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.
- 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.
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