Heated debates: Formula 1

F1 car
Formula 1 - is it amazing, or completely rubbish? Let's find out...
"F1 cars are very fast, and they make amazing noises. What’s not to like?"
  • | by Daniel Bevis & Chris Pollitt

Messrs Pollitt and Bevis return for another Heated Debate. This time: Formula 1– who’ll bloody whose nose in the quest for victory and logic? Let’s see…

Dan: I’ve heard you referring to Formula 1 as ‘big-budget Scalextric’. This vexes me. I love F1 dearly, and I can tell it’s going to be hard to convince you of its merits. You’re a belligerent old stick.

Chris: "A belligerent old stick?" Call yourself a mate? Anyway, yes, F1 is just that: expensive cars running around in a seemingly unchanging order. The only difference is the lack of sleeping cats and skirting boards being hit by airborne cars.

Dan: See, I knew you’d be all negative. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of circuit-based motorsport, it staggers me that you can’t find it enthralling. ‘Seemingly unchanging order’? You obviously haven’t been watching. It isn’t actually like Scalextric where they’re all on the same metal tracks, they can move about all over the place The manufacturers in question (and we’re talking big, sexy names here – Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, er, Renault) pump eye-watering amounts of money into these cars. They’re very fast, and they make amazing noises. What’s not to like?

McLaren Formula One car

Chris: It's just noise, and an annoying one at that. How can something with so little drama be classed as "the pinnacle" of anything? It's a bunch of prima donnas who've attempted to grow beards in a bid to maintain some degree of masculinity, when in reality their ability to throw their toys right out of their pram proves they’re anything but. And they get paid too bloomin’ much. There are other, far more exciting forms of motorsport in which the drivers get paid a fraction of what F1’s Monaco-dwellers earn. And their beards are better.

Dan: It’s a big money sport, of course the drivers get bucketloads of cash for what they do. It’s no different to football in that respect. Although it’s different in every other, of course, in that it’s actually interesting, and doesn’t make me want to punch myself.

Chris: Don’t get me started on football, that’s another waste of time and money (I’m not making any friends here, am I?). Anyway, back on topic, F1 is just too regimented and processional. If the F1 of the '70s and '80s could see the F1 of today, it’d set it on fire, overtake it backwards and then go and then go and cavort with some models. And it’d have an incredible moustache.

F1 cars

Dan: The whole ‘processional’ argument surfaces a lot and, to be fair, that was the case four or five years ago. But that’s why the FIA are making such keen attempts to throw in the odd wildcard, to encourage overtaking and make it more exciting for the spectator. You’ve got the KERS system which gives the drivers a jazzy go-faster button for short bursts, the tyres that are designed to degrade quickly so they have to be changed frequently, the DRS system that allows them to flick open their rear wings if they’re close behind another car and thus steam past them… you’re a gaming man, you must enjoy those sort of power-ups?!

Chris: I am, but F1 isn’t set within a digital realm. Why should they have these power-ups? This is sport, and sport is about skill, aptitude and reactions. A little whizz-bang button on the dash shouldn’t even factor into that. In the World Rally Championship (WRC), the cars are all limited to 300bhp, that’s it, and the sport is bloomin' exciting. In the BTCC the cars have similar limitations and again, it’s thrilling...

Dan: But all F1 drivers play to equal rules too! They all have access to these systems, the skill and reactions you talk about incorporate these fancy buttons!

F1 car doing donuts

Chris: [not listening] ...and those buttons and gizmos don’t make F1 better; they just give the drivers something else to moan about if the chips don’t land where they anticipated. And then there are the seemingly endless team orders, apparently given in most cases by a man too old and too fat to slide into a F1 car, so he’s now living vicariously through his weak-bearded drivers - much like he’s operating a giant chuffing Scalextric, actually.

Dan: Oh yeah, and there are never team orders in the BTCC, are there...? It’s a controversial thing, but it’s an established part of F1, as with many other forms of motorsport. While we’d like to see all the drivers going hell-for-leather at all times, it is a team sport - and with the amount of money swilling about in the background, you have to appreciate that the guys holding the purse-strings will want to get on the radio and call the shots every now and then. It’s a complex game – the drivers want their trophies, the teams want theirs. It’s not possible for everyone to win. The same thing happens in the BTCC, and you love that…

F1 car

Chris: Don’t you go likening my beloved BTCC to this. Yes, they have team orders, and I understand and agree that to a degree they’re needed. I get that, I honestly do. However, in the BTCC and the WRC, team orders are less frequent, leaving the driver to get on with the job he’s paid to do. Give them out too much and you’re just going to hack off your wheel man, resulting in antics like the German fella giving the Aussie fella a sponsor-cheek-clenching run for his money the other week.

Dan: That was unfortunate. It’s difficult to know whose side to be on, really – on the one hand, Webber was playing the game and doing what was right for the good of the team (whilst leading the race in a position he’d earned); on the other hand, Vettel did arguably what people wanted to see, which was to drive really fast and try to win the race. Personally, I’m on Webber’s side. But you have to admit, the situation did provide some pretty exciting racing!

Chris: Yes, it was exciting. I’ll agree to that, but then that excitement is lost in a load of bureaucracy and other nonsense. Also, it was a tiny splash of excitement in an otherwise dull and formulaic pond.

Look, I respect these guys as it’s an unviable task in my eyes, and I also imagine they’re all champing at the bit to be let loose properly, without constraint or overbearing discipline, but they can’t. The sport’s become too concerned with the money it makes, not the excitement it delivers.

F1 crash

Dan: I disagree. And I refer you to my earlier point about the FIA addressing the criticisms of the detractors with their fancy, future-y innovations. And you could never call it dull. (I mean, you did, but you shouldn’t.)

Also, if you’d been keeping a closer eye on Covered, you’d know that it’s not all pie-in-the-sky. This feature demonstrates how the advances honed in the F1 world directly influence the cars in the showrooms. It’s not just a playboy sport, it’s a test bed for future consumer technology. And it’s awesome, you wally – I don’t see how you can love so many other forms of motorsport, but not Formula 1. You confuse me.

Chris: I drive a 1995 Peugeot – these technological advances are of little concern to me. And I’m sorry, but the sport being a test bed is a bonus, not a justification. You’re right though, the advances in F1 lead to further advances in road cars, granted. But that’s not enough for me. Look, I’m never going to win this one. You think it’s awesome, as do a great many others who probably outnumber those who agree with me. Sorry to confuse you though, my good man, but the sport just leaves me cold. There’s plenty of other petrol-powered sport out there that’s a hell of a lot more exciting, involving and enjoyable if you ask me. And better beards.


Well, this was never going to end well, was it? Formula 1 is a polarising thing – if you like it, you really like it. If you don’t, well, you really don’t. So Chris and Dan have agreed to disagree, and also agreed not to talk to each other for a bit. Y’know, so they can have a bit of ‘me time’. Because otherwise, who knows what awful violence might escalate - it’d be Big Daddy versus Giant Haystacks all over again.