The Frontstretch: Formula 1 Friday: Top Ten Reasons to Give F1 a Try by Andy Hollis -- Thursday March 29, 2012

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Formula 1 Friday: Top Ten Reasons to Give F1 a Try

Andy Hollis · Thursday March 29, 2012


About two years or so past, I got a phone call from my very good friend, fellow Brit and now erstwhile colleague at Frontstretch, Danny Peters. Danny was calling to excitedly tell me he was starting a column on NASCAR. Well, that’s fantastic I thought, and barely paid any attention when he said “perhaps at some point you could write on Formula One for us”. After all, this was a website focused solely on that most American of motoring passions right? And you’d have no time really for the snobby intricacies and cold outlook of the self-proclaimed premier series……would you??

Well, it seems as if Danny has been at the ear of the powers that be in that time period, so here I am, wide-eyed and innocent and with the seemingly mountainous task of persuading you guys and girls out there that yes, you should be interested in F1……so, whisper it quietly, but I want to offer you a deal. You and I are going to have a relationship, okay? We don’t need to tell anyone else, but hey, you know, it could be fun. What I’m going to do this season is shell out my hard earned cash on subscribing to the UK channel that shows NASCAR, and I will make a very real commitment to understanding NASCAR…………and I want you to do the same for me.

Get out there and have a look at F1. Sure, like in any healthy relationship along the way we’ll argue, we’ll laugh, and there will be days we won’t even be able to look the other in the eye………but I honestly think that by the end of the season we’ll have had some genuinely great shared experiences, and, you know what, we might even get hooked on each other.

So, hop aboard and let’s go. First task, if you haven’t already, hunt down the phenomenal documentary film Senna, but in the meantime to start you off – here’s 10 reasons why you really, really should be watching F1 this season:

1 – This is a genuine Golden Age for F1
Really. You guys are lucky. If you join the pack right now, you’re in for a treat. We have an incredible season ahead of us which is already unfolding in unexpected ways, added to which there are an unprecedented six World Champions in the field this season – let me give you a quick heads-up on them.

Kimi Raikkonen was a one-and-done in NASCAR, but has resurfaced on the F1 circuit he’s long been a force on.

  • Michael Schumacher – the seven-time World Champion in the third year of his comeback. He’s the Michael Jordan of the sport, as I’m sure you know. He may not quite be the force he once was, but his car looks good this year so there’s no reason why we won’t see him atop the podium once again.
  • Sebastian Vettel – the young pretender and current double world champion. A precocious talent and still only 24, he is the youngest ever World Champion to add to being the youngest pole sitter, youngest point scorer and youngest race winner in the history of the sport. The man collects records.
  • Lewis Hamilton – perhaps the naturally quickest driver in the pack, but the quickest to mentally fold as well. Hamilton had a torrid season last year, beaten for the first time by a teammate and with countless off field problems (his on-off relationship with Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger is currently in “on” mode). If he finds his focus again though, he could be the one to beat.
  • Jenson Button – the smooth driving, thinking man’s competitor. Button may not have the outright speed of team-mate Hamilton, but he makes up for that with his brain and maturity in a race-car. An expert in conserving tire wear and an exponent of the minimal effort, maximum reward style of driving, Button has got into Hamilton’s head, and the battle between the two of them is one of the real intrigues of the season ahead.
  • Fernando Alonso – perhaps the most complete driver in the pack and sitting in the seat with the most evocative name in motorsport, Ferrari. The trouble is, this season the car is a dog. On the plus side, given the right set of circumstances, Fernando can wrestle a win from a golf cart.
  • Kimi Raikkonen – the maverick of F1 and a name that will be familiar to many NASCAR fans, if only for a couple of races. Widely thought of as a somewhat reticent character, both to the press and within a team, there is absolutely no doubting his talent…when he feels like it. More on him later though.

2 – We Drive In The Rain
As I mentioned before, I’m not yet completely up to speed with NASCAR, but I have noticed that that pesky wet stuff has been falling from the sky at some rather inconvenient times for you. So what to do to get your motorsport fix when it rains? Well, F1 of course. Barring monsoon conditions the race goes ahead…,and when it rains, it tends to spice things up dramatically. Rain has become such a popular participant in the sport that the boss (aka Bernie Ecclestone, aka a number of other less savory nicknames) recently suggested installing sprinklers at circuits. This idea was met with howls of derision from the purists, but……well, you can see what he means.

3 – We Are The World
Hey, 525 million people a year can’t all be wrong………can they? Well, okay, there’s Justin Bieber, but Formula One is year on year the most watched sport worldwide. The only black hole in all of this is in the US. I’ll let you into a bit of a secret here – we find that kind of odd to be honest…so let’s break with tradition and get on board. If you need extra motivation, we have the inaugural race in Austin, TX this year at the newly (not quite) built Circuit of the Americas. And leading on from that……

4 – America needs YOU!
It is a worldwide sport with races from Australia to Brazil and everywhere in between, alongside drivers from Colombia, France, Mexico, Britain, Russia, Finland, Brazil – you name it……but there’s no US drivers. In fact we’ve not had an American in an F1 car since Scott Speed, and he really wasn’t very good. That needs to change (and we’ll look at the reasons why historically American drivers have struggled in F1, with some notable exceptions, in a later column), and the best starting point to change that is with you. Watch it, love it, change it.

5 – These are the best (single-seater) drivers in the world
Ah…the age old controversial question (and again, one we’ll explore in more detail another time). We all watch motor sport to see the best drivers racing in the best cars. If we didn’t care about that, we’d save a lot of money by nipping down to the local race tracks and watching some club racing. It matters. As far as single-seater racing goes, these guys are the best, and driving the most advanced cars. I’m sure some of our IndyCar columnists might want to argue the point, but put it this way – Dario Franchitti has won the last three Indy championships. That’s the same Franchitti who when he tested for Jaguar in F1 just….well….wasn’t quick enough.

6 – History Part One – Cars
Formula One plays host to some of the most evocative names in motoring history. The names of Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus, Ford and Renault should run in the blood of any motorsport fan. The competition between the teams is fierce, not just in terms of racetrack results, but this is their name, their heritage, their history at stake. Throw new road car manufacturers such as McLaren into the fold as well and you have a heady mix of competition that means so much more than just what’s there on the screen.

7 – History Part Two – Tracks
Should you ever find yourself in the region of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, take whatever car you’re in and head straight for Spa-Francorchamps. Just trust me and do it. If there’s not a race meeting that day, you’ll be able to drive up the notorious Eau Rouge corner (and I mean up – the gradient is 1 in 22) and I promise you, it’ll be something you’ll be telling the grandkids in the years to come. The history of motorsport is ingrained in places such as Spa, Monza and the Monaco circuit. These are tracks with personalities.

8 – The Iceman Returneth….
So we got Kimi back. Okay, I know that perhaps he didn’t leave the greatest impression with NASCAR fans (I hear some people believe he used the NASCAR series as a PR stunt? Help me out here, tell me what you think?) but in the world of F1 we’ve really grown to love him and his utterly unique personality. People might say that he lacks charisma, but anyone who enters a snowmobile race in Finland dressed as a gorilla under the name James Hunt is good with me. Anyone found by his team outside a bar asleep, embracing an inflatable dolphin is good with me. Kimi is good for the sport.

9 – Appeal To Your Inner Geek
F1 is good for you. Why? Well, what is learned in F1 translates directly to your road cars (and even bicycles) in terms of technical innovation. If you like science, you should love F1. If you don’t like science but you love big engines and speed, you should love F1. Win-Win.

10 – There IS Overtaking Now!
The oldest excuse in the book for people not watching F1 is “oh, it’s boring, there’s no overtaking”. Overtaking is like cake. It’s lovely as a treat and when it’s done well, but if you have it the whole time it gets boring and stale. With the advent of DRS in the cars (Drag Reduction System) there’s plenty of overtaking now in F1. Trust me.

So I hope you’re persuaded now to give this a try. I mean, it can’t hurt right? Just by way of an update, we’re two races into the season now – Race 1 in Australia was a win for Jenson Button, once again showing his class under pressure. Race 2 in Malaysia was a wet-dry bonanza won by that man Fernando Alonso, with a sensational second place from Mexican Sergio Perez in the Sauber. I told you he could win in a dog……

My prediction for the season? Two races in, I still have no idea. That’s why it’s a good time to join…..see you for the race in China.

Connect with Andy!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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03/30/2012 04:12 AM

Reason number 11: the Formula one broadcast team on speed is professional, smart, Very experienced and realizes the broadcast is for the audience and not something to feed their own oversized egos.

03/30/2012 08:06 AM

I might start watching F1 races more. There’s a motorsports hole in my TV viewing (and there has been for years). You don’t have a playoff system that renders the first two-thirds of the season irrelevant, do you?

03/30/2012 09:51 AM

I love all motorsports, and I watch F1 too. How about a counterpoint though?

1. About half the tracks on the schedule are mind-numbingly boring to everyone but the drivers, and in no way conducive to competitive racing, with a ridiculously overcomplicated number of decreasing radius turns, sweepers, and s-turns. And they’re all almost entirely flat.

2. Virtually every race (but not all) are decided on the first turn of the first lap, whoever’s leading wins, unless someone nails a better pit strategy.

3. There’s finally some passing in F1—because they invented DRS, which allows a driver to lower his rear wing if he’s within 1 second of the car ahead on the straightaway, giving him a boost of speed in the draft. It’s so useful that passes at races like Hungary last year became about as difficult as a pass at Talladega.

4. While the broadcast team on SPEED is awesome (and the guys on BBC aren’t too bad either), access to drivers and teams is virtually nil, and other than the post-race press conference, you’d be lucky to hear a peep from any driver on race weekends.

4. The cars are so hideous they make the Car of Tomorrow (with wing!) look good.

5. You know those best single seater drivers in the world? Juan Montoya is one of them, he won the Monaco GP, finished second in the standings one season, and has 7 career wins. That’s the same Montoya who’s won, well… almost nothing in half a decade of NASCAR. And he hit a jet dryer under caution.

6. Most F1 fans claim NASCAR is just a wreck-fest with a bunch of rednecks who don’t have the skill, so they beat and bang. But most F1 races usually start with at least a minor pile-up at Turn 1.

  • Anyway, just poking a little fun. Like any motorsport, it has its ups and downs and reasons for watching. There’s nothing quite like watching someone like Vettel on a qualifying lap… And when they DO race at awesome tracks, like Silverstone, Montreal or Spa, the racing is amazing.

03/30/2012 09:53 AM

Oh, and as mentioned above, there’s no playoff, and points are only given to the top 10… And winning is actually very, very important and gives many more points than second and back. Whoever wins the most races is almost always champion.

Andy Hollis
03/30/2012 10:16 AM

Ah I like this…..debate! I’m afraid we have no playoff system Gordon, we’re much more akin to the age old philosophy of “whoever wins the most races and gets most points wins the championship.” Radical, I know.

Andy Hollis
03/30/2012 10:26 AM

Okay John, let’s get into this. I’m going to counter (some of) your counters a little.

1 – I don’t know that’s true. Well, no, let me rephrase that, I do know that’s an exaggeration. Yes, there are poor tracks, as there are in any series (I’m thinking particularly of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain etc and many of the newer circuits) but I’d say the majority are conducive to good racing. I would completely disagree with your contention that they majority are flat??? Okay, we don’t have many tracks that throw in a Laguna-Seca style Corkscrew, but in the main there are a LOT of undulations in F1 tracks that don’t translate particularly well on TV, but really, they are there.

2 – That’s true of the not so distant past, but untrue as a general rule now.

3 – DRS needs tweaking, granted. Last season was the first time it was used, and it was fantastic in some races, terrible in others. This season should improve how well it’s “judged” at the tracks – it’s a fine line between encouraging overtaking and keeping the skill in being able to do it.

4 – I can’t say I disagree there with this seasons….ahem….models. Hence the groundswell of support for McLaren in 2012 – it’s the only really pretty car.

5 – JPM has always been quick and good at overtaking. Rather like Kimi (though Kimi beat him) when he’s in the mood he’s a force. The skillsets required for driving in NASCAR and driving single-seaters is something I am keen to look in to in future columns. Remember when Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton swapped cars for a show last season?

6 – Ah I’m not sure most F1 fans would say that. I think they’d say “but they only turn left when it’s sunny”…..;-)

I do agree though, races at tracks such as Spa are invariably great to watch, and one of the reasons why the older fans amongst us are so fervent about keeping them on the calendar. Keep watching though!

Danny P
03/30/2012 10:32 AM

Great article Mr. Hollis. Well written, amusing and a fantastic debut piece on this great site. Good job buddy (as they say….) :)

03/30/2012 10:57 AM

While watching Juan Pablo in a stock car has been less than successful, I would like to have seen a young Jeff Gordon in F1, especially after the swap.

03/30/2012 10:59 AM

One more thing. You will love the (lack of) commercials during the BBC broadcast. Watch and weep!

Andy Hollis
03/30/2012 12:18 PM

Hi DoninAjax – I’m not sure what the situation is in terms of international broadcasting, but the BBC no longer have rights to live broadcast of all the races – that’s been taken over round these parts by Sky, with the BBC having half the races. Saying that, even on Sky there’s no commercials during the race. We wouldn’t stand for it!

03/30/2012 01:03 PM

Ahhh you are going to be a breath of fresh air Andy I can see this :D Already loving your columns, being an F1 fan myself. Helps to have a friend from that side of the pond that kept badgering me to watch lol. People keep trying to get me to “explain” the F1 boys in terms of their “Nascar” or “IndyCar” counterparts, and I can’t. Maybe at some point you could do better at it.

And on Kimi, ANYONE that could turn around something like the Ice Cream and Coke the way he did is good with me /grin

And to be honest, it was a combination of Nelson Piquet Jr (yes I know F1 wasn’t kind to him), Scott Speed, Kimi and Juan that got me caving in and watching F1. I adore all of them HERE, so why not see what over there was like, ya know?

Andy Hollis
03/30/2012 01:28 PM

Thank you Shel, too kind – and yes, please do keep suggestions on future columns coming. I want to write about the things you guys want to hear about. Simple.

Yes, the ice cream/coke story from this last weekend was classy!

F1 was very unkind in a number of ways to Nelson Jnr sadly – the boy had some talent too. Perhaps F1 had used up all it’s good will towards the Piquet name with his rather more temperamental dad!?

03/30/2012 02:05 PM

Saying Piquet Sr was temperamental is putting it nicely. I’m just glad Nelsinho seems to be doing well over here. Hopefully his win in the lower series gives him the boost he needs to keep doing even better as he progresses upward.

03/30/2012 02:40 PM

I too, have become a Piquet fan. Hope he lands in victory lane in a Truck this season.

03/30/2012 07:22 PM

As an aspiring journalist (or journo as they say across the pond), I was interested in reading your first piece for Frontstretch.

I have been an F1 fan since 1993 and Senna is one of my heroes. Your article makes solid points about the current crop of drivers and the racing.

While I don’t agree with the way DRS and KERS works currently, they help with the show. The cars have become uglier over the years and this year has taken the cake. Sepang was one of the best battles I have ever seen and brings hope if there’s more rain races.

SPEED presents the coverage better than any other racing series here and gives you a little of everything.

Glad to see F1 and INDYCAR on the website and hope to see more sports car coverage as well.

03/31/2012 06:41 AM

DRS passes are worse than no passing. That something like it could even be considered let alone implemented for the supposedly most legitimate form of motorsport in the world bewilders me.

Andy Hollis
03/31/2012 09:01 AM

Interesting point Hotdogger – where does the line get crossed between retaining the “purity” of the sport, and the realisation that we need to put on “a show”… for thought.