Simmy Richman: The Emperor's New Clothes (01/07/12)

With Formula One on the grid, we're supposed to be on the edge of our sofas. But our writer ignores the flag
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The Independent Online

As any football fan will know, there is little more infuriating than those who would reduce this deceptively simple sport to the phrase "it's just a bunch of men kicking a ball around". So, at the risk of making the 527 million people who watched a recent Formula One season collectively wince, can anyone explain to me what it is about this "sport" that makes it more than a bunch of blokes driving as fast as possible around a track?

I've tried to get into it. I've sat for hours watching events with enthusiasts only too happy to explain the tactical intricacies. Over the course of a stag weekend, I've attended a live race, thinking that the sights, sounds and smells might finally illuminate me as to the reasons for Formula One's popularity. I've read extensively of the many behind-the-scenes struggles to make the modern race more exciting, unpredictable and lively for the spectator. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Which is an appropriate description of what seems to happen on track. "Ooh look, someone just overtook someone. The courage, the timing, the bravery!" Really, I've seen more impressive manoeuvres on that bit of the Holloway Road where the bus lane ends and a second lane becomes available.

"Those guys in the pits can change a tyre in under five seconds." Now that is impressive, because I believed them when they said you can't get better than a Kwik-Fit fitter and I was in there for about two hours last time I got a puncture.

"The money, the glamour…" Agreed, that can be an intoxicating and sexy combination. But then you take one look at Bernie Ecclestone (or worse, Tamara) and suddenly being poor and having an unexciting life looks more and more appealing.

This week, the F1 circus comes to Silverstone. And so, by amazing coincidence, a PR agency representing one of McLaren's biggest sponsors put forward the idea that the race could be run around the world-famous sites of central London. A ridiculous idea that will never happen, according to those in the know. Which is a shame, because at least then we'd all have something to look at.