During lockdown, being able to sit down and watch a Formula 1 race has brought a little more excitement to a year which, I’m sure we can all agree, we would rather forget. I took the time to start a blog to coincide with my academic studies and I produce different content based on motorsport. It helped me get through such an unusual time, with something to work on and use as a distraction. When motorsport began again and things went back to somewhat normal, it was a great positive. In fact, Formula 1 was the first international sport to get back underway after race weekends were disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With strict social distancing rules in place and with teams having to stay within their bubbles, by the middle of August, just before the stint in Barcelona, over 24,000 tests had been taken across six races. Out of such an extortionate number, only three were positive. Impressive.
Motorsport is something which should be celebrated as the best in the world. Everyone has their favourite, especially during lockdown, whether it be football, cricket or golf, and motorsport is mine. There are many reasons why motorsport should be your favourite, too. Here are just a few of them.
1. F1 on a PS4 is pretty similar to F1 in an actual racing car
Quick disclaimer: you can play the F1 game, like many other racing games, on different consoles, I just chose the PS4.
Lando Norris; only twenty-one years old, he’s already bagged himself a seat at McLaren alongside Carlos Sainz. This is his second season in F1 and it has been pretty impressive (no bias here). Twitch; a streaming platform owned by Amazon, which has grown in popularity over the past year or so. Put them both together and you get something magical. After starting his streams on Twitch a while ago now, Norris continued to do so during lockdown. The at-home set up of a racing simulator is not much different from what you would find in a real Formula 1 car, without the speed or the G-force on your body. Playing FIFA with your mates doesn’t compare to actually kicking the ball around a field. In motorsport, teams use simulators to get their drivers ready for race events, giving them the chance to put in lap after lap to prepare for a well-known track, or familiarise themselves with a new one.
With the Formula 1 season cancelled in March after a positive test for McLaren in Melbourne, racing did not begin again until the first weekend in July, in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring. Supporting feeder series, Formula 2 and Formula 3, also unfolded in the Styrian hills, with plenty of drivers in attendance having spent their lockdown days on their sim, playing on F1 2020, while streaming it on Twitch. Actually, Lando’s countless hours doing that managed to put him on the podium, for the first time in his Formula 1 career.
2. Fans are there to support their favourite driver, and one another
Twitch actually plays a big role in this, too. With so many members of the F1 grid, plus those from feeder series and other paths in motorsport also taking to the streaming platform, there was always some form of entertainment. No racing meant no escapism for many, so drivers’ streams were actually more important than I think anybody initially realised.
As the saying goes, it’s not recommended that you talk to strangers on the internet. In a modern society like ours, that statement has become a little outdated. Even I’ve met some good friends through apps like Twitter, and it’s probably a given that someone reading this article has, too. During a Twitch stream, fans can engage with one another in the chat section; someone says ‘hello’, another replies with ‘hi’ and all of a sudden, there’s engagement, there’s a potential friendship.
I’m sure everyone will agree that this year has been exceptionally difficult and different to what we’re used to. With lockdown rules meaning that nobody could mix or even leave their house unless very necessary, keeping in touch with friends and family online has been more important now than ever. When there’s a group of people all with the same common interest, developing friendships is easy.
Whilst supporting your favourite driver, whether that be seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, or perhaps Mr Saturday who is still waiting for a points haul George Russell, the concept still remains; we’re all the same. Everyone is in the same boat – at home, watching the race, following it on social media. I’ve seen so many saying they owe their friendship to a particular driver, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people connecting while watching their favourite on the grid streaming. Sometimes, streaming a motorsport event wasn’t even the main feature of an evening on Twitch; sometimes it was ‘just chatting’, sometimes it was ‘Euro Truck Simulator’ and sometimes, it was an online race. If it wasn’t just a normal race to potentially aid with a driver keeping at what they do best, it was for charity. Thousands of pounds were raised for the World Health Organisation’s Solidarity Response Fund in a campaign led by multiple, big name F1 drivers, known to fans as ‘RaceForTheWorld’. People supporting people has been of vital importance this year; we definitely wouldn’t have got through without it.
Being able to end the day by watching your favourite driver sitting by their set up and streaming, chatting and interacting with you was a massive mood booster in such a hard time. That human interaction was needed more than ever. Such a great form of escapism – so important for someone’s mental health. It may seem small, and rather insignificant, but I know I speak for many when I highlight how motorsport provides happiness for fans in more ways than one.
3. Social Media ‘Admins’ are important not only for their brand, but also for their fans
The impact of motorsport on people is crucial to explore, especially at a time like this. Each team, whether in Formula 1, Formula 2 or Formula 3, potentially even Formula E or IndyCar, will have someone behind their social media pages. As a media student, I know how vital it is to maintain interaction and engagement, plus keeping fans updated with any news from their team. Social media has grown in recent years – I know you’ll have some sort of social media account. A reply or even a follow from your favourite team means a lot, especially when you’re feeling down.
While we had no racing, teams were quick to create their own form of entertainment for their fans and followers. From a variation of competitions to win merchandise, to just a little something to pass the time, it all added up to make people feel a little better in a tougher time. Fans were able to be creative, from helmet design competitions, to race suit design competitions… there was something for everyone. Even if you’re no artist, it’s just for fun, just to join in and pass the time. The community spirit is so high when everyone comes together in an unknown time. Without social media admins, I don’t think the Twitter experience would be the same. While developing their brand and building an even wider audience, leading to more support and whatnot – you name it – creating that relationship with fans is just absolutely so important.
4. Motorsport is so varied that there is something for everyone
Formula 1 is undoubtedly the most well-known motorsport category. It’s global, with talent from all over the world, but only twenty of the best drivers are lucky enough to have a seat in an F1 team. Mercedes have made history this year, after clinching their seventh consecutive Constructors’ championship. Their driver, and most definitely the best driver of his generation, Lewis Hamilton, became World Champion for the seventh time; he won his first Championship with McLaren-Mercedes in 2008 and his other six with his current team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team.
Despite calendar changes for 2021, in 2020, many Formula 1 race weekends were supported by feeder categories, in this case, the FIA Formula 2 and FIA Formula 3 World Championships. Both feeder series showcase some of the young talent, and in the past week, two current Formula 2 drivers, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, have been announced as drivers for Haas F1 next year. With such tight championship battles and great action during the races, Formula 2 and Formula 3 are both arguably sometimes even better than F1 – the action truly provides an on-the-edge of your seat moment.
The inaugural season of Formula E occurred a few years ago now; the 2014-2015 season was a new championship for completely electrically powered cars. Its popularity has increased during the years, especially after seeing past Formula 1 drivers find a seat within an FE team. Take Felipe Massa, or Stoffel Vandoorne, for example, both of whom spent some time in Formula 1 before making the move to Formula E. 2021 is bound to be an exciting year for Formula E, as it embarks on its first season as an officially recognised FIA World Championship. The talent in Formula E is on par with that in Formula 1 essentially, but there is just something about Formula E that is a little more exciting. It’s probably going to be the sport of the future, with its completely electric cars.
Of course, there’s so many other series, like IndyCar and NASCAR – there really is something for everyone. I can’t analyse every single racing series, but, so many of them have been so important during lockdown. At one point, it seemed like there was a different race every day across different series – maybe that’s a slight over exaggeration – but the point still stands; the entertainment and escapism was always there. Races with fan attendance were very minimal today, most notably for us Brits, the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, so being able to keep up with everything on television, plus other series which viewers may have never tuned into before, has been absolutely vital. Personally, I didn’t engage too much with Formula 2 or Formula 3 until this year. And, as I sit and write this article, we’re about to go into the final weekend of the Formula 2 Championship and the Title is still yet to be decided – will it be Mick Schumacher or Callum Ilott, or someone else? At this point, nobody can really decide. The battle is far too tight – something you rarely see in Formula 1 these days.
5. Teams Manufacturing Ventilators for the NHS
When the season was cancelled indefinitely, teams moved quickly to help the wider community on a national level during the Coronavirus pandemic. UK based Formula 1 teams united to work on ‘Project Pitlane’ in an attempt to support the desperate need for ventilators as COVID cases increased across the UK.
Such teams involved in Project Pitlane were: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, BWT Racing Point F1 Team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, Haas F1 Team, McLaren F1 Team, Renault DP World F1 Team and Williams Racing. With absolutely no doubt, we have to thank the teams for their efforts in such an unusual year regarding their work schedule. As an article on the official F1 website states, Project Pitlane focused ‘on the core skills of the F1 industry: rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly’. F1 is a sport in which the engineering technology develops so quickly, so the decision to help out in such a time of need, with such time limits and restraints, was a quick one from the teams and the UK Government.
There are, of course, plenty of other reasons as to why motorsport is the best sport during lockdown, however, there are many more. Too many to name, but I’m biased – not everyone will agree. However, there’s an extra reason which deserves to be covered; a reason of absolute utmost importance.
The high level of safety in motorsport makes it the best sport, and not only during lockdown. Driver safety is the most important thing in such a fast-paced sport like Formula 1, the absolute pinnacle of global motorsport. The improvements and developments made by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) over the recent years have actually been credited for saving lives. It’s very important. It’ll always be the most important thing in motorsport.
Suzuka, Japan - 5 October 2014. Marussia driver, Frenchman Jules Bianchi, was involved in a high-speed accident on lap 43 at turn seven of the circuit. He suffered a severe head injury and sadly passed away in hospital in Nice, on 17 July 2015. His death was the first seen during a Formula 1 race weekend since those of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Although the safety of Formula 1 was always improving during that period between the loss of Ratzenberger and Senna to Jules, there was always space for more development. The death of Jules Bianchi highlighted a significant time for change.
After that devastating incident, the FIA were quick to make changes to their race rules and regulations. The consideration of introducing a Virtual Safety Car was based upon the Le Mans ‘slow zone’. The VSC would be used to slow cars down on track without having to deploy the full safety car, an incident which double yellow flags couldn’t manage. This was the first major initiative after Bianchi’s accident and it has definitely been effective, and still is today. However, among many other new introductions, the most important has been the halo, a curved, titanium bar to protect the driver’s head. Introduced in 2018 across many of the FIA categories, including Formula 1 and its feeder series, as an added safety measure. It did receive criticism when it was introduced, with even some of the greats claiming it looked ‘ugly’ and went ‘against the DNA’ of Formula 1. Safety over everything though, right? The halo has been credited for saving the lives of many, including Charles Leclerc (Spa 2018), in an incident with Fernando Alonso, and F3 driver Alex Peroni (Monza 2019).
Most recently, it saved the life of Haas driver Romain Grosjean, after a serious accident at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Grosjean’s car split in two after making contact with the Armco barrier at the side of the track on lap one, before it was engulfed in flames. The Haas driver was able to extricate himself from the car and he escaped the crash with burns to his hands. Without the halo, the news from Bahrain could have possibly been very different, a scenario which nobody wants to consider.
The safety in Formula 1 and other motorsport categories is bound to continue to develop and improve. Although the sport today is safer than it was a decade ago, there are still changes which could be made. Yet, the level of safety and the focus on that by the FIA makes motorsport, in my opinion, the best sport in the world. Race after race, drivers risk their lives as part of their job, and for that, they deserve the highest levels of respect.
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