Andrew Martin: Formula One – the sport no one seems to like

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is, it's the British Grand Prix this weekend, and I will be watching it on television. After football, it's the most popular sport in the world, so apparently about 530 million other people will be doing the same, but I don't know any of them.

As a fan of Formula One, I feel quite iconoclastic, since every time I mention it, my friends say, "Oh please... it's so boring, just cars going round and round." Or, "It's all about who has the best car."

They obviously haven't cottoned on to the fact that each driver is racing against a man in exactly the same car, namely his so-called team "mate", with whom he is actually locked in a deadly personal war. So in a grid of 24, there are, in effect, 12 separate races.

Sure, the sport is safer than it was. Formula One drivers may no longer have a one in 10 chance of dying every season, as used to be the case in the Sixties, but their discourse still has a stiff-upper-lip terseness. If they crash while travelling at 200 miles an hour, they might say they have had "a bit of a moment" or an "off"; a really bad smash and they might speak of having "lunched" the car.

Juan Pablo Montoya once laconically expressed his racing philosophy: "Get in car, drive car, see what happens." I also like the way the drivers compress incredible technical arcana into what sounds like raffish upper-class slang. For example, a car with oversteer (that is, the front corners faster than the back) is "a bit pointy".

Yes, the drivers of today are constrained by a corporate straitjacket, but they break out of it very often. Witness, for example, Lewis Hamilton's recent outbursts after being penalised twice by the stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix. ("Maybe it's because I'm black.") On live TV once, Martin Brundle asked Kimi Raikkonen why he was late on to the starting grid. "I was having a shit." Unlike Premier League footballers, Formula One drivers have "hinterland". Fernando Alonso does magic tricks; Jarno Trulli makes wine; while Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, is obsessive about Monty Python.

A sport gets the followers it deserves. Clive James likes Formula One, as did George Harrison. Ironic, really, that he was "the quiet one". But then this underrated spectacle is steeped in paradox and perversity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Wilbur, the pig who thinks he's a dog (Dom Joly)  

My hilarious pet pig Wilbur is more popular than I am — so I'll let him bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Amazon's new 'payment by the page' policy will just result in longer but likely worse literature

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'