Eff One - The Greatest Sport on Earth?

Formula 1 is a sport that floods the TV screens of something like 600 million viewers worldwide; and packs the grandstands at the tracks in the many cities in which it is hosted. The BBC has invested in this sport for decades, and the Big B' that owns a large chunk of the commercial rights to the sport is one of the richest men in the world. And when it comes to the people who go to watch the races LIVE, these figures are just as unbelievable. Silverstone this year had more than 130,000 people who were at the track just on raceday. So it's a huge wonder to me that my weekend braai arguments always seem to veer off in the direction of why I even bother to watch this sport. I am continually being harassed about why I don't watch more entertaining sports...like soccer or cricket or (someone help me) rugby.

Mmm.....let me see....

For a start, Formula 1 is the world's most expensive sport. Some have said that the combined turnover of all the players in F1 would add up to the GDP of the world's 4th largest economy.
And that makes it aspirational, in the same way a Pagani Zonda is to a 16 year-old boy who has no idea what R10million is. It makes it cool. It makes you want to know what it's all about underneath.

Which brings me to my next point. F1 is not about racing drivers; or racing cars; or both. No, F1 is a technological labyrinth, with millions of factors that make up the winners and losers we see on the 'slick' packaged sport we watch on TV. Cars are designed in the cleanest, state-of-the-art factories in the world. The world's fastest and best Super computers are used to design and build F1 cars including sophisticated wind tunnels and CFD systems. The technology is groundbreaking and pushes the boundaries of what is deemed possible by the laws of physics, so much so that much of the technology born in F1 makes it to road cars for you and I to use and experience (if you drive a Ferrari or SLS AMG or course).

Everything from the engines to the wheel nuts have been designed with the purpose of producing the most advanced cars on the planet. They are hardly even cars; the drivers are more commonly referred to as pilots. Because that's what these things are - they are fighter jets that do battle on the ground. They produce downforce, the opposite of the 'lift' that causes planes to go up - and at over 160km/h, that downforce is more than 1.6 tons, which means they can corner faster than a normal human body can handle. F1 cars go from 0-330km/h in 10.8
seconds. Can you even imagine that? Your Golf Gti DSG does half that speed in double that time. And you thought it was fast. What's more is that they stop faster and harder than hitting a brick wall. Hit the brakes from top speed in an F1 car, and by the time your organs are all back in
place, you'll only have counted 6.5 seconds. And you'll be in physical pain.

Because of all this technical wizardry and driving genius, the sport is filled with people who love 2 things: Money! and Winning! And those two ingredients are sure to dish up a great deal of drama, both on and off the track. One of the great things about F1 is the people who are involved - everyone has some part to play. Let's start with the owner. Bernie Ecclestone
is a business-focused genius who bought into the commercial rights of F1 early. He's controversial and not shy to piss people off nor care about what they think. He's usually part of the high-level drama and controversy. Yes, he's made a lot of money but has also spent a lot of money, making sure the sport is sexy. (have you seen the grid girls?) Thanks Bernie.
Then of course, who can forget the FIA stewards - no names mentioned here, but these guys can turn a race on it's head, simply because they don't like one of the guys on track. Thanks Nigel Mansell. More drama.
F1 Engineers are in a war of their own - constantly building and designing and re-designing. The teams who are smartest at finding loopholes in the rulebook, and who are smartest at designing their cars are generally the teams that challenge at the front. But that doesn't mean they always win. Just ask Mclaren or Red Bull.
And of course, there are strategists who decide on how their drivers will run - they are to master all the factors of the competition and the weather (another character on it's own) and the traffic, and come up with a race plan that will yield best results. These plans, of course, are constantly changing as the race weekend progresses.
And lastly, but definitely worth a mention, are the pilots/drivers. The guys(and girls) that we actually think we know; the ones we see doing their business in the cockpits; the ones we hear in the interviews and the ones we all love and hate the most. Every year, someone special comes along to replace the loser that came before...but actually, here's the thing - no-one is a loser in F1. Being in F1 usually means you are one of the top 24 drivers in the entire world and in that, there is no LOSER status. But every now and then someone comes along who just outshines the rest and takes the sport to a whole new level. To mention a few from the recent F1 story: Michael Schumacher did it and is now one of the richest sportsmen for it. Kimi Raikonnen did it, for more interesting reasons. He was quiet and reserved and cold on the outside. Hence the pseudonym 'Iceman'. But off track he was wild and party mad. And the world
loves him for it. Most recently, Lewis Hamilton seems to be doing it too - for a 24 year-
old, he is paid quite handsomely, (he earns something in the region of 30 million a year
) And he dates a Pussy Cat which makes for great Heat magazine pictures.
And the fact that he is coloured made F1 history.
So - so far, we really have the plot outline for a really great film. We have a technical masterpiece, that is sexy, rich and aspirational. The cast and crew are all geniuses
in their own right. There is drama beyond expectation, a lot of laughter and tears, and the soundtrack is composed of nothing more goosebump inspiring than the howl of engines and the burning of rubber. But the BEST part of this F1 film is the action. The spectacle of wheel to wheel racing at fascinating speeds defies logic and makes for riveting entertainment.
The unexpected crashes are nothing short of spectacular and leave you anxious and concerned for a few seconds, after which drivers nowadays, generally just get out of the car and walk away with their heads down, but their body still in tact - which leaves you as a viewer even more impressed with the safety of these fascinating machines.

My friends liken F1 to a swarm of mosquitoes flying around. 'It's just cars going round and round in circles' they chirp. I stop myself before reminding them that Nascar is what they are referring to. I mean how can you argue with such an intelligent statement? A colleague once told me a similar comment about soccer, "...it's just a bunch of men, all chasing after the same ball. How stupid is that?"

I suppose I could argue it on the same grounds but I would be disrespecting the true brilliance of a sport that has withstood wars; weather disasters; 2 economic depressions; two threats of a breakaway series and many more. I would be disrespecting the Greatest Sport on earth!