OllieF1
Is Formula One Boring?

Is Formula One Boring?

Michael Schumacher - 2000 European Grand PrixAs some of you may know, BlogF1 is a proud member of the 9rules Network. Over at 9rules Notes, there are lots of great discussions going on all the time, and when I asked for opinion on my style of writing, I got an interesting side-thought from one of the commenters. The interesting comment timed up nicely with a post over at doctorvee.co.uk, and I have decided a question needs asking, and an answer found.

The commenters side-thought: “I find F1 intensely boring, I’m afraid”

The post (which you can read later): Meanwhile, In America

The question: Is Formula One boring?

Now, many of you will already know what my answer is going to be, the fact this site is here should prove that alone. But during this entry I’ll try and look at both perspectives – the fan and the non-fan – and attempt to decide if Formula One really is boring.

My View

Eleven teams, twenty two cars and drivers, eighty eight wheels, two hours, eighteen times a year. It is quite simply not enough to keep me fed. I love motor racing, and in particular, Formula One.

It probably started at school when I was in my teens. I was never particularly good at other sports, and other than kicking a ball around, I wasn’t interested in the overly-competitive nature of football and rugby. The guys who tended to play these sports were intimidating at the time, and this probably put me off trying to improve my skills. I simply didn’t bother. But I soon found solace in watching F1 on television. It was a sport that I could enjoy on my own without the need to participate or even talk about with others. At the time, Formula One was mine.

So from this timid part of my life developed a fascination with how these teams made a four-wheeled car travel so fast around a circuit. I wanted to know the ins and outs of how it was all achieved. I wanted to understand and I wanted to learn. So while my friends were outside playing football on the grass, I’d be inside reading about how the drivers tackle corners and how teams evolve their cars over the course of the season.

Naturally, my current view of F1 is somewhat biased.

But even today, a mere twelve years later, I am still fascinated by it all. And while my knowledge has greatly improved (along with my social skills), I still have a yearning to know more about how the sport is put together and how the teams are managed. It really is never-ending.

So from this point of view, Formula One is far from boring to me. But from an on-track view, I must be honest and say that I have caught my interest wane a few times. With modern F1 cars, overtaking is difficult, and thus it tends to not happen very much. The skill, it seems, has moved away from the drivers and into the minds of the strategists who plan the pit stops and know when a driver needs to pop in a quick lap. The strategy side of the sport is interesting to me, but I’m aware I’m in the minority on this one!

Even though overtaking is less-regular than I might want, the action is still interesting. The fact that a car can go through Copse at Silverstone (an almost 90° blind right-hander) at 177mph is mind-blowing to me. How that is possible without crashing into something defies belief. The thrill of watching is enough to keep me engrossed for all 60 laps of the Grand Prix.

Aside from the little nuances of F1, a few memories stick out when I think about Formula One; Damon Hill’s title winning year in 1996, Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 title, the whole Schumacher-dominating-era, Suzuka 2005. A few pleasing moments, and one that was, I’ll admit, particularly boring from a general standpoint. Schumacher winning all the time did little to encourage new followers to F1. But from a fans perspective, some of his drives were incredible.

Watching Hakkinen take the challenge to Schumacher in 1998 and 1999 was particularly sweet as well, and to understand why the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix stands out in my memory you’ll need to check out the YouTube video linked at the bottom. Fernando Alonso’s pass on Schumacher was breath-taking to put it mildly.

So yeah, sometimes even I do find F1 a tiny bit boring, but overall, when I look at the giant picture from afar, I am still awed by the whole operation of the sport, from the logistics to the racing, from the training regimes to the traditions. But some people don’t get it…

The Boring View

…I think the lack of action plays a huge role in this. For sure, some races can be very monotonous, and even I have commented about this in some race reports. Generally speaking, when people say “it’s just a bunch cars going round, and round, and…” they’re not too far from the truth. It isn’t until you really open your eyes to see what is happening all around the track that you realise that it isn’t necessarily just cars going around a track for two hours. I do understand when that comment is made though, I really do.

Formula One is such a precision sport, that it leads to the view of 22 cars following each other. When teams go testing, they rarely try visually new parts, they’re looking to lap a circuit 0.1s faster than previously done. To many, that is mind-numbing. On the off chance that a team does bolt something weird onto their car, the media get into a bit of a frenzy simply because they can publish a photo with their story, which they know will help increase the readership of their article. But reporting on how a team spent two days and absolutely shed-loads of money doing 200 laps of Jerez, just to improve the average lap time by a tenth or two, doesn’t make for great reading.

The political side to Formula One does little to help the image, the brand in fact. When a team tries something radical, it usually winds up being banned because other teams get jealous and frustrated. This has been going on for decades though; it’s just that the innovations have become less and less obvious simply because of the threat of the other teams spoiling the party. Tyrrell once raced a 6-wheeled car (as did some other teams before them, but with less success). Banned. Lots of interesting driver aids were developed and introduced (traction control, active suspension…). Mostly banned, and then banned again. So when a modern team tries something new, because it is less obvious, it is seen as boring.

A good example of this was McLaren’s second brake pedal – it was nothing short of genius in my eyes. Basically, as traction control was prohibited in the late ’90s, McLaren developed a way of controlling the brakes on the rear wheels of the car. When a driver planted the throttle, the second brake pedal was used to give greater control to the rear wheels to prevent too much spinning and assist the balance of the car. It was only spotted when a magazine photographer quite innocently took a shot of the interior of the car and noticed the extra pedal.

To me, that is fascinating.

There are also the obvious comparisons to other motorsports. MotoGP bike racing for example is very exciting when it comes to on-track events. Overtaking everywhere, last lap lunges, bikes off all over the place. Yeah, MotoGP is interesting. The races are a little shorter as well, which I think helps with the TV-generation attention spans.

Touring Cars is another series that seems to gain interesting comparisons to Formula One. Quite why I’m yet to fathom out, but people make the connection none-the-less. Touring Car racing is full of overtaking, cars spearing off left and right and plenty of last minute dare-devil passes for the lead. But, I would hasten to add, the cars can take much more abuse. With enclosed wheels, reduced speeds and covered cockpits, the drivers have less to lose by making an attempt at a pass.

Again though, I do understand the comparisons that people make, and more should be done to improve the popularity of the sport.

Improving Formula One

Allow me to make my own comparison: Formula One vs. IRL. Yep, the Brits versus the Yanks.

Okay, honestly, in my humble little eyes, IRL is boring. They just go round, and round, and…

…Oval racing to me is mind-numbing. But is it popular? You bet your bottom dollar it is! Or a fiver, whatever happens to be in your pocket. The Indianapolis 500 drew massive crowds to Brickyard last weekend, and despite the poor weather, the spectators seemed to really enjoy themselves. The on-track action was lively, overtaking was in plentiful, the rain caused a few interesting moments, and generally speaking the event was a success. I just don’t understand how driving around an oval for 500 miles can be interesting. At least in Formula One they have to contend with both left and right hand corners.

So how come IRL is so popular? The whole show is put on better. For fans at the circuit, there seems to be much more to do, the atmosphere is more like a party and everything seems much more focused towards the fans. For the TV viewers, it seems this joy is translated well, and the commentators probably do a better job at filling in the less-exciting moments.

I also think the speed comes into play a little. There definitely seems to be an attraction to the sport simply because of the speeds the cars are able to get up to, and this is something that is constantly being limited in Formula One.

At this point, I think you deserve a little rest from my post, so I’ll take this opportunity to make you head over to doctorvee.co.uk and read Duncan’s thoughts on the American racing series. I pretty much agree with what was written and the post highlights why the two sports, although similar, don’t always see eye to eye.

Meanwhile, In America.

Be sure to come back though, where I’ll wrap up this post and let you get back to work.

Welcome back!

So, you know why I love Formula One, and you know why some people think the sport is boring. But what do you think? I imagine most of my readers are already F1 fans, but in case someone slipped through the net, be sure to leave a comment below. And to those already caught up in the whirlwind that is the 2007 season; feel free to add to what I have already mentioned. Do your friends bemoan you when you try and talk about F1? Are you forced to watch the races in a separate room? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

External Links and Credits

  • BBC Article: Cornering Copse – Mark Webber describes one of Formula One’s more demanding corners.
  • Alonso Passes Schumacher – Suzuka 2005 – The video also contains other footage that is worth watching, but that first move you see was done around the outside of a corner at about 180mph.
  • 9rules, The note with the comment (#1), doctorvee.co.uk.
  • Formula One, F1, IRL

    Oliver White

    19 comments

    • Just though I should come and defend my claim that F1 is boring!

      For me, it’s just not a gratifying sport. I understand all the technicalities, the tweaks and modifications, the attempts to shave even split seconds off lap times. I just dont find it a very interesting thing to watch.

      In general, I rarely watch sport, but when I do, it’s usually the extreme sports like skateboarding and Motorcross and very occasionally, contact sports like Ice Hockey and Rugby. Instant gratification. You get to see impressive things happen and you don’t have to wait all day to see.

      I’d be sat around all day waiting for something visually appealing to happen – a crash, a streaker, etc.

      There’s also the fact that I just don’t like sport. I’m a crotchety English man, and I generally bemoan most forms of sport. The sports I mentioned previously are easy to get into occasionally, but not something I have to make a commitment to. Whereas with something like F1, there’s all these teams, rules, techniques, and who knows what else, to bear in mind. You need to make a real commitment to be an F1 fan, and I’m just not prepared to make a commitment to any sport.

      There you have it.

      All that said, I did have a quick poke around, and you write well on the subject. I’m sure those that do enjoy F1 appreciate it. So keep it up. 🙂

    • Ollie, you have touched one of the most old & talked about topics related to Formula 1 🙂 and very well written.

      My two cents about the same.

      I love watching Formula 1 simply because of the deep thinking process that it involves. Thinking about all the mind-boggling technologies it uses. Thinking about the equally impressive numbers that it throws up. Thinking about how a team, in 2 weeks time, can come up from 5 position to 2nd position and obviously the other way around. Thinking about what strategy will be used by a team to gain advantage during pit-stops. Thinking about the sheer number of people that are working behind the scenes to help team win a Grand Prix. And not to forgot to think about from where the next controversy will creep up.

    • Very interesting article. I think it comes down to a matter of taste. I love F1 but can’t stand football. I’ve tried to follow Football and sometimes the big matches (e.g. World Cup) spark an interest but I just can’t get excited by it. Yet there will be millions out there who do appreciate the sport.

      I think Lewis Hamilton is going to have a huge impact on the sport and (re)attracting viewers.

    • Excellently written as always, don’t worry about your style Ollie – it’s spot on!

      As for F1, it’s like any sport – some races are boring (Monaco usually!) in the same way that a football match can be boring or a cricket match can be boring.

      Beforehand, you can’t be sure of what is going to happen though which I think is what makes people come back for more time and again. Even when Schumacher was winning nonstop it didn’t stop me watching – he had no right to win some of those races, yet he would pull something out the bag and manage to snatch victory one way or another!

      Unlike a lot of sports, there is so much more to F1 than meets the eye – the pit-stop strategies, the complex technologies that go into making an F1 car etc – which can make it hard for someone to pick up the sport straight away. I’ve watched Grand Prix since I was a kid when my dad would watch them, but only really became hooked when David Coulthard started racing with Williams as he is from near where I stay so that added a “local hero” dimension to watching it on TV.

      The fact F1 races are usually on in the middle of the day, every couple of weeks for only part of the year means it will never be as accepted as something like football which seems to be on in one form or another pretty much every day.

      Some altering of the rules would no doubt help intice some fans of other motorsports to give it a second chance if there really was the opportunity of more overtaking etc, but whether the FIA can find the right mix of technological freedom and interesting, exciting viewing remains to be seen.

    • @Richard: No need to defend yourself, and thank you for your thoughts. So often I get agreeable comments and rarely get to hear other points of view, so thank you again for taking the time to post.

      @Neeraj: Thanks for the compliment, always appreciated. It’s good to hear why other people enjoy F1 as we all tend to have our own (and often differing) reasons.

      @Christopher: Sorry your comment went to moderation, but it’s up now. I have a similar view of football, and even considered mentioning it in the post. However, it was long enough without the inclusion of my views on 22 men and women kicking bags of wind about.

      @Craig: Thanks for the confidence boost. I tend to be quite self-conscious, so I appreciate your kind words. The FIA, I feel, do more to damage the sport than to encourage new viewers. The constant changing of the rules makes the sport hard to follow from one season to the next, but I agree they need to find the right balance. It’s just a shame that they will spend 10 years altering the format 20 times to get there.

    • Is F1 Boring – well, I think a lot of it comes down to the coverage, when ITV can’t find enough to fill a pre-race segment without resorting to a cookery lesson, maybe they need to do more coverage of the rules and technicalities – last years series of segments looking at the technical aspects of an F1 was car was very good… we need more of this – explaining to the average viewer what goes on between races etc.

      Even I find sometimes as the cars process around the track in single file for an hour and a half, that the actual race is probably the dullest part!

      I’m not into many other sports – but those I am into are high-octane and rely as much on technology and the team as they do on the actions of a single person (Basically, I watch F1, AirRace and World Rally)

      Now if I could find an alternative form of coverage for race day on F1…

    • Hey Tom,

      Yeah, Heikki’s cookery lesson was a bit stupid. The coverage could definitely improve, and would help entice new fans. I think Brundle is driving a Formula One car again for some insightful segments for later in the season. But ITV don’t do these nearly as often as they could do. I mean, they have a relatively recent F1 driver on their team, why not make full use of him?

      For alternative coverage, I know a lot of people listen to Radio Five Live and watch the live timing on F1.com. It is particularly useful for the advert breaks. For alternative televisual coverage, I think we are in for a quite a wait.

    • I favour the word frustrating over boring.

      So many times races are full of potential and it never quite happens, then it’s all about the what ifs.

      I think you can’t really be a part time fan of F1, it’s not really a sport you can dip in and out of, because then it is dull. Bunch of cars following each other round a track, occasionally spinning off the road, and if we’re very lucky catching a flash fire.

      Once you start getting into it, following who’s doing what, and why, then it starts to become more interesting.

      Course I’m bound to say that, as I give up my entire weekends to talk about it. But I remember when I used to sit and wonder why the hell we were wasting our time when there were beaches to visit and pictures to be taken. Now I know, all the facts were gently settling into my mind, and it was an investment!

      I also think that as the fans get more knowledgeable, the sport is eventually going to have to start taking notice and making some changes. I’m not holding my breath though.

    • F1 is interesting if you can find an aspect of it you like, because once that happens it gets very absorbing. For me, it was the complexity of the sport that intrigued me, helped in no small part by the presence of Damon Hill on the grid. The rest of my family are interested in F1 too – Dad has been watching Ferrari’s fortunes since he was young, and Mum likes following David Coulthard and a couple of other drivers.

      However, most of my friends couldn’t care less about F1. These can be separated into three roughly equal categories; the ones that are put off by the word “sport”, the ones that are put off by the word “motor” and the ones that were turned off by its repetitiveness and negativity (several of my friends think Michael Schumacher is currently leading the world championship, and one quite seriously asked me two years ago which team Damon Hill was driving for that year). The damage was done in the late 90s and early 00s. Seems strange, since I remember the late 90s to be the least repetitive and negative era of the 14 years I have watched so far, but there you go.

      It is the latter third that F1 needs to attract. The current attractions appear not to be having much effect on the people I know; none of my friends have even heard of Lewis Hamilton as far as I am aware. The only glimmer of fresh interest recently was when Singapore announced it was having a race – and that was only because two of my friends are Singaporean. What F1 needs to get a new audience is to attract general news headlines for something radically different from what other sports are doing that casts positive light. If it makes people figure out that fresh talent has replaced Michael Schumacher at the top of the F1 tree, so much the better. However, even Lewis-level hype isn’t working, as the prospective fans don’t pay attention to that sort of thing. New heroes are two-a-penny these days…

    • Basically it all boils down to the fact that you have oppossing agendas from the 2 stakeholders in F1 . The FIA would like to see close , exciting , 3 cars abreast, win by a nose cone and overtake on the last lap last corner style of racing ala MotoGP . But the manufacturers main aim is to introduce over the top excessive , unrealistic and budget blowing technology that is plainly unpractical so as to dominate F1 (win 15/16 races ) to justify their ridiculous ,bordering on the insane , investment . News for them , most of us will never be able to afford to buy their inventions . And honestly nobody buys a product just because their name is painted on an F1 car , especially on a backmarker team .

    • I love F1. Granted there isn’t a whole lot of passing, and driver interaction. But I am ok with that. The cars are just a joy to look at. In my opinion, watching those drivers smoothly glide their cars around those curves at ridiculous speeds is like watching a painter paint a masterpiece. Being an American (in the south no less!) that puts me squarley into the minority. So when you guys get sick with all the hype over Lewis Hamilton, just be glad you dont have to deal with an Earnhardt! At least Hamilton makes right turns!

    • Oliver, my first time writing here and I have to say that I agree with your comments…

      I live in the state of Colorado, USA and have to say that being an F1 fan in America is not easy at all!

      With so many racing-series available in the US that are perceived as more fan-friendly than F1, it is hard to gather a following.

      Even though I do not find F1 boring at all (as you implied, when racing is less than exciting you can always resort to F1 backstage news), a lot of Americans do – Most Americans are speed-oriented people (as the Meanwhile in America article explains). And they have plenty of that!

      Easy-viewing series as NASCAR, IRL or CHAMP offer lots of speed and fan-friendly facts. Not to mention that cars are driven by your avergae joe! F1, in contrast, requires a lot of thinking and analysis for full enjoyment…something that a lot of thrill-seeking / short-span attention fans are not willing to put in…

      On the bright side (if there is one after the USGP being taken away), a great team of commentators from a US cable channel (Speed) has done an impressive job to translate F1 to new fans and make it more interesting…

      Good blog mate!

    • Hi Luis, thanks for commenting, it is great to hear about things Stateside and your views are more than welcome.

      I would agree that American series’s like IRL and ChampCar are definitely fan-friendly. NASCAR does very well in this area as well. It is a shame that F1 is hard to follow, particularly in countries where there is such a huge potential market. Losing the USGP will not be good for Americans, especially the ~100k who like to attend the event each year (I should point out that if the traditional European circuits could hold as many people, they probably would do on race day).

      Maybe if Bernie can sort out his issues with the branding and presentation of F1, and if Max can stop changing the rules every five minutes and try listening to the fans, then F1 may have a chance should it ever return to the US.

    • I’ve always loved cars. Watched F1 a number of times but it’s just so boring,sorry. I hv to wait 10 years for a driver to get up close tot he driver in front, n when he makes a mistake, i have to wait another decade for him to get close again. And what bores me is all the cars look exactly the same. I would prefer a race that relates more with the cars ppl drive. I think it’s just not worth 2 hrs sitting down to watch them go around corners repetitively.F1 to me is like fishing, i want more action!

    • I have to admit that i feel F1 these days is extremely boring.For me, the best part is watching the features done by Martin Brundell , the man has fascinating insight. I equate a F1 race with a 0-0 draw in soccer, not a lot happens and fans stifling yawns on the sidelines. I could go make a cup of tea in the kitchen, come back, and absolutely nothing has changed . It most certainly has become a 22 car procession just lapping and pulling in for a drop of fuel ………I could think of a better way to spend 2hrs of my time to be honest.

    • I have a problem with pit-stops. I mean, give the man a full tank and unleash the man+machine monster on the track. No pit-stops, I want blood not philosophers discussing the implications of stopping for 10 seconds to change the fuel and the tires.

      Would this make races shorter? Hell yeah! But look at MotoGP – 40 minutes and it’s done. Yet, there’s more overtaking in one MotoGP race than in 7 F1 races.

      F1 is fundamentally flawed, IMHO.

    • As a former American race driver and a Formula Jr. regional champion

      many years ago, I find F1 boring.

      I always watch F1 and other kinds of racing on a recorded format

      and when the competition gets boring I fast forward through

      most of it, slowing down occasionally during the pit stops.

      I am also a former 250gp motorcycle amateur racer and find

      MotoGP far more exciting than F1 with lots of passing and close

      combat. I think Americans prefer driver-combat and not so

      much technological-combat. Hell, F1 cars could be operated by a

      bunch of computer nerds with Radio Control skills and no drivers.

      If you haven’t watched a good motorcycle race you don’t know

      what you are missing. Motorcycles, being very narrow, have much

      more space than a car to go into corners 3 and 4 abreast.

      You get that in F1 usually only in the first lap.

      I agree with several writers above that what is missing is

      more information for the fans.

      At the 2009 inaugural race at Abu Dhabi it was stated that the

      track had the longest straight in F1 racing, and yet they

      didn’t set up a speed trap and give the cars’ speeds. To

      a new TV audience this might be very interesting information.

      I’m afraid with the recent announcement that Toyota is dropping out, following Honda’s withdrawal, that F1 is in serious trouble.

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