Track Limits – The Boundary Between Sport and Game?

Hemmingway once said, “there are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” I don’t know exactly what was behind this characterization, but I’ve always imagined that he meant that sports embrace mortal risk, while games employ referees (or stewards, in our case) to mitigate them.

And so against that backdrop, I’m curious to hear what you, dear readers, think about paved runoff area and its implications for our sport. Gary Anderson – a man I respect enormously – touched on paved runoff in an OpEd for Autosport recently, calling for stricter and more consistent policing of track limits. I wholeheartedly agree that this would be an improvement over the current state of affairs. But I’d vastly prefer a more Hemmingway-esque solution; one without paved runoff, and thus without the need for referees to police the out-of-bounds line.

Even the once-fearsome Parabolica has been neutered.

Even the once-fearsome Parabolica has been neutered.

In his piece, Anderson presents two arguments in favor of paved runoff as if they’re indisputable: (1) They improve safety, and (2) Drivers that make mistakes can likely continue the race.  I think both of these points are contentious.

1) Clearly, the desire for safety is less controversial than the second argument, though I think the quest for safety may have gone too far since 1994. No real fan of the sport wants to see our drivers maimed or killed. But go too far in the name of safety and they’ll end up driving nerf cars at carriageway speeds. When you remove the element of risk (outside of freak accidents like Massa’s and Bianchi’s), the sport changes fundamentally. And I worry that we’re at that point – where a driver’s mindset is more akin to a video gamer’s than to that of the drivers of bygone eras. Not that I’d argue for a return to the unacceptable dangers of the early-nineties, never mind the fifties or sixties. But perhaps we need a little more Monaco and a little less Tilke. A little more kitty litter, and a little less runway.

2) Explain to me again why it’s important for drivers that make mistakes to be able to continue the race? Anderson isn’t the first to make that argument, but I still don’t follow it.  I tune in every race to watch the 20-odd best drivers in the world (or, more accurately, the dozen-or-so best drivers in the world and a handful of rich guys, but we’ll revisit that topic later). They aren’t supposed to make mistakes.  And if they do, I want to see them pay a price for it. (Besides, it adds unpredictability, and in a fair and just manner – in stark contrast to double points or standing restarts. And isn’t unpredictability supposed to be good for the “show”?)

But anyway, I’ve been ranting enough lately, and perhaps my view on track limits (and other topics) is unusual. Please, use the comments to share your thoughts, or send me a tweet at @SaveFormulaOne. I want to hear what other passionate fans think about the subject.

See Gary Anderson’s piece here.

Follow me on Twitter: @SaveFormulaOne

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One thought on “Track Limits – The Boundary Between Sport and Game?

  1. Pingback: A Constitution for Formula 1 | SaveFormula1

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