There used to be a time when Indian college kids would bunk their final lectures, head to the nearest coffee shop to catch a glimpse of Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso storming pass the chequered flag. ‘Red Fever’ would more often than not prevail, but it was also about who the next challenger to Ferrari was. They were a dominant team, but their dominance had an aura of humanness around it – like Manchester United, they rose from the Ashes of the 80s in the same color, and earned many for-life fans across the globe. What’s more – the races were quite fascinating too, irrespective of the results.
But it is 2015. Many don’t seem to care as much anymore. Motorsport popularity peaked a decade ago, but now, it’s only about young kids driving a car as fast as possible.
Let’s take a look at why this sport has lost its magic:
1. The sport is far too mechanized and robotic for actual drivers to make a difference anymore.
It has become less about the driver’s skill and speed, and much more about the car mechanism, engineering, design and pit strategies. It has become more of a horse race than it ever was; the strength and breed of the horse seems to matter more than the jockey’s ability to control and steer the race. The day isn’t far where the participants will simply be needed to fly planes across the track, and team owners will argue about the density and quality of air and wind conditions.
2. Too many technicalities seem to change or evolve between seasons, leaving viewers and fans in a lurch about various terms.
Whenever there’s a rule-change, the viewers are the last to understand or be informed about it. These days the changes happen between seasons to arrest a certain trend of dominance or not, and invariably, it’s one team that profits from it far before the season even begins. Come race day, they’re already miles ahead of the others, and the rest of the season is spent with the lesser teams playing catch-up. I, for one, would love to just see all the drivers racing in IDENTICAL designs/parameters of the same car. But then, that rules out any sort of economic and financial sponsor angle, as well as millions of engineering jobs. I still feel these guys have more to contribute at NASA or ISRO than building unbeatable cars in a sport that encourages hierarchy.
3. The drivers aren’t controversial enough anymore. They all have chocolatey faces and are too politically correct.
Where are the Montoyas, Hakkinens, Coulthards, Frentzens and Schumachers? We need the spirit of the 80s and 90s back in the sport, if only simply to arrest attention and stop being all “I will let my racing do the talking.” Tennis is in a similar situation, but at least the players actually let their rackets speak. I eagerly look forward to the day Lewis Hamilton gets arrested, or Sebastian Vettel is caught peeing on the road. But most of the controversies seem to happen behind the scenes, in the upper echelons, all related to sponsors, financers and CEOs. Boring!
4. The rivalry is intra-team rather than between teams.
It was earlier between Vettel and Mark Webber in Red Bull, and now between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for Mercedes. We need two great drivers racing in a car that’s at least equally good for ONE season. Is that asking for too much? Earlier, Vettel was in a great car, and now Hamilton is. They’re almost never in a good car together.
5. Same old tracks, same old countries.
When places like India get added on, they immediately get subtracted. The sport needs new destinations and new countries to be the face of it. Something more exotic than night races or street tracks. Add Alaska, Africa and others to the calendar. Stop going all first-world on the viewers every time.