For­mula 1 cel­e­brates achieve­ment

Hu­man

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

we put him there, all of us, or, at least, we are ‘ex­tras’ in the most ex­tra­or­di­nary epic movie of all time. Whichever way, that is how we do it. We put a man on a pedestal. Like a de­ity.

And, if we are hon­est, some of them be­have like they are a de­ity too – your colum­nist ex­cepted, of course. Or did I get a lit­tle ‘pumped up’? Per­haps I did. But per­haps that’s what you wanted, a man who could y, slay dragons, de­feat the foe? Well, condence is a won­der­ful thing. You have to have some condence, and also a sense that you be­long there, even that this place is right­fully yours.

My point is this. Be­fore we get lost in en­gine to­kens and vir­tual Safety Car rights and wrongs, and ticket prices and the lack of vol­ume or the ugly-is-the-new­beau­ti­ful noses, and who-said­what-about-whose-girl­friend… why do we even care?

By way of an an­swer to this, I want to pro­pose a state­ment: F1 is about which driver be­comes For­mula 1 world cham­pion. Not who has the best car.

Now, I can feel the hi­er­ar­chy twitch­ing. ‘They’d be noth­ing with­out us’; ‘They’re like busses – an­other one will be along in a minute’; ‘They’re spoilt over­paid selsh play­boys’; ‘We, the teams, built this show. The driver is an em­ployee of the team, pure and sim­ple.’

And yes, the driv­ers have an aw­ful lot of peo­ple to thank and things to be thank­ful for. But, like I said, the peo­ple need a hero, a ‘per­son’, a per­son­al­ity, some­one with whom they can iden­tify; some­one to talk to, to in­ter­view, to pho­to­graph, to wor­ship, a kind of ‘fa­mous friend’.

Chris­tian Horner said re­cently that the driv­ers were the stars of the show. But what does this mean? Does it mean the show wants them to per­form on de­mand, like mind­less pup­pets, for the glorication of the sport and its other agen­das? Or does it mean that he recog­nises this fun­da­men­tal point: that no­body cares about a prod­uct, whether it is a car or a man. We care only about the peo­ple we care about and, in the con­text of F1, this over­whelm­ingly means the driv­ers. If F1 were a ballet, it would be the driv­ers do­ing the danc­ing. On ice, a lot of the time. Last year Lewis Hamil­ton was voted BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year. This means that (in the UK at least) his per­son­al­ity, cou­pled with his achieve­ments – ‘The Hamil­ton Story’ if you will – was the most com­pelling and suc­cess­ful sport­ing saga of the year.

And there is some­thing very spe­cial about For­mula 1 driv­ers. Just ask Frank, Ron, Bernie or Chris­tian. Driv­ers are spe­cial peo­ple when they’re at the top of their game (and hell to be around when it’s go­ing badly). They glow; they ex­ude some spe­cial gift, al­most seem­ing to hold mag­i­cal pow­ers over us. And only they know what it is like to have that power, to feel those feel­ings, to ex­pe­ri­ence the pure sense of sat­is­fac­tion that comes from win­ning a For­mula 1 grand prix.

They have an­other rare in­sight, too. They know what it is like to ac­tu­ally wring ev­ery last ounce of per­for­mance out of the car, this multi-mil­lion dollar in­vest­ment, this 21stcen­tury ar­row­head. And that, I can as­sure you, is one of the best things about be­ing a For­mula 1 driver. We get to drive the car – as fast as we can. We’re lucky and we know it. Clap your hands.

“When we cel­e­brate the driver we are ac­knowl­edg­ing some­thing deeply hu­man. In­di­rectly we put him there”

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