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

The thing is...

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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary