13 May 2013

Formula 1 - Is it, in fact, any good?

Geoff Maxted dares to think the unthinkable… 
Once upon a time barbers would ask their gentlemen customers if they needed ‘something for the weekend’. As a result a whole generation of blokes grew up thinking they could only have sex on a Saturday or Sunday. Now, of course, we all know it’s Friday night after the pub, because weekends must be kept free for Formula One, or so it seems these days.

Before we consider the question of F1 we must first pay due deference to The Dear Leader (of Speedmonkey obviously; not the bomb-toting mad Michael McIntyre look-alike from the East) who is known to have viewed the odd Grand Prix in his time and seems to be a fan. That done, we can finally pose the important question that has been on the lips of nations ever since Eddie Jordan first started wearing shirts with really, really massive collars: Is Formula One any good or is it just a waste of petrol?

Honestly, this isn’t sour grapes or a case of unrequited love; I have accepted that my previously strong chances with Nicole Scherzinger have melted faster than last year’s snow since that Hamilton geezer came along. I’ve moved on, seriously - just waiting for that call from Jessica any day now. And it isn’t even because the BBC are too cheap to spend our money on sports, preferring instead to spend it on salaries and golden goodbyes. (Note to Beeb: Snooker and darts are great games but they are not sports! You only call them ‘sports’ because they are cheap to broadcast!). These days if you want to watch all of the F1 coverage live - fronted by the turncoat Brundle - you have to give all your money and your house to an Antipodean media baron.

Sorry, I digress. Got a bit carried away there. Right: This is a money making machine run by a short bloke with celebrity pretensions, surely? It features overpaid prima donnas driving cars that virtually drive themselves, who spend most of their time trying to ‘save their tyres’ and avoiding any of that nasty close racing business with the car nearest to them. Except for that pushy German fella.

That’s a point. There’s everyone thinking what a nice boy that Sebastian ‘The Finger’ Vettel is when suddenly he shows his true colours! I mean; who knew? If you can get up the nostrils of a laid-back Aussie then you must have a problem with your attitude. Whatever happened to the gentleman racer? Whither Schumacher? That’s what we want to know.

Formula One then is a procession of very expensive cars driving around some serious dull tracks in far away places that most of us will never visit, isn‘t it? Most of the drivers have no chance yet persist in turning up to make up the numbers. On the TV presenter front, Mr Coulthard models some seriously suspect strides whilst commentating and the Irish gentleman with the Harry Hill shirts… what exactly is he for? Fortunately, the fragrant Suzi can do no wrong. She could stand there reading a Thomson Local out loud and still grip the audience. Even Christian Horner says that F1 is a soap opera because it is not just about the racing.

It’s about money, right? A marketing exercise for energy drinks. The grid is littered with brands of all descriptions. The trouble is - it appears to work. For example, just a scant couple of years ago Nissan were seriously considering scrapping their posh Infiniti badge. Linking up with Red Bull has given the brand a new lease of life. They’ve even let that pushy German kid design his own version, the Infiniti FX Vettel.

It is also seems to be about research and safety. Some of the high-tech stuff used on Formula One cars does filter down to the cars we drive today. KERS-like systems are beginning to appear in the showrooms and so on. This top echelon of motor sport also brings a little glamour and fun into our daily lives; dominated as they are by grey weather, grey financial prospects and grey government.

Thinking about it, I suppose the new rules do seem to have made the racing more closely contested. Then there’s all the razzmatazz and colour and grid girls and gossip and Suzi P and noise and petulant argument and…oh! I seem to have answered my own original question.

Geoff Maxted is a freelance writer and photographer whose works have been published in various print and online sources