I’ll never forget my first visit to a Grand Prix. I was instantly captivated, hooked for life.
F1 in that era – and most eras before and since – was a spectacle. The speed was incomprehensible. The sound – high-revving V8s and V10s and V12s – was glorious, like nothing one could experience outside of a grand prix. The cars looked like wild thoroughbreds that these supermen somehow managed to tame. Mistakes were commonplace and brought real consequences, not penalties.
There was so much to love about F1.
And while it was a spectacle, it was never a “show”. It was real, and pure, and uncompromising. The rules were simple; the teams and drivers just got on with the relentless pursuit of speed.
My, how things have changed.
If I was a young man attending my first race today, I bet it would be my last. What would capture my imagination? The cars don’t look particularly fast. They sound ugly, dull, ordinary. The drivers don’t look challenged, and their mistakes are less costly. The teams seem more pre-occupied with selling eco-friendly road cars than they do with the pursuit of speed.
What would I rush home to tell my mum and my classmates about? The amazing job Hamilton did conserving fuel? The remarkable work by Checo to open his DRS and blast by the helpless car ahead?
I have been filled with sadness these last few years. I still watch every minute of every session. Occasionally, there are entertaining races. But F1 has lost much of what made it special, what made it stand out from other series.
But today, I feel optimism.
I feel optimism because I’ve seen the results of the GPDA survey and Alex Wurz’ synthesis of the findings. Because I see that I am not alone, that the majority among us long for the same purity of sport. Because perhaps, just perhaps, with the insight the survey offers, we’ll eventually see F1’s return.
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