Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

All the drivers have disappeared // What F1 can learn from the Olympics

Published by Robyn

In the latest F1 Debrief, Mr C said “It has been a subtly classic year”. Now I know it would be totally wrong to question the immortal words of Mr C. [But…]

On paper I guess the answer should be ‘I agree’. Four different winners, a championship which went down to the final laps of the final race, epic wet races, fraught inter-team rivalry, oh yes and Max Verstappen.

But what do I actually remember about 2016?

The ridiculous elimination qualifying format, and the farce which meant that it wasn’t dropped after one race. The continued domination of Mercedes when history shows that a few years with stable regulations should mean that other teams should have caught up. Puppets, sorry ‘drivers’ giving tedious deadpan interviews. Martin’s non-gridwalk where the drivers are now shielded from pundits behind a tensile barrier at the front of the grid. And a season which seemed to go on forever, has it really finished now?

Over the last decade or so I’ve become increasingly despondent about F1. Back in the 90s I recorded every race on VHS (that’s YouTube with the share button removed for the younger SPC audience) and would go to Silverstone to see the F1 cars in action. But since then every decision seems to make it just that little bit worse: too many races, uglier cars, underwhelming engine sounds, the end of full, free terrestrial TV coverage, and the lack of gravel traps to name but a few. But for me the biggest problem is that the drivers have disappeared.

Where have the drivers gone?

Of course I am being metaphorical, they haven’t been replaced by Google’s driverless cars quite yet, but they are so well hidden. Physically they are missing; Cockpits sides are going up and up and visors have fancy opaque tints to them. Soon with the inevitable introduction of canopies the tantalising glimpses of the hands at work will disappear too. Ok, in the interest of safety maybe it would be unfair to pass this off as a bad thing, so I’ll ignore this problem for now and move on to the driver’s personalities.

Where have the drivers gone?

Well I think the some of the drivers do still have personalities, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton occasionally hint that they are not robots. But with social media accounts that the drivers don’t have control of, interviews which are recorded by the teams to make sure they toe the company line, and the general pressure of a multi-squillion pound industry not to do anything which might upset someone, dullness is the name of the game.

The solution?

Well I suppose you could ‘fix’ F1, but while it is a big-money corporate machine I don’t really see that happening, so my solution was to [gasp], look elsewhere! The Rio 2016 Olympics was an ideal opportunity to see what other sports were out there.

I was looking for something much simpler than F1, perhaps something a bit smaller, and less reliant on technology. So that rules out the aerodynamic bicycles, hydrophobic swimming costumes, exotic racquets or fancy footwear. Very surprisingly, for me at least, is that my criteria meant that I’ve gone from F1 to Beach Volleyball.

I’ve gone from F1 to Beach Volleyball

Pardon?

No that wasn’t a typo. A sport which is all about the sportsmen and women themselves. It’s still a money and sponsor driven sport, but you can see top matches for the modest ticket price of free. And if you can’t get the match, it’s still free, the organisers provide quality live-streaming, so you don’t have to pay half your wages to Sky, or risk illegal torrents and streams. I think the biggest draw though is that it is both sport and entertainment.

A world where the biggest stars get pranked at the airport and told they can’t travel to Rio 2016 because there is a problem with their passport. Somewhat reminiscent of the classic Berger/Senna pranks which existed back in the 80s. It’s a world where ‘DRS’, ‘ERS’ and 'KERS' don’t exist, but ‘chicken wings’, ‘rainbows’ and ‘Jedi defence’ do. Most importantly, it’s a world where sponsors, sports stars and fans can all coexist.

Well, that’s the end of my F1 2016 review/rant. Back to setting up my new Beach Volleyball website, maybe the next Sidepodcast of the Beach Volleyball world!

Happy Christmas all.

Happy Christmas all