Sunday, 11 September 2011

What makes me tick: Part 1 - F1

I get a bit of stick among some friends for being a fan of motorsport, with Formula 1 being one thing in life that can get me to drop virtually anything so I can sit down and watch it. A lot of it is just banter and saying that it's boring because they go around in circles and not a lot happens during races.

So in a new little side-track on this blog, I thought I'd start a little series of things detailing what makes me tick. It's nothing complex...I take the important things in my life and write about how they're influential and how they've helped make me who I am. I have a few ideas for what I can write about, but this is the one that I had to start with.

I'm a sucker for motorsport. I always have been, and I think I always will be. If it has an engine and wheels, I'm interested, and it seems to be a case that every weekend, there's a race somewhere in the world that I can find. On the rare occasions that I can't find anything, there are endless hours of races on Youtube and streaming websites where I can watch F1 from years gone by. My first race was the 1995 Canadian GP (won by Jean Alesi), and it completely captivated me. My first full season was in 1996, and I've watched every single season since I'm now in my 16th year of watching Formula 1. In 16 years, I've missed maybe four races live. There's only one race that I've never seen in full during that time: the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

There's something magical about the piercing sound of a screaming engine, whether it's an old V10 engine of the 90s or early 2000s or one of the modern V8s. It's sent shivers down my spine since I was a little boy. I've only attended one race, this year's British GP but even on a cold Friday morning as first practice started, hearing the engines firing up got me excited. Watching the cars fly through Becketts as rain began to fall, the rooster tails of spray flying off the rear of the car as the cars dance through the corner is something to behold. Watching them on race day as they race to be quicker, better than everyone else out there is something I won't forget.

I'm interested in everything about the sport. I love reading about how a team has brought a new part to a race and what they hope it will do. Every year, I go through the sporting and technical regulations and make sure I keep up to date on rules. I'd like to think I'm pretty up to date with my knowledge and could answer most questions about the sport, but give me something from within the last 10 years or so, and I could definitely answer.

Perhaps what catches my interest the most is the delicate combination of driver and machine. A truly great driver can take a car to the edge of its limits and balance it to be the fastest man out there, and a car can do the same to a driver. Watching a driver on the edge, flirting with danger and death is captivating to me, and to me, nothing can beat it for exhilaration. Take someone like Ayrton Senna for example. He was a man who could keep a car on the limit of grip, his hands and feet permanently dancing around the cockpit to keep the car on the track. I wrote a blog entry about Senna after I watched the documentary about his life a bit earlier in the year (which you can read again here: )

This is Senna doing a qualifying lap of Monaco where he's absolutely on the limit. Monaco isn't a place where you can make mistakes, because you'll end up in the barriers. Somehow, Senna managed to get a car around the streets far quicker than anyone else. Amazing.

The man I've followed closest in F1 is Michael Schumacher. He's the most successful driver in the sport and he has to be considered as one of the greats. He may have been ruthless and done whatever it took to win, but I was drawn to this over the years. There would be races where he could do a 20 lap stint at a pace that no one could cope with, he raised the standard of F1 drivers to a new level, particularly in the area of fitness. For me, he revolutionised the sport and built one of the most successful teams in the sport to create an era of dominance.

Even aside from Formula 1, I love watching motorsport. This year, I've found myself branching out and watching different categories to explore different racing. I finally started watching Indycar and NASCAR from Stateside (and I definitely prefer Indycar), GP2 and GP3 from the F1 support races, British F3, British Touring Cars, Le Mans (both the 24 hour race and the Intercontinental Series) and then bits of Formula Renault (including the World Series events). All in all, I think that's more than enough motorsport to keep me occupied.

Formula One, and motorsport in general, isn't something that everyone 'gets'. But on the face of it, F1 is one of the most watched sports in the world, and I think I'm right in saying that it's the most watched annual sporting event (527 million people watched last season). Only the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup gets more viewers. That's pretty impressive.

This year has been one of the more exciting seasons. Admittedly, this is because the FIA introduced new rules to help overtaking, and there is a degree of artificialness to them, but it has helped raise the profile of the sport, and more people are watching than ever before. The racing is still there, the drama is still there and there's still a great fighting spirit.

That...that is what I love about it. That's what makes me tick.

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