of people who don’t deserve to be there. Who knows how much decent or even excellent talent has been passed over because the candidate couldn’t find sufficient sponsorship to make themselves attractive to even a midfield team.

In short, it seems that the key aspect of formula one, the show, has been set aside in the name of making money. Too much has been invested in and made of F1 as a business and a corporate property, and those making the decisions have forgotten that its still, at its heart, a show. I hope that the new technical regulations spice things up, I really do; but I’m not all that sanguine about the sport’s future as a whole.


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