Opinion: F1 needs to be boring in order to thrill
20 June 2014 – "The show has not been good enough at some races this year and with one team dominating, the spectators want more excitement."
Those are the words of Fernando Alonso with regards to the 2014 Formula 1 season. There's an assumption that Formula 1's fans are underwhelmed with the spectacle provided by the new regulations and a concern that Mercedes's dominance is causing people to switch off the television.
It's true – to an extent. Television audiences have been dwindling in the sport, although that's partly down to its baffling reluctance to properly embrace new media and its transition to pay-per-view in the unending quest for more money. If fewer people are able to watch the programme, of course audience figures will drop…
The sport faces several other issues – none more so pressing than the financial problems being encountered by a worrying amount of teams – but 'the show' is not one of them.
The boom of social media and the reportage of every tiny piece of information mean that Formula 1 is in the news 24/7. Every minute of every practice session is shown. No stone is unturned. Coverage now in leading nations is brilliant, but it also has the down side that it is far easier to criticise less interesting events. You'll hear talk of how races have been 'underwhelming' or 'failed to live up to expectation' – part of this is down to people hyping up every single event as if it's the best thing in the history of the world, rather than just another round in a championship approaching its 1000th event.
This season, there have been a couple of outstanding races – in Bahrain and Canada – while Monaco was also an exciting race. Some have had some moments of intrigue and suspense, especially if you know where to look, while a couple featured little engaging action. Rose-tinted glasses lead people to believe that past seasons featured non-stop swashbuckling racing in every event, which was far from the case. Certain periods of history rightly have iconic status, but there were some races in which very little happened.
But that's not a problem. In fact, it's rather a good thing.
There's a false assumption that Formula 1 must be consistently engaging – it's just not possible. No sport is exciting all of the time. People remember the epic Tennis matches between top players, but for every one there are several straightforward games. For every controversial 4-3 football match, there's a draw with a couple of wayward shots on goal.
But those less interesting events only serve to make the properly exciting ones even better. It's just the way sport works and to change it in favour of artificial non-stop action (a direction in which Formula 1 has teetered towards across the last few years) would be completely wrong. Such as the proposal, set to be approved by the World Motor Sport Council, for standing restarts after Safety Car periods rather than the current rolling restart. It's a ridiculous concept that reeks of a sport ignoring its prevalent problems and proposing answers for questions no-one asked. Such as double points. Football doesn't propose wider goals after 0-0 results, so why does Formula 1 consistently propose ludicrous ideas to 'spice up the show'?
Besides, the most vocal criticism of Formula 1 this season has come from a leading team whose glory days are becoming increasingly distant, with little hope of improvement in the short-term. The leading team, Mercedes, hasn't been complaining. It's up to everyone else to aspire to their sort of dominance, rather than criticise the regulations that have led to it.
Spicing up the 'show' solely in the pursuit of entertainment is synthetic and the antithesis of what Formula 1 is about.
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