A pragmatic view of F1

F1 is tying itself in knots wondering how to be greener, stay relevant to road car technology and prove some sort of value to society. Instead  it is time to dispense with the facades and token gestures and take a pragmatic view of F1 and the sport we love.

F1’s relevance to road car technology is diminishing, fast

It is time to do away with the pretence that F1 inspires road car technology. The switch to hybrid power was intended to try and close the growing gap between road car tech and advances in F1. Whilst F1 was occupied with trick suspension and blown diffusers, road technology was looking at altenative power sources and automation.

Now automotive manufacturers are increasingly throwing their cash behind a drive towards all-electric cars above the hybrid technology F1 has, painfully, embraced. Self-driving cars are on the near horizon and that alone is the ultimate antithesis of motor sport at all levels.

Some manufacturers – like the Volkswagen Audi Group – see all-electric as the basis of their car output from as early as 2020. Granted they are doing so mostly due to the emissions scandal that will cost them billions of dollars in fines, but their decision is not an isolated one. From Nissan/Renault to F1 dominators Mercedes, all-electric is the future. Thus the transition that hybrid engines seemed to offer feels as if it has ended before it truly got started. And so F1 faces a dilemma.

It cannot go all-electric because Formula E has cornered that market already. One alternative is to remain with the hybrid technology that so many in F1 (including many fans) disliked. Fully accepting it will only diminish in terms of F1-to-road relevance. The sport could attempt to ‘skip’ a generation of technology and pilot the hydrogen fuel cell option that ultra-eco friendly groups believe, over all-electric, is the real solution.

And then there is a the third option: simply accepting F1 is sport and that the days of race to road technology transfer are pretty much over. In doing so the sport would be able to shake off the issues created by political correctness and faux environmental credentials.

Which is a nice segue in to the next topic…

F1 is simply sport and entertainment

While football, tennis or baseball might inspire people to be active and healthier, ultimately they serve little benefit to society in general. The money and resources sucked up by the NFL, soccer, baseball or Grand Slam tennis tournaments like F1 are for the benefit of entertaining us. And nothing much else.

We humans like to watch competition and the stretching of human endeavour. We like to sit in massive stadia, under floor lights, consuming over-priced and questionable food to watch our heroes and heroines. We tune in to watch via pay-per-view and buy merchandise supporting our favourite team or driver. None of it is to the benefit of the world but most of us work hard Monday to Friday and just want to enjoy ourselves at the weekend. The same goes for Hollywood blockbusters, music festivals and selfies on social media.

Sports franchises and sports in general might try to distract us with charity foundations and altruistic behaviour. But that is not why they are there and it is not why we follow them. Fans do not watch F1 because they are passionate about road safety – they watch because they are passionate about motor racing.

Many people dislike F1. Whether it be because of its danger or excess they will never be short of reasons. But I think we should just accept that and embrace it even.

Let’s stop trying to suggest F1 has some higher, more worthy purpose. Once we do, we can get back to enjoying the sport for what it is and stop being distracted by finding F1’s relevance to society. It is a bit of fun, plain and simple.

F1 is never going to be environmentally acceptable

Face it – no matter how F1 tries to dress it up, like all motor sport it is – as Australian broadcaster and critic Clive James concluded – “propelled by burning money” (and natural resources). Formula E might step forward here, polish its halo and say ‘not us’ but what about the chemicals used to create the batteries or the fossil fuels burned to create the electricity for the cars in the first place? Or the fact teams and kit are flown around the world to races on ultra-poluting aircraft?

Trying to somehow mask or deflect such criticism is a pointless exercise. F1 is not environmentally acceptable but that is no bad thing. Back in the days when F1 and road car technology travelled parallel paths – noisy, dirty engines propelled by fossil fuels – F1 was just the icing on the cake. A big middle finger to anyone interested in the future of the planet. With the sport and road car technology diverging, F1 being an environmentally unfriendly ‘treat’ should become less of an issue.

Whether F1 does or does not exist, it will make little difference to carbon emissions. Switching road cars from petrol/diesel to hybrid/all-electric does not (and never did) hinge on the role played by F1. In essence we should stop getting ourselves worked up about what environmentalists think and just enjoy the spectacle.

The quicker everyone involved in F1 accepts that it is a polluting, elitist sport devoid of any significant technological or societal benefit, the better for all concerned.

Like selfies, the Kardashians, online gaming and Snapchat, F1 is just for fun.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. nxdoyle says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve said this before because I can’t see the other comments. “Propelled by burning money” is a Clive James line. He once described F1 cars as “pieces of modern sculpture, propelled by burning money”. Not only did you not credit him, you didn’t have the decency to include the quote in full.


    1. Hi. We were not aware of Clive James or the documentary in which he coined that phrase. The article has been amended to reflect that and provide an appropriate credit. Thanks for highlighting it and bringing it to our attention. We hope you continue to visit MotorSportNotes.com


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