Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What to watch: Formula 1

With the Colts only a handful of days away from lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy triumphantly over their heads we begin to enter a sad period of time for many people. After 20 weekends of exciting football action the drought begins as we wait with great anticipation for the season to begin again. One question is what sports should one watch to fill the void that football has left behind? Basketball seems like a great option and baseball will be starting up as well. Instead of looking towards conventional sports this offseason I invite you to look at the wonderful world of Formula 1 (also known as Grand Prix) racing.

Formula 1 is worth watching simply because it is the culmination of the best of the best. Grand Prix racing drivers are well paid athletes who command some of the highest salaries in the sports world. It is also worth noting that these drivers are actual athletes and are in top physical condition so that they can cope with the extreme cornering and braking forces the cars are capable of producing.

The cars themselves are the most advanced racing machines on the road today. Most teams in Formula 1 spend well over 100 million dollars over the course of a season and some teams spend more than four times that. Every aspect of the cars represents the absolute pinnacle of technology.

Finally there are the tracks. Traveling across the globe to some of the most challenging and prestigious tracks in the world F1 is not left wanting for great venues. Places like Melbourne, Suzuka and Monaco sound a lot nicer than the NASCAR venues such as Darlington and Talladega.

Now that I have told you why you need to watch Formula 1, let me tell you who you should watch. The upcoming 2010 season has a lot of great story lines to watch out for and they should provide some great drama as they develop. In my eyes the biggest story for this season is what is going on at my favorite team, McLaren Mercedes. McLaren is one of the most successful teams in Formula 1 and they have assembled a great pair of drivers for this season. Their newest driver is none other Jenson Button of Britain who led the Brawn Grand Prix team to a World Championship in 2009. He will join Lewis Hamilton also of Britain, who is 2008 world champion and also the first black driver ever to race in F1. Personally I am fan of Lewis Hamilton simply because it’s great to see a black driver excelling in the sport. Having the two best drivers in the sport sounds like a great idea on paper, however history has shown that it doesn’t quiet work out. With both drivers being so talented and competitive it is only a matter of time before the two teammates turn their attention towards each other, and what had once begun as a team effort can turn into a bitter rivalry. Although both Hamilton

and Button say now that they plan to work together I will be watching these two drivers with great interest this season. Below I have included a clip of what can happen when you have two of the best drivers at the same team, as McLaren drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost showed us in 1989.

Another great story is the new Mercedes Grand Prix team. Mercedes has decided to step up their involvement in the sport and have bought Brawn Grand Prix which won the World Constructors Championship last year. With this take over Mercedes has made a German Dream-Team of sorts as they have paired together two great talents for this season. One of their drivers is Nico Rosberg of Germany, the son of a former champion and a driver with great potential. Alongside Rosberg is none other than seven times World Champion, Michael Schumacher, who outside of David Hasselhof is the most well known German alive. After a retirement from the sport for the past three seasons Schumacher has decided to come back for one last Brett Farve-esq attempt at the championship. It looks as though Michael has kept up his trademark physical conditioning and winning drive and it will be very interesting to see if he still has got what it takes at age 41 to compete against drivers nearly half his age. My bet is that he will not win the championship but he will be a constant threat to win races as the season progresses.

One final story to watch is the recent influx of new teams this season however the one most relevant to me is the US Grand Prix team. This new and exciting team is marketed as the All-American effort in Formula 1. Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina this team has the hopes and dreams of many American fans riding on its shoulders. Personally I am interested in the team and I hope to see them perform well, but given a smaller budget and rookie status I don’t expect much. It is also worth noting that the team isn’t quite as American as they say, for instance the motors the team will use are British, the driver they have announced thus far is Argentinean, and one of the team’s two founders is an Australian. So much for the All-American effort, but still it is good to root for the home team and US Grand Prix is definitely that.

I also realize that you may be slightly confused about the differences between F1 and the cars you see at the Indy 500. The Indy cars may look similar to F1 cars but they are heavier, slower in the corners and less technologically advanced than Grand Prix cars. Indy is also primarily an American series while Formula 1 is an European series, with races taking place all over the world. It is also worth noting that all of the cars in the Indy series are essentially the same as the cars use the same engine and chassis. One of the great aspects of F1 is that each team’s car is different from the next team and there are several different engine manufacturers involved in the sport.

Now that I have said all this I beg this of you: If you have any interest in both cars and motor racing you should give F1 a chance. Formula 1 has a fairly small following in the United States and there has not been a race in the US since 2007, which is a shame. If you find a team or driver to pull for and learn to appreciate the subtle strategy employed in the sport, you will find F1 to be a great sport to follow. This year’s F1 season gets underway on March 14th at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The race is shown live on the Speed channel at 8am Sunday morning, and then replayed later that day.

Be sure to check out Formula1.com to learn more about the sport and the keep up with the developments for this upcoming season.

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