Excerpt from the June issue of the Paddock Magazine
HURRAH! THRILLING RACING. FASTER CARS. HIGHER REVVING. LOUDER ENGINES. FORMULA 1’S STRATEGY GROUP HAS AGREED ON NEW REGULATIONS FOR 2017 TO SAVE THE SPORT. AND THEY ARE SET UP TO FAIL. AGAIN.
One of the greatest hurdles to handle for the inflexible creatures of habit that we are as human beings is change. Nothing is as frightening, nothing leaves us feeling more exposed and out of control, nothing is as difficult to accept and adapt to. At least when things are running smoothly and change threatens to break the patterns of comfort that we hold onto so anxiously. In theory, quite the opposite should be the case when we are stuck in a situation that is far from ideal and change could be the promising flag waving at the horizon to bring us relief, salvation and improvement. Well, in theory.
In reality, change has not only the potential to be an improvement over what we’ve already got but could also make things even worse than they already are. Which is why many of us would probably prefer to stick with their discomfort and keep complaining rather than taking a risk and truly do something about it, while often talking and acting like we are making a huge effort. Add to that the habit of humans to believe that if we’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. Doctors would call this fear of change ‘metathesiophobia’.
Maybe this is the psychological take that we need to apply here if we want to understand the problems in Formula 1 and the proposals of the so called Strategy Group concerning the future of the series – discussions that worry not only us fans, but, in an increasing manner, teams and other important stakeholders. For a sport that is ill spoken of as producing not enough noise, there seems to be a little too much of it… albeit not from the exhaust pipes of the cars. More efficient engines vs. more horsepower, refuelling vs. no refuelling, smaller tyres vs. wider tyres, yada yada yada, and another season goes by. It’s easy to loose track of what’s actually being decided, and malicious gossip has it that this is because nothing actually IS decided. According to Bernie Ecclestone, “not even the date of the next meeting.”
I recently found myself in a conversation with a businessman who has been involved with Formula 1 for decades and feels equally frustrated but isn’t ready to give up just yet. “The problem isn’t the cars”, he says. “We ignore the people who are interested in those cars, that’s the problem”. A few years back, I would have heavily disagreed. Not necessarily because things were different back then, but because I had no idea what ordinary fans are offered outside of the illusionary world of the Formula 1 paddock that I found myself in whenever I was near a race track.
Last month I watched my first Formula 1 race from a grandstand. I was excited like a little girl as I approached my 500 EUR seat near the start-finish line of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Don’t get any wrong ideas – I’m not fuzzy. It was just that I couldn’t get anything half decent for a better price. Approaching the racetrack, I join a crowd of a few hundred people from all over the world who push from the train station in Montmeló to the main entrance of the circuit. It’s about a 30-minute walk leading through a typical Spanish village, past a variety of unofficial merchandise stands with 35 EUR hats, a few coffee shops, nothing to get excited about. Once at the circuit, we squeeze through the main gate into the fan zone where we are presented with more merchandise – 55 EUR hats, the official stuff. And as I pull out my camera to start capturing the glamour and frenzy of Formula 1 that we all came to see, I realise… that’s basically it. I look around and feel a sudden panic creeping up as I search for a Formula 1 car, a celebrity, a driver, an engine, a tyre, a helmet, a SCREW. GOD, GIVE ME SOMETHING TO PHOTOGRAPH AND SHARE!!! Tumbleweeds. I take a selfie with a security guy and decide to spice up this expensive adventure with a cold beer, waiting in line with a few dozen grumpy-looking people only to realise that the lukewarm yellow liquid sold to me for the equivalent of a London mortgage is non-alcoholic. Yay. If this sport has decided to become absolutely fun-free, then that’s the way to go.