At the weekend I watched the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix. Well, I say ‘watched’, but ‘slept through most of’ would be a more accurate description.
Not that this is particularly unusual – sitting down to watch TV on a Sunday after lunch will almost inevitably lead to a few minutes of resting my eyelids – but this time it was something more. I have finally reached the point where I have to admit that F1 is one of the most boring motor sports in the world.
I’ve been an avid follower since the mid 1990s, back in the heady days of Damon Hill and his tussles with Michael Schumacher. There was the glamour, the competition, the speed and of course the crashes. While I never wanted anyone to be hurt, there are few things as exciting to watch as a car smashing into pieces at high speed (it’s a guy-thing). It also helped that there was a British driver who was capable of winning not just individual races, but the entire championship. I’m not usually given over to bouts of nationalism, but I did like Damon Hill.
Then around the turn of the millennium there were some great races between Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher and despite my wife’s frustrated cries of “Why on earth would anyone want to watch a bunch of cars driving round in circles?” Sunday afternoon F1 was an absolute must for me.
After Häkkinen retired though, Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari was so dominant that the competition aspect of F1 virtually disappeared and it became increasingly difficult to shrug off Maggie’s even more frustrated cries of “Why on earth would anyone want to watch a bunch of cars driving round in circles following that red one?”
In addition, new car designs and regulations meant that overtaking has become nigh on impossible so most of it is done by strategicly timing the pit-stops rather than by one car passing another on the track.
I stuck with it last year because Ferrari finally fell behind in their dominance and with Fernando Alonso winning the championship, Michael Schumacher’s reign was finally over. And with the emergence of British driver, Jenson Button, there was at last hope for a new era in F1.
But it hasn’t really worked. Now it’s just a bunch of cars following a blue one instead of a red one, and Jenson Button is becoming the Tim Henman of the F1 world (for those who don’t follow tennis, Tim Henman is the nearly-man of the sport. Every year he starts off well, and every year the British public think ‘This could be it, this could be the year he finally wins!’ and every year he doesn’t. This leads to a great deal of disappointment and people muttering, quite unconvincingly, ‘Well, it’s not the winning it’s the taking part that counts…’).
So this year I’m finding it nigh on impossible to keep up any enthusiasm for the sport. I can fall asleep during the race confident in the knowledge that when I wake up the cars that were in the lead by the end of the second lap will be in the same places as they were as they enter lap 56, except for Jenson Button who will have dropped several places back because his car broke down, or something went wrong at the pit-stop.
This Sunday I didn’t even bother to watch the after-race commentary and I doubt whether I’ll take the time to tune in again this season.