Formula 1 is coming to Las Vegas, and “the fastest growing sport in America” is so popular I want to avoid it entirely. There’s nothing wrong with car racing — I played a couple of the Gran Turismo games, and they were fun — I’m just not going to add it to the never-ending list of sports I follow.
Before you ask if I’ve ever seen the F1 show on Netflix, let me stop you. I have not, and I will not. Around 20 years ago, sports outlets were trying to tell me NASCAR was the next big thing, and it peaked with Ricky Bobby. The only recent headlines revolved around Bubba Wallace and the sport’s problems with racism.
While F1 hasn’t had to ban its fans from bringing Confederate flags to the track, it has its own issues with diversity. As far as I can tell, Lewis Hamilton is one of the best drivers in the sport, and also is the only Black driver in it. (Wallace was the sole Black driver in NASCAR, but the sport will hit a “diversity milestone” at this weekend’s race in Richmond, Virginia, with two Black drivers racing for the first time in more than 20 years.)
Hamilton even started his own commission dedicated to increasing representation in UK motorsport. It published a study in July trying to figure out why F1 is so rife with white people, and in it multiple Black people within F1 share stories of normalized racist jokes and an outdated culture. One described an “old school” guy who didn’t know he couldn’t call Black people “colored lads” anymore. (Hazel Southwell’s article, “The Hamilton Commission’s Findings of Racism in F1 Are Damning” for The Drive is worth a read.)
To be fair, Googling “F1 racism” was the first research I did on F1, so maybe I should hold off on being a contrarian until I watch a race. Caveat to that, is anyone surprised that a sport, with teams not only sponsored but run by luxury car companies has elitist tendencies?
I also don’t have time to watch it. My obscure, weekend morning European sporting viewing is reserved for the EPL. If you’re in your 20s and don’t have a girlfriend, feel free to plant your flag on team Mercedes or McLaren or Ferrari and wake and bake to the sounds of astonished English announcers. It sounds like a good time — and exactly how I got into soccer.
However, I fail to see F1 translating to the masses the way soccer has because it lacks the racial and gender diversity, and you can’t set up a racetrack in your backyard. Formula 1 is a rich man’s NASCAR with exotic locales and non-oval course designs.
I’d like to go to Monaco and watch expensive cars race around the harbor. That Iron Man 2 scene was super cool even before Mickey Rourke sliced up a bunch of cars. That’s where my fascination ends, though. It’s a niche sport that seeped into the mainstream consciousness because of a Netflix show. Now I’m subjected to F1 talk on podcasts because it’s “actually pretty cool.”
And not all race enthusiasts are thrilled about F1 adding another “giant gimmick” in America and forgoing old venues abroad, but OG fans rarely welcome financially motivated change and are rightfully leery about whimsical expansions coming on the heels of an explosion in popularity we’re not certain will have real longevity. They also thought it was cool before it was a neatly packaged Netflix show, and no one had to pitch them on your newfound hobby.
This may just be a me thing, but the way to get me to not try something is to tell me over and over how cool it is and that I should indulge. Maybe if my friend hadn’t blasted OAR to the point of temporary hearing loss in high school, I wouldn’t get the urge to puncture my ear drums with the nearest sharp object every time “Crazy Game of Poker” comes on. (Then again, their music is aural sludge so I probably would’ve hated it regardless.)
I think it was about the time I threw out my Pog collection that I realized just because everyone is doing something, doesn’t mean I have to, as well. That was the fifth grade.
If you’re F1 Guy and hopped on the bandwagon when it was relatively empty, more power to you. You are definitely qualified to be the judge of who knows what they’re talking about and who was full of shit when they tried to casually drop “catalytic converter” in a conversation.
However, don’t worry. Your ire will be fleeting because these new fans will figure out how to use the jargon, or lose interest when the next Tiger King comes along — whichever comes first.