Have you ever fancied yourself a race car driver? You must have, because I see you weaving in and out of lanes on the freeway, cutting me off, stealing my right-of-way at intersections, doing doughnuts in the Krispy Kreme parking lot…. That’s not you? Don’t you drive a beat-up, brown Dodge with a “Real Men Do It Fast and Get It Over With” bumper sticker while your rusty tailpipe drags a bunch of sparks behind you? Are you sure? Huh. I could have sworn that was you. I even yelled your name once and you waved and smiled and flipped me the bird and everything. Now I’m going to wonder what other “real man” is out there tailgating the crap out of me.
But that’s not why I brought you here. No, today I am going to evangelize your ass.
I’ve never been to Austin, Texas, before. And I would never go to South by Southwest (SXSW) because… crowds. So instead, I’m going to Circuit of the Americas (COTA – say, does everything in Austin have an acronym?) this week to attend a Formula One race where there will only be 47 million people – far less than SXSW.
Now you might be asking yourself, what the hell is Formula One? And you would be right, because until it was forced upon me, I took no notice of it either. And by forced, I mean every time I walked through the living room, there it would be on the television. My husband tried to convert me and I resisted until one day, I decided to watch this horribly boring looking sport. But then something happened. It grew on me. I was inexplicably drawn in. Then I was hooked. Now I salivate when the opening theme music comes on and Leigh Diffey begins to speak.
And if I may put more words in your mouth, two additional questions you’d pose would be:
1) Is that like NASCAR?
2) Aren’t you American and female?
I can’t BEGIN to tell you all the reasons I, an American woman of a certain age, could possibly look forward to a sporting event involving cars. I’m not into cars, really. But I do like me some F1. That’s what we fans call it: F1. It’s short for “Not NASCAR”.
Okay, I’m kidding — I actually CAN tell you all the reasons I’ve become an F1 fan. Or five of them, anyway.
Five Reasons This American Middle-Aged Gal Loves Formula One
It’s not NASCAR
Formula One is the Kate Middleton of auto racing. It’s world famous, fashionable and sophisticated. It’s sponsored by Rolex. And judging by its manners, it was raised right, too. But it doesn’t exclude. It’s also more popular than NASCAR, if you would open your Budweiser-bloodshot eyes and cross the pond for a minute. It’s among the top five most popular spectator sports in the world. Nearly every race driver, including those in NASCAR (or drag racing or Indy or whatever), wants to drive a Formula One car.
The racing season takes you all over the world. It is not xenophobic. They do not drive around in circles all day long. (They drive around in crooked circles, which is different).
The track varies with each race. Sometimes it’s on coastal city streets (like Monaco or Singapore, where the rich and famous watch from their diamond-encrusted yachts). Or in the forest (like Belgium or Germany, where rich and famous woodland creatures watch from their bark-encrusted treehouses). Others have dedicated tracks (like Abu Dabhi and Circuit of the Americas, where Saudi Princes or Hollywood Royalty watch from their caviar-encrusted VIP boxes).
The F1 commentators do not say “Y’all” and “Ah’ll tell ewe whut” as they scratch various parts in their overalls. F1 commentators say, “Indeed” and “Thanks, mate” and “would you like a cup of tea?” and “After you. No, after you.” It’s all very evolved and Britishy.
It Has Personality, Character and Accessability
The British and Aussie boys behind the mikes explain some of the rules so newbies like me can get drawn in to the action, like a story. You know what’s at stake. They wave you on over and ask you to sit down with them and watch the race.
They catch you up on the latest news. They crack jokes, have nicknames and tease each other.
Before each race they play an “essay”, a narrated montage of sorts, by Sam Posey that is topical, geographical, and sheer poetry.
Last year, NBC Sports took over the broadcasting of F1 from the Speed Channel, opening it up to more Americans.
F1’s Popularity is Growing in the U.S.
Americans are slowly working their way into the sport, but I totally beat them to it. The relatively new Circuit of the Americas track in Austin brings the Formula One race to the United States. And this year, Manor’s Alexander Rossi (who hails from Nevada City, CA, a mere 60 miles from my house, so I’ll just figure out a way to take credit for that, too) gives us an American driver for the first time in years.
Next year… Haas F1 racing will give us an American Team. Let’s hope this all sticks. Yes, I’m aware that Gene Hass owns a NASCAR team, can we not talk about that? Actually, let’s talk about that. Since NASCAR fans know who Gene Haas is, that brings a new awareness and potentially a new audience to Formula One.
F1 has a Dramatic Narrative (read: soap opera)
Oh my Lord, the drama. The “silly season” stuff: Which driver is driving for which constructor next year? Whose contract is up? And then there is the other silly season: Who just got married? Who isn’t getting paid by their employer? Whose house just got robbed? Who got fired? Which city fell off the calendar this year? Who didn’t make it to Q3 today? Which constructor’s freight was held up at the airport because of nonpayment? Which driver said something snarky on the radio to the pit crew for all the world to hear? What team is accused of cheating? And pray tell, what color will Will Buxton’s pants be this week?
F1 is sexy
There are the cars. Gentlemen…
And then there are the drivers. Ladies… (and at least 10% of the gentlemen…)
Every week my husband would ask, “So, who’s your favorite driver?” It took a couple of years before I finally proclaimed that it was Valtteri Bottas, Number 77 of the Williams Martini team.
Why him, you ask? Because Valtteri Bottas can grab the bull by the horns, get off to a good start and really hug the curves. He’s also a pretty good Formula One driver.
Yes, there are more pics for the girls than the guys, but we have to wait in way longer lines for the bathrooms, so now we’re even.
Oh all right, don’t get your panties in a bundle. If it will shut you up this should appeal to everyone…
from Nico Rosberg’s Instagram (@nicorosbergofficial) – photo by Tom Koenig
So anyway. Austin (or, “ATX”, as the hipsters call it). This week. There’s a possibility I’ll meet some Formula One-related people. Maybe my favorite driver. Maybe the commentators. Who knows? Whatever I can do without appearing too obsessive, stalkerish or nuisancy.
But enough about social disorders, lack of borders and restraining orders, I have to go pack. Toodles!
This blog post was brought to you by the letter “F” and the number “1”.