When I mention my love of Formula 1 racing, most of the time I hear, “is that like NASCAR?” This speaks to the sad lack of F1 information and excitement in the states, and it’s a bummer. NASCAR is a sport in its own right, but comparing it to F1 is a bit like comparing rotary phones to an iPhone. F1 is fast, the roads twist this way and that, and most importantly the drivers are from across the globe. Drama between these drivers, these princes of speed, is often even more entertaining than the drama on the track. With the launch of Netflix’s F1 documentary that covers the events of the 2018 season, my hope is more folks in the states will get excited about the best racing series in the world.
My history with racing
When I was a kid, my uncle was involved in car racing as a pit crew member, and occasional pit chief. He’d gotten his start racing motorcycles in the 70s and early 80s, and by the time he’d moved away, I’d been to a number of CART and Grand Prix races around Dallas. My whole family loved cars. I grew up around Mustangs being worked-on, oil changes, and DIY repairs. I rode a small motorcycle as a kid I inherited from that same uncle who raced and wrenched on cars, and fell deeply in love with speed.
We watched a few racing series when I was younger, but my attention span meant nothing really stuck. Years later, that changed.
After college, I settled into a tech career and had relatively low-key weekends full of TV and reading. The exact impetus escapes me (it was probably Top Gear related), but at one point, I found a way to stream F1 races every week. My new routine was watching the qualification rounds on Saturday, and then watching an F1 race the next day. I was quickly sucked into the dramatic rise of Sebastian Vettel, who seemed to be incapable of failure as he racked-up victories in the Red Bull F1 car. I loved watching Jenson Button, who seemed like a charming enough fellow, and Kimi Raikonnenn, who’s dry wit, and sour temperament was weirdly hilarious.
The modern era of F1 is largely ruled by three teams:
- [Mercedes](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_in_Formula_One): Hamilton & Bottas (Formerly Rosberg)
- [Red Bull](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_Racing): Verstapen & Gasly (Formerly both Ricciardo & Vettel)
- [Ferrari](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuderia_Ferrari#Domination_in_the_early_2000s): Vettel & LeClerc (Formerly Schumacher & Raikonnen)
These teams have huge budgets, some of the best drivers, and a cutthroat ability to rule the front positions of almost every race. It’s a little frustrating that for the most part, other teams don’t win unless there’s a big wreck or engine failure, but at least at times the competition between these three is heated.
If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary, you won’t have seen too much about these top teams, as Mercedes and Ferrari declined to participate. But, what you did see was the exciting race to be best-of-the-rest, and a very optimistic goal for Renault or HAAS to become the 3rd or 4th place team one day. Rules changes may eventually help even the field, but until then, even back markers can cause a ruckus.
Hope for the future
With a launch of a women’s race series that has the stated goal of “[giving] remarkable female drivers an opportunity in motorsport that simply hasn’t been available to them before now”, I seriously hope one day we’ll have a female F1 driver. It’s fun enough to watch 20 guys race, but watching a few women shake things up would be incredible. I want young girls to dream of racing at 300km/h and have it be a real possibility. The first race of this rad new series is May 4th, and I can’t wait to watch.
In a different direction, there’s an all electric racing series called Formula E. Due to battery constraints, and I think to make for an exciting race, teams change cars mid-race, and there’s odd bonuses to speed that fans can vote on. I’ve watched a few of these races, and while I’m glad to see a more eco-friendly race start to gain steam, it definitely feels like the neglected little brother of F1 at this point. Perhaps in the future, this race will have its own cache.
There are a lot of ways to watch F1 racing. Some of them are questionable legal, but Formula 1 has it’s own streaming plan, which is probably the easiest way to watch if you don’t mind spending a little money. Racing series might not be for you, but I hope if you do love it, you share it with folks. It’s a cool, weird sport.