As I’m sure you probably know by now, I’m Irish. I was introduced to Formula One by my family – My Dad, Brother and Uncle are all petrolheads. Yet, F1 is a very acquired taste in Ireland. The Gaelic Games of Hurling and Gaelic Football rate amongst the most popular sports, alongside Soccer and Rugby. Ireland has a sizable rally tradition but surprisingly, the rally fans don’t always have a taste for Formula One.
See, Ireland has no real connection to F1. Eddie Irvine was Ireland’s best ever driver and he was around at the same time as the famous Jordan team, led by enthusiastic Irishman Eddie Jordan. Back in the days when both were in F1, the sport was shown on the Irish state broadcaster – RTÉ. Having lost both Irvine and Jordan from the sport, Ireland was quick to turn its back on the sport.
And so, when someone casually asks “And what do you want to do with yourself?” and I reply telling them that my sights are firmly set on F1 Journalism, I normally get looked at like I’ve two heads. “Formula One? In Ireland?” is the standard reply I get and I’m known in the school as “The F1 Guy”. Now, don’t get me wrong. Ireland does have an F1 fanbase, just nowhere even near the support seen in places such as the UK, the European Continent, parts of Asia, Australia, America, etc.
So why do I love F1? That’s the question that usually follows on in the casual conversation. I’ve never been able to give a proper answer; so I sat down and put my thoughts on paper – or more correctly, online for the world to see.
I have lots of reasons to pick from when I think about it. In the words of Ernest Hemmingway, “There are only three real sports, Climbing, Bullfighting and Motorsports – The rest are merely games”. Despite these words, Hemmingway has not done Motorsport – Formula One to be precise – justice. Formula One is more than a sport to me. Formula One is an obsession! My copies at school are a disgrace. I’ve doodled tracks, cars, anything I could think of all over the back pages. I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about how great Formula One is, and I find myself able to give you a precise countdown to the nearest Grand Prix – usually correct to a couple of hours.
Still, I’ve not yet told you exactly what attracts me to it. First and foremost the racing is captivating. It’s the movements of the cars, the way the drivers push so hard on laps, the extreme margin for error – not broken 99.9% of the time and my god! The utter speed of it!
Secondly, I’ve never known something that gives me such an adrenaline rush. The moment at the start of the Grand Prix, the bit at the end of the parade lap when the grid takes shape, the camera pans across in front of grid as five little lights pop up above the anxious drivers and the F1 symphony begins when the cars all rev their engines in unison. That very moment – you know it too – just makes my heart stop dead. There’s a race coming, and in the words of Murray Walker “Anything can happen in Formula One … And it usually does!”.
Thirdly, I love the ‘F1 Family’. I don’t know any other sport that has such a system. For the fans, the F1 Family is a feature of the social networking site, Twitter, where one can meet thousands of other petrol heads, simply spending their entire day doing nothing but tweeting about Formula One. Twitter also provides the perfect place to hold a nice debate once in a while regarding incidents on or off the track. Having said that, The F1 Family is not restricted to the fans. Remembering Williams’ fire at Catalunya in 2012, one can see the perfect example. The fire broke out minutes after the race finished meaning fire crews could not make their way through the packed paddock quickly. The team members from every single team grabbed fire extinguishers and hoses and risked their lives to put the fire out.
As Williams’ entire garage was destroyed in the fire, including Bruno Senna’s FW34, the other teams offered to give Williams equipment for the Monaco Grand Prix which was merely a week later. The teams had nothing to gain for doing this, but did it purely because they wanted to make sure they could race, both for the fans and themselves. It was an act of pure sportmanship.
This brings me nicely onto the next reason. The likes of Graham Hill and Stirling Moss are known as the ‘Gentlemen racers’. Aswell as being fantastic racers, they are heroes. Ayrton Senna saved Erik Comas; Arturo Merzario, Lunger, Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl pulled Niki Lauda from his burning Ferrari; Graham Hill was first to come across Jackie Stewart’s famous crash in Spa – and was the man to go and find a spanner so Stewart could be freed from his car. They all stopped in the middle of sessions, to help their rivals.
And as for being Gentlemen, think for a moment of Stirling Moss. Moss had won the 1958 Championship when Mike Hawthorn – his competition for the title – was handed a penalty for reversing up the circuit when he stalled his car. Moss was the one who suggested that Hawthorn do this to restart his car and so went to the stewards to beg that they not penalize Hawthorn. They decided that they would let Hawthorn off the hook – taking the title from Moss and give it to Hawthorn. Moss’ sportsmanship is almost never seen in any other sports and is a perfect example of why I love F1.
Don’t get me wrong – F1 is not all sunshine and flowers. F1 has seen it’s fair share of fights, controversy and unfortunately, deaths. Yet, this does not deter me from claiming that I love Formula One – my hobby, my life and (hopefully) my future career!