Formula 1 – Is it still exciting? 1- Is it still exciting?

Posted by Ian Lamming on Tuesday, 17 July 2018

It would be fair to say that Formula One has had a bad rap in recent years. Not enough circuit action, predictability, the sheer amount of cash involved, too many tyre types, the new halos, grid girls; one can go on forever mentioning the issues miring Formula One these days.

Certainly, there is little doubt that Formula One must do much updating if it is to protect its legendary status, much of it brought about by the actions of a Mr Bernie Ecclestone. In many ways, however, F1 has never been as interesting as it is right now – the British Grand Prix demonstrated F1 at its best; Hamilton’s fight from the back to second place is the sort of racing which keeps everyone engaged and excited. It’s good for the sport. And the safety cars, though they have been criticised in the past, are effective at bunching up the grid and generally shaking things up to make the result less predictable. Is a re-evaluation in order, then?

I’ve got to be honest – I’m not really a big F1 fan. Sure, like anyone I enjoy watching the pre-race build-up of paddock interviews, with drivers and celebrities milling around, as well as the insights of many past champions; the race then going sleepily by after a filling Sunday Roast. But, unlike many, my automotive passion did not arise from the world of Formula One, and, ultimately, I suppose that’s why I’m not as passionate about it as others. For me, the world of road-going supercars with big V12s and loud exhausts is where it’s at. Road trips on the French Riviera, attempting a v-max run on the German autobahn, and navigating the twisting switchbacks of the Route Napoleon or Stelvio Pass is what dreams are made of. That said, I had never been to a Grand Prix; the access I had left me yearning for more – my perception had changed.

With the delights of the Doubletree Hilton at MK Dons left behind, we made our way to Silverstone Circuit bright and breezy on Sunday morning to make the most of the motorsport action. With a little bit of signage confusion (only at Silverstone would you end up turning around in a farmyard!) we eventually parked up very close to the track and made our way to the exclusive Paddock Club for the full F1 experience.

Whilst it’s almost certainly the case that you can see more of the action watching on the TV, with the ability to follow drivers, listen to comments, and see the reactions on the pit wall, attending a Grand Prix provides an extra layer of involvement and atmosphere which you just can’t get from the TV. Granted, the holding of Paddock Club passes is a huge indulgence and privilege; a fantastic opportunity, but the level of access they provide is unbeatable. Disregarding the dining experience, the building itself, and, in particular, the vast balcony which sits above the paddock provides a fantastic viewing platform from which to watch the action out on track. The grandstand connected to the Paddock Club at Silverstone was also a brilliant way to watch the Grand Prix on Sunday – its position at the first corner is well placed to gawp at the inevitable spin offs and crashes.

Want to walk down the pit lane? Have a tour of the track? Spot celebrities and drivers in the paddock? Yep, the Paddock Club is the way. You see, for many years the people who ran F1 were very careful about who they let into the Paddock; it was only guests of sponsors and teams who got access. But under Liberty Media that has all changed – if you pay, you can take as many pictures as you like, ask drivers for selfies, and even watch the football (the Heineken Bar was packed during the England game). Though slightly restricted, the pit lane tour was a great experience; the ability to be able to walk where drivers past and present have hurtled into the pits and skidded off again is incredibly evocative. Car mechanics for each team work diligently – replacing parts and prepping every detail provides a realisation of how much hard work and effort go into one single race. It’s truly incredible.

Formula One then. A stupidly expensive waste of time or a passionate event pushing technology to the limits? I think the latter. Attending a Grand Prix provides that sense of perspective which is critical to fully grasp the sport; though engines are undoubtedly quieter than previous years, the high-pitched ‘boom and scream’ as an F1 car blasts past you using DRS never fails to bring a smile to the face. Despite all its flaws, Formula One still epitomises the endless hunt for speed and excitement the human race requires. Let’s just hope Vettel doesn’t do as well next time.


Jamie Moffatt