Sniff Petrol

For­mula 1 has fi­nally re­alised that it must move with the times. Sorry, bores

Evo India - - BRIEFING - RICHARD PORTER Richard is evo’s long­est-serv­ing colum­nist and the script editor on The Grand Tour @sniff­petrol

WHEN FOR­MULA 1 AN­NOUNCED IT WOULD

no longer use so-called grid girls, the huff­ing in­dig­na­tion was so great you’d think they’d ac­tu­ally an­nounced a plan to take 22 win­some women to a de­serted area of Sil­ver­stone and string them up by their tongues. Still, from the re­ac­tion in some quar­ters at least we learnt two things. Firstly, it’s amaz­ing how many mid­dle-aged men seem to be deeply con­cerned about the fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of at­trac­tive younger ladies. These girls have been SACKED, they har­rumphed in­ac­cu­rately. It’s not FAIR, they splut­tered. Who knew that paunchy blokes with a foot­ball team name in their Twit­ter biogs and a photo of an As­ton as their avatar were so touchy-feely when it came to some­one los­ing three days of free­lance work.

The sec­ond les­son was that peo­ple who use the phrase ‘po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad’ are, with­out ex­cep­tion, crash­ing bores. The sort of dullards who latch on to peo­ple in pubs, be­moan the way they can’t be a racist prick in pub­lic and like to agree with things twice. ‘I know, I know. Isn’t it, isn’t it? You’re not wrong squire, you’re not wrong.’ I don’t know what it is with this par­tic­u­lar brand of clat­ter­ing fun-sponge but they’re very big on the dou­ble af­fir­ma­tion. Nigel Farage shows this ver­bal tic a lot and, as we know, he is the melted froggy face of mid­dle-aged bores. Isn’t he just, isn’t he just. It’s po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad, eh?

And this, of course, is what a cer­tain brand of bore blamed for the grid girl decision. It was ‘PC culture’. Or, for the par­tic­u­larly petu­lant and fright­ened 50-some­thing weep­ing into his Doom Bar, it was ‘those bloody fem­i­nists’. Well, it wasn’t ei­ther of those things. It was a busi­ness decision. Lib­erty wasn’t strong-armed by Ger­maine Greer, it sim­ply de­cided to get rid of women be­cause it makes its sport look old-fash­ioned and out of touch with the world of 2018, and that in turn makes it harder for it to sell spon­sor­ship and sign lu­cra­tive TV deals. Maybe there’s some po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and some fem­i­nism sewn up in the shift­ing so­cial stan­dards of our time, and if so then good, be­cause it would be nice to think our kids could watch F1 with­out get­ting the im­pres­sion that men do the heroic stuff while the women stand there silently smil­ing and hold­ing a stick. But this is merely part of what was a cold, ra­tio­nal busi­ness move. And it filled me with de­light be­cause it sug­gested Lib­erty has re­alised some­thing very fundamental about F1 as it stands: it is not as glam­orous as it thinks, nor as high tech and so­phis­ti­cated as it claims. F1 is, in fact, deeply and hor­ri­bly naff.

F1 is in­ter­minable ads for ‘busi­ness solutions’. It’s acres of syn­thetic fi­bres spun into match­ing branded cloth­ing. It’s men in firmly tucked shirts talk­ing for ten min­utes about tyres.

Yes, of course there are pri­vate jets, fine ho­tels and ex­pen­sive watches, but you only get those if you’re an ac­tual F1 driver. The au­di­ence at home has none of those. The tra­di­tional F1 viewer isn’t a con­ti­nent-hop­ping su­per­model. He’s some­one’s dad who’s wolfed down the Sun­day roast be­cause ‘the Grand Prix’ is on soon. He’s some­one’s dad, grab­bing an­other bot­tle of Spit­fire and rush­ing to the sit­ting room to catch the pre­race pre-am­ble and VT pack­age set to some on-the-nose music from what­ever country the race is in. He’s some­one’s dad flop­ping into the armchair with a pound coin of piss on the front of his M&S ac­tion slacks and a hearty sigh as he writes off the next three hours slumped in front of the telly. He’s some­one’s dad nod­ding off around lap 24 and wak­ing with a start when some­one comes in to ask who’s win­ning, a ques­tion he can bat away with a grum­ble about ‘an­other bloody pro­ces­sion’ even though he comes back for more of the same ev­ery other Sun­day. And of course, he’s some­one’s dad dis­cov­er­ing he won’t get a glimpse of thigh or flash of side­boob in be­tween shots of a sweat­ing David Coulthard try­ing to grab a ten-sec­ond grid chat with Max Ver­stap­pen, and he’s go­ing on­line with a right­eous fury about ‘rob­bing these young women of choice and many of them ac­tu­ally enjoy do­ing it, you know’.

Thank­fully, F1’s new bosses seem to have re­alised how tired and old hat their sport can seem to the wider world, and how things have to change. And it’s the wider world they need to lure if their sport is to evolve and thrive. What’s re­ally heart­en­ing, though, is that they’ve re­alised that to do this, first they need to re­ally piss off some bores.

Who knew that paunchy blokes with a foot­ball team name in their Twit­ter biogs

and a photo of an As­ton as their avatar were so touchy-feely

when it came to some­one los­ing three days of free­lance

work

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