One of my very first jobs in journalism was to write down about Method 1 races and the occasions surrounding them that had been sponsored by a preferred beer firm of that point. These had been the early-2000s and the start of the period of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s utter dominance of the game. As a younger 20-something man, going to occasions the place the beer flowed and fairly promoters and massive screens confirmed motor-racing, although I used to be by no means a fan of the crimson crew, was nice enjoyable.
However I used to be and stay a real fan of the game. I bear in mind once we acquired cable tv within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, one of many first dwell sports activities broadcasts on Star Sports activities — and there was just one Star Sports activities channel again within the day — was Method 1. I bear in mind watching the fateful San Marino Grand Prix the place legendary racing driver Ayrton Senna misplaced his life. And I’ve grown up with the game: I attended all of the three races of the ill-fated Indian Grand Prix on the Buddh Worldwide Circuit, the primary one as an accredited reporter with entry to all the celebs of the game.
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One thing’s rotten
Method 1 is the top of motorsport and as somebody who loves driving vehicles and motorsport, it should be a match made in heaven. However recently, I can’t appear to do away with that nagging feeling that there’s something rotten on this planet of Method 1. Don’t get me incorrect, I’m not somebody who clamours for the ‘good previous days’ of Method 1. The game has been on the bleeding fringe of technical innovation, it ought to be exceptional that Method 1 vehicles of right this moment run four-cylinder 1.6 litre engines.
Sure, I miss the grunt and the noise of the large V12 and even the V8 engines. However shifting to smaller, extra fuel-efficient engines coupled with state-of-the-art vitality restoration methods and hybrid powertrains is an indication of dedication to the surroundings. And it isn’t as if the vehicles are any slower. Actually, they’re much safer because the dramatic accident involving French driver Romain Grosjean on the Sakhir Circuit in 2020 proved. And the game has successfully overwhelmed off a problem from Method E, the all-electric racing collection, the place the speeds are slower and the racing isn’t fairly pretty much as good, which is why the highest expertise nonetheless goes to F1.
And the choice by the brand new media rights proprietor, the US-based Liberty Media to tie-up with Netflix to have an ‘inside’ account with Drive To Survive has opened up an entire new viewers to F1. The game can be an incredible showcase for Indian IT main Tata Consultancy Providers (TCS) that has constructed a centralised broadcast system in the UK. The blokes bringing you the printed and the digicam cutaways are within the UK, and that is finished at each race with no information lag and irrespective of the place they’re on this planet.
However occasions of the previous couple of months, for the reason that finish of the 2021 season, have me questioning if the game is contriving leisure quite than sport. The top of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the place Dutch driver Max Verstappen overtook seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on the final lap appeared contrived. And I’m not saying this as a fan of both driver — each of them had sufficient alternatives to place the championship to relaxation earlier within the season. However some calls by the Race Director at time, Australian Michael Masi had been curious to say the least.
And it’s not simply that, information experiences previously few days have emerged that Crimson Bull Racing, the crew that Max Verstappen drives for, exceeded the funds cap agreed to by all of the groups by a considerable margin and there are differing views on what kind of punishment the crew ought to face. However right here is the factor. In most sports activities, if an athlete takes medication, that’s positive factors a aggressive benefit, she or he is disqualified. Breaching an already agreed algorithm is gaining a aggressive benefit, and in my view, there ought to be no leeway in any respect. That stated, the Method 1 authorities haven’t precisely coated themselves in glory in more moderen examples of dishonest. Just a few seasons in the past, Scuderia Ferrari was accused of dishonest by manipulating their gas stream, and F1 and Ferrari reached a confidential settlement whose particulars stay undisclosed to today.
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The change that’s wanted
The actual fact of the matter is that Method 1 is the top of motorsport and whereas the worldwide automotive business undergoes dramatic adjustments to its enterprise mannequin because of the appearance of electrical automobiles, the game has to additionally change. One change, Method 1 has stated they may undertake is to turn out to be a net-zero emitter of carbon by 2030.
How on earth they plan to attain that in a 23-race season, the longest one ever, in 2023 is befuddling. The season has back-to-back races scheduled in Baku, Azerbaijan adopted by Miami, USA. Even when you weren’t nice at world geography at school, you already know that these two locations aren’t precisely shut to one another and that is simply probably the most egregious instance. Neglect the calls for on the groups and the people driving the vehicles and the groups of engineers, managers and mechanics, the schedule is unnecessary.
Sure, motorsport isn’t a ‘sustainable’ sport in any method of talking, however to observe human beings put their lives on the road driving vehicles that may and do hit speeds of 350 kmph is enthralling to me and thousands and thousands of others internationally. As somebody who has pushed tens of laps round a racetrack, albeit in road-legal vehicles, I can guarantee you that it takes an enormous bodily toll on you. F1 drivers must be supremely match and have lightning fast reflexes, and never simply the drivers, seeing a crew of mechanics change all 4 tyres in underneath three seconds is frankly, mind-blowing.
And it’s entertaining.
However within the identify of leisure and contriving storylines, F1 can’t lose the essence of the game, and I worry that it’s treading down that path. Again within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, there have been solely 4 or 5 channels on cable tv. Right now, one is overwhelmed by content material, glorious content material at that. However the perfect content material is probably the most real content material, and that’s one thing that the F1 media rights homeowners and directors ought to bear in mind.
@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based mostly in New Delhi. Views are private.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)