Race Blog
Great Britain 2017

Vile verbiage

“The rising temperature of the rubber is increasing block wear to the intermediates, resulting in deg’ to the carcass of the tyre, therefore encouraging under-rotation of the front axle when the driver tries to decrease velocity and spot his apex in pursuit of maintaining his predetermined delta to militate against the possible undercut or unlikely overcut…”


No doubt – if you’re reading this blog – you’re a switched-on, fully fledged Formula 1 petrolhead well used to the bizarre vocabulary employed by so many in the F1 paddock (and particularly those that commentate on TV and radio) in their desperate attempts to sound knowledgeable and just a tad cleverer than their colleagues.

Of course many F1 ‘experts’ are exactly that, pre-eminent in their chosen field, immersing themselves in the never-ending torrent of technological advancements, tedious tyre tittle-tattle and team personnel to-ings and fro-ings, always keen to tell anyone who’ll listen just how it was, is and will be.

But imagine you’re not so up-to-speed with all this overly intelligent natter. What on earth would you make of the unintelligible noise?

I’m guessing that pretty damned quickly you’ll switch channels to watch and listen to something a little less affectedly and ostentatiously adroit.

Enthusiasm, wide-eyed excitement, a sense that those who compete – and commentate – are enjoying the show is key.

Look at the crowd filling central London during the recent F1 Live London event. When Sky’s roving reporter Natalie Pinkham interviewed teenage and twenty-something youngsters, all enthralled by their first F1 experience, their exhilaration at witnessing the drivers’ self-same excitement at entertaining the crowd (why else would they be holding their iPhones aloft to video the scenes when not in the cockpit?) was infectious in its impact.

Why on earth Natalie didn’t ask them about tyre wear rates, or invite them to endlessly hypothesise on how some unlikely precipitation may affect pitstop strategies, was puzzling but all at once refreshing…

I know, I know, sport – especially one so advanced in an engineering sense as F1 – needs to have commentators who drill down and investigate the minutiae of what’s playing out on track and in the pit garages, but a balance needs to be found.

If Formula 1 is to have a relevant future it’s the fans like those on the London streets that are needed to provide the audiences of the years to come.

Heaven only knows what any casual observer surfing with their TV remote must think if they pass through Sky Sports F1 and stumble upon a grand prix Friday afternoon press conference. The rotating cast of this epic series consists of senior team personnel, more often than not supercilious and evasive team principals or Open University-type techy blokes mired in a world of endless data, fractions, equations and aero-point minutae.

Grilled by grandstanding ‘experts’ – as adumbrated above, a tedious collective more eager to demonstrate their knowledge to the viewers than to ask concise questions – the guests respond by talking in a language only they can understand. “Collectively we helped each other with convergence” was one choice line from the British Grand Prix offering. Yeah, I can just imagine smartphone-addicted, short-attention-span teens wanting more of that!

Formula 1 is in essence a people sport, a multi-millionaires’ soap opera played out around the globe in glamorous places by not-so-glamorous people.

The Hamilton v’s Vettel spat has captured imaginations and fired up this year’s season primarily because of the personalities involved rather than any particular micro-millimetre innovations on their cars.

You wouldn’t really know that, though, if you spent some time in the F1 media room. Well-paid blokes eagerly scribbling pointless pictures of the latest and utterly senseless 100-element front wings, aero flicks, flaps and the like. All for a viewership that must run to the hundreds…

Of course it’s a vicious circle, and so many F1 folk are trapped in the swirling currents of this whirlpool of predictability. How often do you enjoy editorial media pieces focusing on drivers’ lifestyles – other than tedious criticism of Lewis Hamilton’s, of course – away from the overly controlled paddock? Back in the day I and other F1 snappers used to regularly shoot stories with drivers undertaking interesting activities ranging from cycling to skydiving, and from polo playing to potholing! Not any more we don’t. It’s mostly pointless to ask.

As in all sports these days, drivers and their representatives drive hard bargains, restricting promotional days to very small numbers. But times and expectations are different in this fast-moving, access-all-important digital age. Social media platforms such as Instagram do give a certain amount of insight into F1’s celebrity lives, but only in a very limited and controlled (or, to use the term du jour, ‘curated’) way.

Now that so many in the sport – led by the new faces at the top – realise there’s a whole world of opportunity out there, maybe things will change for the better. For Formula 1 to have a stellar future, engaging with a youth market that has many competing entertainment choices must be the priority. A good starting point would be a philosophy of access-all-areas, not excess-in-my-ear-’ole…

Now where’s my iPhone?!


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