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

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before