Well, the Turkish Grand Prix has passed for another year, or at least I think it did. Because to tell the truth I paid so very little attention.
I followed the basic story of what was going on but the slightest distraction, a fly buzzing on the window, for example, would hold my attention for longer. And this got me thinking.
I should make clear at this point that I AM a massive fan of the sport, and have been since i was old enough to understand why these men were driving around in a circle and not getting anywhere.
But as a spectator sport it seems to have lost a certain appeal to the TV viewer.
I've previously attributed some of my nausea to the commentators we have here in the UK, but I think that was unfair. At the end of the day they can only do the best with what's happening on the track and their lack of enthusiasm shows that like us, the viewers, they are finding it hard to keep interested in the race.
I mean there is only a certain amount of time you can spend talking about how a three-stop strategy is superior on the condition that the car is working with soft tires whereas a two-stop may be a good gamble if....
Yawn! I'm boring myself already.
And i think that's the problem. Looking back at Sunday's race it had all the ingredients of an interesting, eventful couple of hours. Hamilton was chasing Massa, Kovalainen was coming through the field, the three leaders were on different strategies and therefore were frequently changing positions and mid-field runners (such as Mark Webber and both BMWs) were keeping things interesting for the points positions.
But I don't think I am alone in feeling that the result is almost decided before they even start out. All the computing power the teams have, all the strategians, and all the data collected from testing means they can practically foresee how the race will play out before it even begins, the only exceptions being accidents or driver error.
So were McLaren and Lewis Hamilton actually pushing for first place?
Their computers would be telling them that their threat later in the race would come from Raikkonen. And this sort of over-organized technological interference does not good sport make.
Imagine if before hitting the ball a baseball player got out a laptop to monitor wind resistance and therefore adapted his swing to compensate, and meanwhile all the guys in the fielding positions were being fed information from a central control unit telling them a "predicted" path for the ball, a predicted speed too, maybe even a predicted time to reach its destination, and where that destination would be.
How incredibly anal would that make baseball?!
So there lies the problem—F1 is no longer a sport the viewer, nor the hardcore fan, nor the person who ultimately buys the products the sport advertises, can actually follow or understand. The results are not decided by drivers and engineers we can identify with, but by bespectacled dudes with calculators and fancy qualifications.
And this bugs me.
How am I supposed to care about the result when it's not influenced by the action of the driver I am cheering on, but by the actions of backroom men?
I guess in many ways this shift is a sign of the increasing reliance upon technology. But it also goes to show how the business of Formula One is focused on the mutual gain of those involved and not the raw entertainment of the audience.
Look at any other motorsport genre. Here in the UK, for example, we have awesome saloon car championships, and you will see that it is ran primarily as a spectator sport. Reverse grids, success ballast, mid-season rule changes to even up the field; anything is done in order to keep the racing close and the audience interested.
Drivers are not just a cog in the corporate machine, and the core factor is determining the difference between an easy podium finish and a hard-fought win.
In last season's F1 we saw this kind of atmosphere thrive at the McLaren team, both drivers fighting hard to get advantage over the other. Yet the team failed to manage this in any way correctly, ignoring it, playing it down, pretending it was not there.
In fact, it seemed the whole of F1 was not prepared for the idea of rivalry, something sport needs. So although we saw an exciting, intriguing three-way championship battle, this was generally condemned and now, one year later, we are back to generic, pre-packaged motorsport with no human emotion or sense of grounded reality.
Formula One needs desperately a reality check. The powers that be need reminding that we, the audience, are an important cog in the machine, and without our interest they may as well drive around wearing fluorescent pink leotards.
Finally, a word to the drivers too—show some personality. We like a laugh, we're human, you're human, show some emotion.
"Team Politics" do not own you. Without the drivers the teams would be nothing but a bunch of nerds with computers. They'd be left to chat on MSN and look at pornography.
So start entertaining us, both on and off the track. Everybody wants a character on their team.
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