The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

Deconstructing F1

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There’s a reason why I’ve not done much writing about F1 lately. It’s been a gradual process, but I guess I’m just not interested any more.

I was dubious for a long time about how much of a role money has in F1, but I’m convinced now. F1 is money. There is no other reason for its existence – it exists for the sake of existing, in order to make money for the people at the top. It wouldn’t matter so much if it was genuinely entertaining, but it isn’t. The history is the only thing that keeps it ticking over – if F1 was starting from scratch in 2012, as it is now, it would be dead within a year or two, because no one would bother. The reason people watch F1 is for the possibility of something exciting happening, because something exciting happened in the past – take away those exciting things that happened in the past and people would have no reason to watch it.

I know I’ve complained about F1 being boring in the past, but that’s the point, isn’t it? People, including myself in the past, say stuff like “that was boring” or “that car’s ugly”, but they keep crawling back. The discourse of F1 being potentially exciting keeps them coming back. Take away that and what is F1? Compared to nearly all other leading sports, the vast majority of races are utterly mind-numbingly boring.

Talk to someone who isn’t really that interested in F1 and they will probably tell you it’s rubbish, and there’s a good reason for that. Every time someone said to me over the past couple of years “I don’t watch F1 because it’s boring” I gradually became more inclined to think “yeah, actually you’ve got a point”, because the races were boring. It isn’t interesting to simply watch an F1 race in the moment – the only way you can enjoy watching an F1 race is to watch it whilst considering the possibility of something happening. If you’re unaware of that, or discount it, it’s completely uninteresting, and that shouldn’t really be how sport works.

The problem is people (including me – anyone interested in F1) have been sucked in, convinced by the F1 propaganda machine that what you saw was good, even if it blatantly wasn’t, and that someday something better will happen, so you have to keep watching – you to watch in case it starts raining, in case someone crashes, in case someone’s engine blows on the last lap. Alongside that, they build these nice meta-narratives of good vs evil, hidden drama behind the scenes that you don’t know about, and tactics on the pit wall that you couldn’t possibly understand – knowledge is power, after all. It’s all fluff. Take it all away and there’s very little there. Look at it – what has made F1 “interesting” over the past few years has not been the races themselves. It has been the off-track controversy and the championship battles.

I wanted to be an F1 journalist, but then, while writing race reports for The Boar, I realised that by entering into the F1 media would mean I would be compelled to defend F1 from all criticism. I knew that I couldn’t possibly do that, because there are some things that I, as a liberal lefty with morals and principles, can’t defend. That itself is proof of a discourse at work – you have to think a certain way to get into the media. The media relies on F1 being good, and F1 relies on the media to make it look good.

To enter into that you have to think the same way as them, and you have to be willing to give over your conscience, your mouth even, to the F1 machine and be prepared to say what you think you should say, not necessarily what you actually believe – writing about F1 is inherently deceptive; you have to be a cheerleader. The F1 machine is perpetuated by fan interest and thus gives the fans what they want to hear and read. I’d never be able to get into the F1 media because I’m aware of the mechanics behind it and I’d want to dismantle it, and any attempt to dismantle it, i.e. point out that the whole thing is perpetuating itself in order to perpetuate itself, would lead to my rejection from the F1 circle.

Every time I make the point about F1 being flawed at an F1 forum, I’m criticised and told to be quiet – essentially, what I’m told is that because I’m criticising F1, I shouldn’t be allowed to take part in discussions about it. That’s just one part of the F1 machine – it works its way right to the top, no doubt. The whole of the F1 structure must be made up of loads of ‘yes men’ because otherwise it would collapse. It’s impossible to criticise it, from within (“you’re just a whinger, you’re never satisfied etc”) or from outside (“you don’t follow F1, you wouldn’t know”), because you’ll be marginalised.

And if only people who can think that F1 is good are contributing to how the sport works and is run, it’s doomed – it’s not going to improve because those running the show have already convinced themselves that it’s fine as it is anyway, or are at least forced to say that in public, although it’s clear to me that those within F1 (not just those running it but the fans too) come to believe the very myths they create and perpetuate – hence why people have remained tolerant of an increasingly poor standard of racing. F1 simply cannot be self-critical – it’s not in its interests.

Look at F1 from a Foucauldian/postmodernist perspective. Deconstruct it. It’ll open up in front of your very eyes.

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Written by James Bennett

January 25, 2012 at 18:10

Posted in F1

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