At a time of great uncertainty around the world due to the impact of COVID-19, as far as the world of Formula One is concerned, it will most likely be the end of May when the 2020 season finally has a competitive race. However, after such a prolonged absence of on-track action, would a Formula 1 fan still have the same high expectations for the sport or may they in fact be so happy to finally see the pinnacle of motorsport in action again - that they are a lot more forgiving?
All sports find themselves enduring fan criticism but for Formula One, sometimes, the criticism can be overwhelming and unfair.
- Too many processional races.
- Not enough challengers to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team
- Paid drivers are taking the seat of more worthy racers.
- FIA Stewards interfere too much
- Races are determined by tyre degradation and drivers cannot go flat out.
These criticisms are just some of the many directed towards Formula One through social media and when the racing finally returns, there is no guarantee that any of these issues will no longer be a factor. However, what may change is the response of a previously unforgiving Formula One fan.
Last year’s French F1 Grand Prix hit the headlines for its processional nature and the track having limits in what can be achieved as far as any overtaking. Also, the most eventful aspect for many was the rocket propelled man arriving at the track with the trophy - which showcased a tricolored gorilla holding up a Pirelli tyre - having flown through the sky to get there.
In 2020, it is very likely that the French Grand Prix is one of the first few races of the 2020 Formula One Season and one can assume that having had so much of an F1 drought, just seeing these magnificent machines on track would satisfy so many - irrespective of the outcome of the race.
It can be argued that Formula One fans expect too much and so maybe this enforced break will give many a reality check.
Even if there are several races on the calendar which are considered processional, what cannot be overlooked is the fact that every driver on the grid takes their life in their hands to challenge themselves and entertain us. So many drivers were unsatisfied at the decision of racing with no spectators at the Bahrain Grand Prix. However, their cars would still be going 250kmph and they would still be given the opportunity of overtaking on-track rivals, but this is not what many wanted – they wanted to entertain live crowds.
The success of Drive to Survive produced by Netflix, shows how the personality of a driver is as much loved by a fan as their race craft. Therefore, we need to also remember that they are human.
It is not Lewis Hamilton’s fault that he finds himself in the ‘best car on the grid’ and is also a supremely talented racer; nor is it Lance Stroll’s fault that he is in a position where certain opportunities come his way. Every driver on the grid can be harmed any time they take to the track – they don’t need extra pain and criticism from the keyboard warriors of social media.
Journalists and photographers are clearly being impacted by the lack of race events to report on and this is of course worrying and needs to be considered by bodies higher up. However, something positive may also come to Formula 1 during this period.
The lack of on-track action is making the sport more creative and forward thinking than ever before. Drivers with a strong social media presence will continue to share with their fans another side to them that is not just racing – and they may pick some new fans up along the way. Also, F1 TV is developing new innovative content to stay relevant for fans and of course we have already seen esport racing hit the headlines having had Max Verstappen and Lando Norris involved with two races on the Sunday which should have had the Australian Grand Prix.
Obviously, we all look forward to the day when the Formula One cars return to the track but maybe when they finally do, more people will be happier to see them and less critical than in the past.
That is the future though, for now all that matters is people stay safe, follow advice and together the world comes through this crisis…and not just the world of Formula One.