Every time a new season of Formula 1 comes, there’s always this paradox in me. I can’t wait to watch each race, and yet approximately thirty minutes after the five red lights illuminate, I find myself lapsing into slumber. Every time.
It’s quite odd. There are so many Formula 1 fanatics out there. There are even a bunch of them here in the Philippines, a country where motorsport is where a generator powers the evening lights for a basketball game. I don’t know whether sheer boredom gets these F1 junkies their substance fix, or I have an heretofore undiscovered sleeping disorder, wherein the noise of 18,000RPM V8s triggers REM cycle sleep. The fact that last season, Sebastian Vettel kept parking his Red Bull on the top podium spot probably didn’t help, either.
I love F1 for its technology. I remain enamoured with what the engineers come up with. Developments in motorsport eventually trickle down to road cars. Disc brakes, engine management systems, aerodynamic downforce, turbocharging – all these were previously the exclusive domain of higher echelons of racing. Though I wouldn’t see exhaust blown diffusers and F-ducts in an econobox Hyundai anytime soon
I love F1 for its business intrigues. That Bernie Ecclestone is a spectacle in himself. The elfin wizard of sports promotion cannot be beat for his business acumen, undue influence, straight-cut banter and superhuman negotiation abilities. Ecclestone, the public face representing the entities that hold the commercial rights to F1, is merely one clown in the circus. There is the FIA, headed by a Frenchman with a hot Hong Kong action star for a wife. There are the racing teams, which themselves are a story of their own. There are the hapless fans like myself who are duped to watch a two-hour high-speed procession of upside-down airplanes. There is the media that are experts of creating crevasses out of kerbs. But the most important are the sponsors, who dole out so much cash to the teams and circuits per season, the amount of which can probably alleviate poverty in the Philippines, find a cure for AIDS, and send a man to Saturn – simultaneously and done yesterday.
Watching the actual racing in F1 is soooo boring. The Americans know how to make a better show. NASCAR is an acronym where near-identical overweight race cars, with pitiful brakes and comical silhouettes for bodies, race in oval courses reminiscent of Tamiya Mini 4WD tracks. Feel your spine tingle as you hear barrel-chested American V8’s rev their nuts off. Watch mayhem ensue when drivers use their machines as 4000-lb bumper cars. Then, profit. Bill France, the former talyer owner, is only equalled by Ecclestone with organizing flair and humble beginnings (Ecclestone used to be a used car salesman).
In NASCAR, the cars are more or less equal due to antiquated rules on vehicle design and specification. The racing is then close and exciting. The rules are so backward that only until recently are Stock Cars running fuel injection for engine management. The ECUs are, suprisingly, supplied by Mclaren. Yes, Virginia, the F1 team. (Well, under the Mclaren Group of Companies.) By they way, they also supply ECUs for the entire F1 and IndyCar grid.
Formula 1 also has restrictions for what can be done to a racing car. I surmise that the FIA rule book is dense enough to beat people senseless with. But pair brilliant race engineers with lots and lots of money and you get technological excesses. This year Lotus proposed a damping system that reduced nose dive by somehow allowing the front brake calipers to rotate around the rotors and using their mass to keep the front end level. Now that boggles my mind just by trying to write down the previous sentence. How the hell did they come up with that stuff?
Maybe it’s hard to relate to something that is difficult to participate in. Basketball, the only sport embedded in the Filipino genetic code, is far superior in this regard as compared to F1, or any motorsport for that matter. Anyone with a ball and a nearby hoop can play. No shoes? No problem. Meron ka namang tsinelas. Kung wala, mag-paa. ‘Di ba?
But watching a Slalom race is more fun that watching F1. Forget drifting, sliding sideways for speed has been in the Slalom playbook for decades. And the racing is at a mall nearest you, not some exotic locale in the mountains and resorts of Europe. I’d rather watch slalom in the sweltering heat than watch F1 at the comfort of my own home. Unless Kobayashi banzais himself towards a race win, though.
Or maybe I just watch F1 because I think Paula Malai Ali is so damn hot? Yeah. I’m thinking of watching the Malaysian GP live someday, even if I fall asleep while sitting in the Sepang grandstands, because all the Melayu chicks have an accent just like hers. So if you were me, skip the racing – just watch her at Raceday and Checkered Flag at Star Sports. Or watch her tennis show if sticks and balls turns you on.
The boredom starts this weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Have a pleasant slumber.