Top Ten Reasons Why Americans Should Start Watching F1
#10 – Super Cool Cars. Listen, I looooove American classic cars. ’32 Ford, ’50 Merc, ’55 Chevy coupe, most of the muscle cars from the late 60’s and early 70’s, are you kidding me? Awesome. V-8 power, nothing like it. A gear-head is a gear-head (unless you live in England, then you’re a petrol-head). But there is no denying that the ultra-modern technology built into an F1 car is compelling. True, they are not the fastest car overall, but no other car accelerates and brakes like an F1 chassis, or sticks to the racing line around the corners. The exotic materials that are now industry standard in all racing began in F1, not to mention countless mechanical and aero developments. And as far as appearance, you can’t help but be completely bewitched by the gorgeous shape of an F1 car, with its wings, flow modifiers and curves.
#9 – Exotic Locations. Not just a different city, but a different COUNTRY every race. Seriously. What are the chances of you seeing 19 different countries just by watching one season of one sport. Malaysia, India, Abu Dhabi, Brasil, Spain, Monte Carlo, Shanghai, Singapore, I’m not even half way through the schedule people.
#8 – Hot Women, Hot Drivers, Men With Big Bank Accounts, Celebrities. Something for everyone, right? F1 attracts the hottest women, no need to elaborate there. F1 drivers seem to be preternaturally handsome, or maybe its just all the sweating, glowing complexions, testosterone and confidence that make them seem so. The investors, owners and other interested parties might be older and not as handsome but they’re powerful and have huge … bank accounts. No shortage of large egos and beautiful people up and down the pit lane and in the hospitality areas of the teams, this has been going on since the day of clubs and caves, you get the point. On to celebrities. Rock stars galore. At any given GP weekend you might see Axel Rose, Bono, Will-I-Am, Jay-Z, and just last year Sir Paul McCartney was hanging out in the McLaren garage. Actors, don’t get me started, the F1 race that took place in France the weekend after the Cannes Film Festival would have taken out half of the Screen Actors Guild if there would have been any catastrophic event.
#7 – Crazy Drivers. The drivers are just as crazy as the drivers in NASCAR or any racing for that matter – they talk smack all the time, like Sebastian Vettel calling Narain Karthikeyan, a driver for HRT, a cucumber (which apparently means something pretty bad in German). The on-track shenanigans of Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost in the early eighties were epic. Michael Schumacher made a career of crashing people out left and right on the way to his seven world titles. Fights? How about Nelson Piquet in the 70’s practicing a little kick boxing on his rivals? More recently Adrian Sutil used a champagne glass to cut the neck of a rival team member not too long ago at a night club. Nice. He’s still racing, by the way, you have to do way worse than that to get kicked out of F1. And even drivers on the same team can hate each other. Hamilton and Fernando feuded viciously when they were both at McLaren a few years back which culminated in a huge pit lane drama at the Hungarian GP, and Fernando left McLaren for a lesser team just to prove his point. And this list of craziness would not be complete without a little drunkenness, strip clubs, falling down drunk on (or off the side of) your yacht, or missing a ceremony because ‘I was having a shit’ (explained on-the-record, to the media). Thank you Kimi Raikkonnen for those last two stunts, and holding firm on the party animal lifestyle despite every money-supplier’s concern about their corporate image. Need I go on? Oh, yeah, lets just lump in driver defections into this category, contracts are commonly only for a year or two, and there’s very little loyalty to the team that ‘farmed’ you up through the ranks of go-kart racing and GP2. McLaren’s chosen son Lewis Hamilton could have had whatever he wanted from them, but he jumped ship to a rival team. (The F1 world is still a little in shock over that one, see my post on that topic here.)
#6 – The Money. Drivers commonly earn $10-20 million a year in SALARY, win or lose. That’s Tiger Woods territory, people. But Tiger has to win a lot of tournaments to earn that much, and I’m not even counting sponsorship money. Aren’t you slightly curious what talents a 22 year old could possess that would cause him to earn 20 million dollars a year in salary? Driver salaries aside, such large amounts of money are at stake and changing hands in this sport, you are almost guaranteed the bizarre and weird will occur. A German banker demands 50 million euro from the president of F1 for a business flotation deal or something like that–and got it!
#5 – Politics. F1 team principals and the FIA brass make American politicians look like novices. There must be more one-upmanship, double talk, talking out of the side of the one’s mouth, talking without ever really saying anything, and trash talking to the press to either get someone’s goat, or to get what you want than two presidential campaigns combined.
#4 – Corruption. Well, this might be too strong a word even for me, but we can definitely guarantee cheating and race fixing. In the 2008 crash-gate drama of the Singapore GP the Renault team principals concocted a plan to have their junior driver purposely crash, so then teammate Fernando Alonso could win the race, thereby keeping their title sponsor, ING Banking, happy. And it worked right up until a year later when the junior driver got fired for poor performance, and his dad (the aforementioned Nelson Piquet) was so pissed that he tattled to the authorities. And then the nuts, bolts, and carbon fiber hit the fan. One of the Renault team principals was forced out of F1 altogether and the other had to take a demotion to a desk job, basically. Also, we’ve got lots and lots of lying by lot and lots of people, this is a pit lane requirement, which certainly makes figuring out what the hell is going on a little more interesting and fun.
#3 – Scandal. Highly powerful, public figures in compromising situations, no lack of that. Who can forget Max Mosely, the former head of F1’s governing body the FIA? Max would like every one to think he was a pillar of ethics and piety, for that was what he told all the teams when he was handing out penalties and fines to everyone in F1. But he was ousted in a bizarre sex scandal. Seems he liked to be tied up and whipped by hookers, maybe some would say no big deal, but the hookers were dressed as Nazis. Oopsy. And then there was McLaren, arguably one of the most prestigious racing organizations in the world getting caught with a 1000 page dossier on all of Ferrari’s secrets concerning their 2007 car. Then lying about it and getting caught in the lie. Double oopsy. For this Ron Denis (the head of McLaren International) had to cough up $100 million bucks. Super double oopsy.
#2 – The Drama. (See #s 3-7). Formula 1 is commonly referred to as a circus and this could not be more appropriate. As detailed above, it has a little bit of everything, craziness, money, corruption, politics, scandals. I often think of F1 as a modern day, on-going Shakespearian play. What is fascinating is that Shakespeare is fiction (although I’m sure that most of his plays are based on reality) but F1 is a reality show that plays out like complete fiction (crazy fiction). As the saying goes, not even Hollywood could make this stuff up.
#1 – The Racing. Forget the rest of my list, is just doesn’t matter. It’s all about the racing and it’s damn fine racing. This past opening weekend in Melbourne, Australia proved my point with some major surprises, a few upsets, and a great race. The real bloggers (the one’s that actually get paid for their insight), the experts, analysts, and pundits are predicting that 2013 will be one of the best years of F1 racing ever. And that’s hot on the heels of the 2012 season, considered by many to be a highlight year, with the Drivers Championship going down to the wire (again) and Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull’s lead driver, winning by a margin of 3 points over the driver generally considered to be the most talented on the grid, Fernando Alonso for Ferrari.
So America, here is the deal. The races in 2013 are going to be fantastic, they are finally going to be covered all season by NBC (and the coverage is a 1000x better already), they promise to explain all the rules so you won’t feel out of sorts. And in case you don’t know, we have our own race in one of the most American of cities, Austin, Texas, with the possibility of two American races next year. You should give F1 a chance because aside from everything else I said, Formula One is just badass plain and simple. You can trust me on this, I’m an American.