Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. The competing cars can reach speeds of over 220mph and cost up to £15,000,000 to manufacture, utilising perhaps the most sophisticated engineering mechanisms available to achieve optimum performance.
Yet, despite the impressive machinery and fierce driving on offer, F1 has seemingly failed to entice global audiences – until now.
Motorsport is perhaps the most divisive medium of sporting entertainment we currently have access to. It can easily be characterised as a sport catered towards an ‘upper-class’ European viewership. Cultural and financial privilege seem to be the only means to compete, and extravagant displays of wealth define F1’s image.
However, the sport slowly seems to be branching out to new global audiences, and the 2021 season has done well to bring F1 to the attention of a new generation of viewers.
But why should non-motorsport fans partake in this sensation, and pay attention to F1?
Put simply, F1 is an inherently political spectacle. It is a soap opera where results are dictated by behind-the-scenes drama, including financing scandals, brand sponsorship equity, personal fallouts, and even the weather.
F1 is ultimately a game of strategy and secrecy, and viewers are fortunate to see these decisions played out in real time.
The 2021 season has provided a perfect foundation for motorsport newcomers, as it has quickly become defined by one of the most fierce sporting rivalries of our time.
The battle between this year’s title contenders, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-AMG and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing, have provided viewers with a once-in-a-generation battle for the championship.
Verstappen, currently leading the World Championship standings, poses perhaps the only real threat Hamilton, a seven-time title holder, has faced in the last couple of years.
The season has been defined by sassy retorts and subtle digs on live broadcasts by team managers – all of which are understandable after months of high-speed crashes, tyre failures, abysmal pit-stops and downright aggression on and off track.
All of the above is, of course, both celebrated and lamented by each respective fanbase, determined to see their driver emerge victorious.
This year’s championship will almost certainly be determined by the final races of the season – even without refined motorsport knowledge, the three remaining Grand Prix’s are not ones to miss.
Beyond this rivalry, the exposure of increasingly messy F1 politics as another means of entertainment which new fans can latch onto. Formula 1 is synonymous with expensive, and it is no surprise that, historically, the teams with the highest spending rates had dominated for so many years.
However, incoming changes in laws regarding financing of the sport wields massive potential to end the decade of dominance by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
The 2021 season has imposed a significant $145,000,000 spending cap on the competing constructors, which will decrease to $135,000,000 in 2023. Prior to this, dominant teams such as Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari were spending as much as $400,000,000 per year on development.
In short, this means the sport is only set to become more unpredictable in future. For the first time in a long time, there is potential for mid-field teams to behave competitively, and broaden the list of realistic competitors for the championship.
At the moment, F1 is more accessible to viewers than it has ever been before.
The Netflix series Drive to Survive, is a must for motorsport newcomers. It is an obvious dramatisation of the sport, but highlights its history, gameplay, and controversies in the most simple of ways. Easily binge-able and legitimately intriguing, the show is almost guaranteed to both satisfy even the harshest of critics and prompt an interest in the sport itself.
It is absolutely not too late to get involved with the current F1 season. The next Grand Prix is scheduled to commence on Sunday 21 November 2021, followed by the final two races on 5 December and 12 December.
It is entirely worth tuning in to witness one of the most exciting title fights in sporting history culminate in real time.
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