One of the downsides of following a sport that has baby viewership figures when compared to other giant sports like Football and Cricket is that people often dole out a question mark expression when you tell them that Formula One is your favorite sport. It becomes very difficult to explain why Formula One matters.
What takes it a notch below is when people near and dear to you suggest that perhaps your creative tendencies would be serving a better purpose if you apply them to write on something meaningful. I still remember my ex-girlfriend asking me to rather write editorials in newspapers than for a Formula One website.
Don’t get them wrong. If Formula One would be a place, then it’ll most probably an island. Exotic, beautiful and self-sufficient but equally difficult to reach and a tiny player in the World Politics.
So how do you justify following and watching F1? How do you justify the broader question mark on the importance and utility of Formula One? How do you address the scoffs at the sport? A greater dismissal by the majority citing this sport as “it doesn’t matter”? The answer: Formula One does matter. The truth is it represents something.
Why Formula One matters:
The self-destructive futility of humanity’s murderous tendencies, petty border disputes rooted in nationalist agendas that would ideally have died out in the last century and warmongering affecting, and in many cases taking, the lives of millions represents the worst of humanity.
For all the corruption, greed and self-interest that infests Formula One, at its heart is an endeavour encapsulating the best of humanity. It is about the pursuit of excellence.
And no matter in what area, be it sports or science, the arts or architecture or anything else, excellence is always worthwhile. It is the antithesis of the destructive horrors that infest parts of the world. It is about creation, not destruction.
The design and build of racing cars in itself doesn’t benefit humanity. But it does enrich it. Nobody should ever receive a Nobel prize for their involvement in the sport. But F1 cars are spectacular feats of engineering, the product of the most pure of human intentions, namely to raise the technological bar ever higher.
An F1 car doesn’t directly help anybody, save perhaps for the economic impact of the existence of the team that made it, but to argue that misses the point.
Human endeavour cannot only be measured simply in terms of utility. And the sport does add to the depth of collective knowledge and experience of our species, even if it’s only in a modest way. But in harness with the millions of other such undertakings, it is a testament to what we can achieve. Yet another reason why Formula One matters.
Formula One is a pursuit of excellence:
Science and technology have always had this role. One of the humanity’s greatest feats is becoming a nascent spacefaring species. The crowning glory coming when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon in July 1969.
Less famous is one of the missions that followed six years later after the cancellation of Moon shots. The world was still gripped by the Cold War. Yet the USA and Russia collaborated to dock an Apollo Module with a Soyuz capsule in the orbit of Earth.The motivation for this project was largely political. It still required tremendous efforts both to make the two crafts compatible and to rendezvous in the first place. And the two sides, culturally conditioned to hate, collaborated to brilliant and inspiring effect. Even against a background of detente, the totemic value of scientists from both sides literally and metaphorically rising above the polarisation of humanity below it was a powerful one. Did it directly benefit anyone? No. But it really mattered.
This is a grandiose comparison for Formula One, but it illustrates the point. We can achieve great things, even if only for the sake of doing them.
Formula One is not easy, it is hard, very very hard.
After all, would we be better off if Adrian Newey were working on missile guidance systems? Or James Allison on designing fighter jets? Surely not. They are better deployed in creative endeavors.
It represents the best of us:
And it’s not just about those on those who design, produce and operate the cars within the teams. One of the greatest privileges of watching F1 is to see the absolute best in the world. To watch them ply their trade week-in, week-out. They too are pursuing excellence. To watch the greatest drivers at their best is to see people raising the bar simply for the sake of doing so. The details, who wins on a given day, might be inconsequential. But endeavors like Formula One are exactly why we can be optimistic about our existence.
Global horrors make it difficult even to look ourselves in the eye. But grand prix racing is one of the myriad human undertakings that allows us to look in the mirror and realise that, for all of the awfulness around us, we are not all bad.
It is proof we can create as well as destroy. And that’s why Formula One matters.