Days Gone By
Why have we let the soccer fans intrude upon our motor race?
I don't know. Kindness perhaps. A willingness to see the sport we love grow, perhaps. I think we of the Old Guard have let that last bit fool us. Most of the newcomers to F1 aren't drawn to the fast cars and the visceral rush of a perfectly executed pass or an apex taken with flash and verve. The newcomers want to see a thing that has the appearance of a motor race but without the dirty, unruly aspects that have, up to now, been integral to a motor race. (I must state that by 'newcomer' I mean since 2000. Since the Ferrari/Schumacher days began. The 1990s held the last of the true motor races. The stewards were minimally involved and the racing was more raw).
My posts on this, and other forums, are the crusty mutterings of an Old Guardsman. I speak of the tracks being too safe and sanitized. I speak of mechanical grip and the driver's racecraft. I speak of limited rules and a hands-off approach by the stewards judging on-track actions. I speak of danger and courage. Yes, courage. It would surprise the younger folks among us to know that courage cannot exist without danger. Courage is the ultimate spectacle. In days gone by people watched motor racing to marvel at the courage of the drivers. They went so fast, in so dangerous a situation that we could barely imagine ourselves having the courage to do likewise. They darted and passed and sped in a way we could never do. So we watched. We admired. We dreamt.
Now we calculate how far a car has gone over a white line. Now we measure how far a car has gotten alongside another car to determine if a pass is legal. Now we call a defensive maneuver 'swerving' and call foul. We kill the speed and we kill the passion and we, somehow, like it. I have to shake my head at this.
There is hope, o ye Old Guard. The hope is in the drivers. Hamilton refuses to be cowed by his teammate, two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and races him like his pants are on fire. Kubica quips "Give me a roof over my head, some food to eat and a fast car. That's all I need. That's all I'll ever need". Vettel fights for every position, every square inch of tarmac. Webber thrashing his car around the track, earning penalties but grabbing the hearts of many with his car-control and plain old-fashioned big balls.
There is also hope that the Old Guard will stop trying to fit in with the soccer fans and start standing up for the true heart of motor racing. Counter the foolish discussions about penalties and legalities with oil and rubber and fire and, yes, danger. Point out the racecraft instead of waving the banner of nationalism. We need to show the newcomers what this sport is all about and sometimes it's as ugly as Kubica in lingere. And so it should be.
These things are the hope. Not all is lost. We haven't crossed the Rubicon quite yet and Caesar still has a choice. When the drivers become as dumbed-down and superficial as the fans when the Old Guard refuse to speak out, we are lost. Until then there's hope.