Ever

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER - DA­MON HILL

One thing is baf­fling me. Ac­tu­ally, many things are baf­fling me, but this ‘one thing’ is par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent to F1. It is: why would life cre­ate myr­iad forms and then put them into com­pe­ti­tion with one another?

It don’t make no sense. I mean, I could be wiped out by a tiny sin­gle-cell crit­ter when, clearly, I am the su­pe­rior be­ing. And they call that evo­lu­tion? We both want to live, but one could die, just to sat­isfy the other, and a pos­si­ble out­come is that we both die and be­come just mud. I’m con­fused. And yet… If a hu­man gets bored but has a eureka moment and sug­gests to the other, “I know! Why don’t we have a race?” the likely re­sponse will be: “Yeah! Okay!” Be­cause we love to com­pete. The most un­likely re­sponse will be: ‘Er, why?’ To which the only re­ply should be: ‘Be­cause, dear fel­low, if we don’t com­pete, we will wither away and die from an en­nui.’

The the­ory, ar­tic­u­lated by Dar­win in his On the Ori­gin of Species, which I, like most, have never read but feel at lib­erty to quote from as if I had a PHD in nat­u­ral sciences, sug­gests that it is na­ture’s way to com­pete. In­deed, it shows that it is nec­es­sary to com­pete to sur­vive. He called this: ‘sur­vival of the fittest’.

No he didn’t. Herbert Spencer, a lib­er­tar­ian philoso­pher, called it that, and the rest, as we say, is the 20th cen­tury’s his­tory of whole­sale slaugh­ter of mil­lions of hu­mans, os­ten­si­bly li­censed by Dar­win’s the­ory of na­ture.

In fact, what Dar­win was try­ing to show was that in or­der to sur­vive, or­gan­isms had to find a space for them­selves that was not oc­cu­pied by any­thing else. He was in fact show­ing that many or­gan­isms avoid com­pe­ti­tion by go­ing for the gap. In such a way, there are more myr­iad va­ri­eties of species un­til there are pre­cious few new places left for life. And that’s when the fun starts!

The cuckoo in the nest was, in Herbert’s term, the ‘fittest’. This was taken to mean that the best and the strong­est had a right to sur­vive, and the weak should per­ish. It was what na­ture in­tended. No hard feel­ings. In fact, what was meant was that the ‘best fit’ species for a niche would pre­vail in that niche, and the rest would have to move along and find their own home… or die. Sub­tle dif­fer­ence, see? No in­tent to kill.

If we think of For­mula 1 as an en­vi­ron­ment able to sup­port many life forms (some of them al­most hu­man), with the over­all com­pet­i­tive cul­ture be­ing what makes the whole stronger, then F1 is a healthy en­vi­ron­ment, with each find­ing their niche in the con­stantly fluc­tu­at­ing hi­er­ar­chy. Com­pe­ti­tion is like ex­er­cise. The more you do it, the stronger and health­ier you get. And we are all nat­u­rally com­pet­i­tive crea­tures. Be hon­est… every­one feels a lit­tle fris­son when we set out to com­pete. It’s life af­firm­ing. It’s fun! Or it should be, at least.

How­ever, ‘bad’ com­pe­ti­tion can be un­healthy. If, by sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion, we mean to­tal an­ni­hi­la­tion of the op­po­si­tion, we are con­fus­ing sport with war and are miss­ing the point. The ‘win­ner takes all’ phi­los­o­phy leaves ‘naught but grief an’ pain for promised joy’, for what doth it profit a man if he gains the world cham­pi­onship, but loses his com­pe­ti­tion? For in­stance, I needed Michael Schu­macher to sharpen my blade, raise my game. His prob­lem was, I wasn’t as good as him. He was bored with me. I must have bored him into sub­mis­sion then! (It’s just a thought.)

What he felt he needed was Mika Häkki­nen. The point is, Michael could never have been Michael on his own. Like Senna, he needed his Prost. Michael’s bril­liance was be­stowed upon him by the rest of us, how­ever wor­thy or not we might have been. This is Socrates’ point, that the low begets the high. It’s all rel­a­tive to the op­po­nent. “I needed Michael Schu­macher to raise my game. His prob­lem was, I wasn’t as good as him. He felt he needed Mika Häkki­nen”

But rac­ers are al­ways on the edge of un­healthy com­pe­ti­tion. They hate los­ing! Hate it. They’d rather be dead. This is the prob­lem we have. It’s not win­ning that’s hard, it’s los­ing. Our prob­lem in F1 is that we can’t take los­ing. We have no strat­egy, no words, no phi­los­o­phy to cope with the in­evitabil­ity of fail­ure. We tend to for­get that this is not a real life-or-death strug­gle; it’s much more se­ri­ous than that, to steal a gag from Bill Shankly.

Or­well called pro­fes­sional sport “war mi­nus the shoot­ing” and an “un­fail­ing cause of ill­will”. But if con­ducted with mal­ice, it is not sport. Fu­elling ha­tred of the op­po­nent is the pre­cur­sor to war. Nel­son Man­dela per­ceived some­thing bet­ter, say­ing, “Sport can cre­ate hope where once there was only de­spair.”

But he ob­vi­ously never lost an F1 race.

“Michael could never have been Michael on his own. Like Ayr­ton Senna, he needed his Prost”

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