Formula One – Pinnacle or Circus

Posted by batman on May 26th, 2011
May 26

It has been a long, long time since the Formula One season has been this intriguing, with something happening all of the time andredbull1.jpg no opportunity to get up and quickly grab a beer – you WILL miss something. I remember years gone by where one could get up and get a haircut at the local mall – and not miss anything. This year there has been an abundance of overtaking and pitstops – and it is almost unheard of for a faster car to be stuck behind a slower car for more than one lap, or two at the most.

But I find myself questioning it all – should Formula One be a circus primarily designed to entertain the crowds, or should it be the pinnacle of motorsport designed to determine who can build the best car, and then drive it to glory?

Lets examine a few sports a bit closer…


When a guy like Rafael Nadal (or Roger Federer, or Pete Sampras) is good enough dominate, then they are allowed to reign for five or ten years – regardless of how boring or uncompetitive the sport becomes. The concept of having to play a match with only seven sets of tennis balls that are designed to degrade faster, forcing the players to adapt to a soft ball towards the end of its life just to spice up the tennis – is quite frankly ludicrous. Would you force tennis players to have to wear two different brands of tennis shoe during a match, or carry water on their backs as a penalty for their world ranking? Of course not – it would be absurd.


Nobody complained when Tiger Woods was winning everything in sight – in fact he has been the biggest drawcard golf has ever had. Could you just imagine if these same self-serving puppet-masters could randomly remove a club from a players’ bag? Or have degradable balls that only last eight holes – a player would need to derive a strategy for getting around the course with a soft ball, or else incur a penalty for taking a new one. That’s just not golf, and the purists would simply stop watching the sport.


OK, nobody can dispute that the IPL Twenty20 is a circus – just close your eyes and swing, with dancing girls, colour and music. But lets rather look at “proper” cricket – the limited-overs game, and good old-fashioned Test cricket. Patience and , classic strokes the order of the day. Third umpires and review systems, while not yet perfect, are certainly the way to go. There is no glitz or glamour, and they don’t change the game – all that happens is that a player is almost guaranteed of just getting a fair decision – and nobody can ask for more.

I do dislike the “free hit”, “super-subs”, on-field microphones and other such gimmicks. Imagine how one could desecrate this game into a circus – 11 batsmen get to bat – they then get substituted with a combination of 11 Jonty Rhodes (in the field) and Dale Steyns for bowling. The argument for this is that the public would get to see 11 of the best batsmen, facing the best bowlers – after all – who is entertained by watching a bowler try to bat? But then it would no longer be called cricket – as has been played by gentlemen for decades, if not hundreds of years. If a sport has survived unchanged for this long – then leave it be. If not – then it’s probably not that much of a sport to begin with.


I think reports of randomly causing artificial rain on a track is crazy – teams and drivers are doing their very best to win races, and the puppet-masters are continually looking for ways to make the race more unpredictable and more difficult in the interests of amusing the spectators.

The current KERS and DRS also seems artificial – to see the slowest car on the track potentially blast past the fastest (assuming he was within one second at some arbitary corner before the straight) somehow just doesn’t gel. Having cars (tyres) by design degrade by large margins after 5-10 laps, and then have to pop in and get a second, third, fourth or fifth set is cheesy, and very “Playstation-like”. In addition – isn’t it just over-complicating something that should be quite simple? Who is monitoring if drivers use their DRS (or KERS) in places where they are not allowed to – and what are their penalties if they do? Would they really give race-leader Fernando Alonso at the Spanish Grand Prix a 10 second “stop-go” because he inadvertantly opend his rear wing at the wrong place? Or do they need to develop new systems to only allow DRS to be activated between two specified points on the track? If they are serious about cutting costs, then stop requiring teams to develop silly little tricks and gimmicks like this!

What’s next – having remote-controls (in the hands of the puppet-masters) that can cause an engine to blow, wheels to lock up, engines to lose KERS ability and then have it re-instated, gearboxes to “lose” a gear – the mind just boggles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Formula One lost more followers than it ever did during those “monotonous years”.


I agree that costs are high and need to be curbed – but I strongly disagree with anything that makes Formula One look like a cost-saving, budget-orientated economy run. Last week at the Spanish Grand Prix the teams reduced qualifying to a farce by only doing one run (some not at all) in the interests of saving their tyres. Surely that’s not what Formula One is about?

I accept the eight-engines-per-season rule – that is fine, and reasonable – a team that can’t make do with that deserves to be penalised. But when restrictions and penalties “remove the race from the race” it is taking something away from the spectator – everyone wants to see the fastest ten cars and drivers thrashing it out in “Quali 3” – with no restrictions of fuel or tyres.

Everyone wants to see the fastest car at the front – the current approach seems to throw as many curve balls at the teams, and whoever has the best strategy will win – and that just plain sucks!

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