Where is the sport in it?

The question has often been asked of yours truly – is there any sport I wouldn’t watch. Baseball was always the standard reply to said inquiry. Simply as it’s not understood. Chances are if a grasp of it was attained, one would be drawn in as was the case with Darts and Cricket and a few other obscure codes. Now read on…

If there was/is one discipline that would take unknown levels of persuasion to entice me in, Formula One racing would probably be it. Temptation was to initially to say all Motorsport but there is something of a daredevil thrill to both rally and MotoGP even though there is constant cognisance concerning the dangers thereof.

It’s most probable that the loosely held affinity with such things stems from the depth of tradition there is in our locality. Something bolstered by the revival of the very successful Dunboyne Motor Club and their wonderful Spirit Of Dunboyne event normally held towards the end of September each year. Yet another aspect to ‘normal’ life – whatever that is – lost for this year to damned Covid-19

It would seem that that we all had a collection of model race cars when we were kids – though in my case it was mostly farm machinery – and with them, in mind at least, we were Nigel Mansell or Alain Prost or Ayrton Senna. Though, in this corner at least, whatever modicum of interest there was in the land of burning rubber evaporated once Michael Schumacher met with his accident. Which, in any irony beyond cruel, had absolutely nothing to do with racing.

Michael Schumacher

Truthfully, it was probably going to dissipate completely fairly quickly anyway, owing to a question which has reverberated between these ears for a long time – where is the sport in it? The danger has always and will always be clear and present, but as the cars have become more technologically advanced, sceptics and/or critics could have a field day simply by asking where exactly the sporting skill in the pursuit’s current form? I would have similar misgivings concerning tractors with auto-steer, both that’s a topic for another day.

Whatever about the reservations of one casual observer like myself, those at the epicentre of affairs of the grid surely now have the biggest headache in the history of their sport on the hands following the inferno which engulfed Roman Grosjean’s car at the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

By now, even those without a scintilla of knowledge on or interest in F1 will surely have heard of the story of how the Swiss-born French driver’s miraculous escape after the horror crash. When the news in the middle of the day/early evening has to deploy the “Some viewers may find these pictures distressing” caveat it gives you some idea of the catastrophic nature of events and the gravity of their aftermath.

The above is one of the less graphic images of events in Bahrain

Those who know more about these things than I – and even Grosjean himself – credited the HALO system with saving the driver’s life. As far as I can decipher, the mechanism protects drivers from debris and other hazards associated with crashes which are surely an unavoidable and ever present risk in this most daring of arenas. A system which some, including the late Niki Lauda and, ironically, Grosjean himself, were initially critical of.

In researching for this piece, an ar ticle on the motorsport website http://www.autosport.com was perused. The column was headed “The Questions F1 Must Ask After Grosjean Horror Crash” and therein were the banalities one might expect which, for me at least, boil down to three simple and obvious queries: (a) Why did the car catch fire?, (b) What happened to the crash barrier? and (c) What happens next? To my mind, the last one undoubtedly being to most important.

Now, if the following summation is overly simplistic, most humble apologies to aficionados in this area. But, my own view as to why the car went up in flames would be that there’s too much technology aboard. Too many wires which, combined with the heat naturally generated from travelling at such speeds, was a nightmare waiting to happen. Until it did.

Again, regarding what happened with or to the barrier, this may be bluntly stupid, but, it appears fairly straightforward that it evidently wasn’t strong enough, thus unfit for purpose. That in itself raises questions about the manufacture of the safety barrier and what, if any, quality control checks were carried out by whoever made it. And, for that matter, what safety checks and/or trials were carried out at the track prior to raceday. And by whom.

Over and above all of the aforementioned, though, the biggest question for those in and around F1 surely has to be what next. In some ways, it should be more popular and saleable to those that way inclined at the moment than for a long time before. With a standard bearer as recognisable (if seemingly aloof) as Lewis Hamilton.

Current Kingpin: Hamilton

Yet one cannot help being brought back to the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words. If you were a parent or even a youngster themselves trying to decide on a sport to get involved in, the images of a driver scrambling from a burning ring of fire wouldn’t exactly entice you to life in the fast lane, would it?

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