Recently, Vitaly Petrov's manager, Oksana Kosachenko described Formula One as no longer a sport, but rather an entertainment. She might be right about that, and there's another characteristic that has tainted the sport in another negative way: it's all business, when one comes right down to it.
My friends and I are geezers now, and one good thing about that is the great, warm pleasure we all experienced when it really was a sport. People like Stirling Moss, Juan Fangio, Jack Brabham, and many others were racing open-wheel single-seaters for the sport of it, the fun of it, as well as hoping to make a living out of it.
At some point, Bernie Ecclestone got his hooks into Formula One, and somehow built it into the Top Flight. I am ambivalent about how to feel about that. On the plus side, it's a massive, exciting sport, with excellent international coverage world-wide. On the minus side, it's a multimillion dollar business. The warmth of the sport part of it has become a cherished memory for us old guys. Thank goodness there are some films and videos with which we can enjoy the good old days of real racing.
To write something in favour of today's Formula One, it's obvious that amazing technological advances have developed, along with amazing people who can operate the technology while handling a projectile at 300 kilometres (200 miles) per hour. Engines spin at nineteen thousand rotations per minute, and stay together for a series of races. The precision in building a Formula One car is difficult to imagine... and to achieve. Not too many years ago, such engine speeds were impossible.
I would like to see the top teams, the half-dozen or so that are able to endure near the front of the grid race after race, split off and become known officially as “The Top Flight”. The other thirteen or fourteen teams can remain as “Formula One”. They could fight among themselves to rise to The Top Flight, with budgets and drivers that are appropriate for their level. At the same time, the top flight teams could spend as much as they wish, on whatever technological miracles they hope to develop.
There is really just one way to see open-wheel racing with the love and warmth of decades past: go to Vintage car races, Monoposto races. People who maintain and drive these cars do so for the love of it, and invest staggering amounts of out-of-pocket money on it. But the rules are strict, and conform to the rules that were in force at the time the cars originally raced. Only safety devises from modern technologies are permitted to alter the cars from their original form.
All the same, my “old” friends and I are eagerly anticipating the 2013 season, and the sometimes monumental changes from previous seasons. New driver teams, new team principals, new, smaller engines, and things only the team designers and engineers know. Will Adrian Newey make new magic this season? The calendar crawls too slowly toward Australia, on March seventeenth.