Once upon a time it was anti-social in the extreme – a noisy, wasteful, polluting, absurdly expensive and dangerous sport whose sheer defiance of convention was a major part of its attraction. Now the rulemakers are sending F1 racing madly off in all directions in pursuit of political correctness...
The move to make its technology more environmentally friendly and 'green' is now well underway. The governing body and the manufacturer-led teams have agreed that the sport's socially responsible future must include such planet-saving measures as quieter, more fuel efficient engines that discharge less harmful emissions, and so on. Never mind that learned scientists have calculated that all the fuel spewed out the exhaust pipes of all the F1 cars in a season is less than that consumed by a jumbo passenger jet on a single long haul flight, the powers-that-be have decreed that the pinnacle of motorsport should become a leader in seeking solutions to the issues that top political and social agendas around the world. The trend toward political correctness - which already includes such measures as a tree-planting program in Mexico that theoretically neutralizes F1's 'carbon footprint' - could gather speed and dramatically change the sport’s future.
While measures to end the ‘obscene money-spending contest’ that now exists have so far failed to take root, the Global Cost Cap concept to reduce budgets and make it easier for less well-funded teams to compete on equal footing could be the forerunner of a policy that promotes 'inclusiveness' by eliminating the dreaded 'elitism' that separates winners from losers. (The late Ken Tyrrell used to say that the responsibility to raise money for his team was his and his alone). And if 'disadvantaged' participants are not to be left behind something may have to be done about levelling the playing field for the drivers. Letting them choose their own car numbers would seem to be a step in that direction. Enzo Ferrari’s request to permanently retire the number 27 made famous by the late Gilles Villeneuve was denied. Purists might decry the injustice, but having the hard-charging daredevil’s illustrious number 27 on his car in 2014 would instantly endow even a confirmed backmarker with a degree of heroism he might not deserve.
The equal opportunity for everyone movement could be further achieved by banning the anti-social behaviour - the constant speeding, tailgateing and irresponsible risk-taking – that tends to win races but is against the law on civilian roads. Instead of being ruthless, aggressive, intimidating and selfish, drivers could be required to become more polite, respectful, accomodating and considerate while behind the wheel. Should a driver behave badly and break any of the politically correct rules he could be sentenced according to a precedent set by Michael Schumacher, whose punishment for trying to prevent Jacques Villeneuve from winning the 1997 world championship by ramming him off the road included Schumi becoming a spokesman for the FIA-led road safety campaign.
While greatly improved safety measures and the introduction of artificial overtaking enhancers (DRS/KRS/tricktyres) have considerably reduced the need for big-balled bravery in a driver’s repertoire it has also created a climate of equal opportunity for less skilled drivers. The kinder, gentler computer-designed Tilkedromes that don't punish driving errors to any serious degree mirror the conditions found in the realistic video racing games that, according to hardcore purists, are too easy to master. One of the most popular games takes place on a simulated version of Germany's ‘Green Hell’ – the notoriously difficult and dangerous, 22.835km ooriginal Nurburgring circuit (where F1 racing has been banned since Niki Lauda's nearly fatal accident there in 1976). A recent critique of the game, which contended that the Nurburgring's lap record (despite the 177 corners that have to be negotiated to complete the 22.835km-long lap) could be broken by any computer-savvy five-year old child, concluded with the suggestion that this ersatz Green Heck of a game should be made more realistic by having each driving mistake result in a hefty electric shock being delivered to the player’s posterior. This suggestion might serve to jolt the rulemakers into remembering that a generous dose of reality must somehow be preserved in even the most politically corrected form of F1.