What Can Formula 1 Teach Us in Life?
The ups and downs of being a Formula 1 fan and the unsung service it is performing for humanity!
Susanne is on holiday and I’m not at all jealous … ok I’m a bit jealous! She has asked me to put together a post for the tribe this week and since I’m crazy about Motorsport and she is a big F1 fan, I thought that would be a good place to start:
Susanne is a McLaren fan and, if you know F1, you know that that is an exceptionally tough thing to be right now. As a long-suffering Jenson Button fan, I find myself well qualified (sufficiently wounded) to talk about these difficulties! Having endured many, many years of trials and tribulations, I’ve noticed that the motions you go through during the seasons, the highs and the lows, are like miniature life lessons. We should all be watching F1 because it tries to make us better people!
Ok, so that seems far-fetched, but let me explain:
You are a very fortunate person if your driver/team came in at the top and stayed there and, in all honesty, there is a good chance you are going to relate to very little of what I’m about to say. I would encourage you to have a read anyway to get an idea of the suffering that your less fortunate peers go through during a season.
The start of the year brings pre-season testing and expectations are high. Three months have passed with no racing, so the teams plough all their efforts into building the best car on the grid. But that is just the end of a long process. Most teams will have been working on that car since half way through the previous year – some even longer! You spend ridiculous sums of money on team wear and get very hyped about the occasion having watched on, cheering when the car was unveiled. All that is left now is to measure its *inevitable* dominance on the track!
Supporting Button, can you tell? [Image: Mine! Silverstone 2016]
It is difficult to watch live so you catch bits and pieces through the day and glance at the live times. Not as fast as you’d anticipated? Of course, it is strategic. They are easing the car in, or it's the rookie that’s driving. There has to be a reason they are three seconds adrift.
Then there's the reliability - multiple breakdowns. Ok, so this sounds bad but maybe it explains the lack of pace – they are taking it easy to shake out the gremlins. Right?! And how relevant is testing anyway? Not at all! We should avoid drawing conclusions till the first race weekend.
We proceed with optimism!
The ridiculous sums of money spent on merchandise may also stretch to a literal display of optimism, like this! [Image: Twitter, from Silverstone 2017]
Australia is always the first race of the season and, depending on where in the world you live, it can hold extra significance. I live in the UK so for me, the sessions are practically in the middle of the night. Your alarm goes off 15 minutes before the session so you have time to make the biggest coffee you have ever seen and that, coupled with the sheer excitement, will carry you through!
If you follow Formula 1, then you know how the season has gone. You will also be acutely familiar with the sensation if you are a Sauber or Renault fan, or a fan of any of the drivers from those teams. There are a large number of poor souls out there! Sticking with McLaren, they are currently ninth in the championship. Sixth at the end of last year was actually seen as a relatively decent outcome having finished ninth in 2015.
It hasn’t always been this dire though. Over the years, McLaren have accrued eight Constructors’ Championships and twelve Drivers Championships. The most recent of these was in 2008, with Lewis Hamilton. Most McLaren fans remember that year, most remember lots of other successful years too and use this to keep themselves going. This is key to being a supporter of someone who is having a lousy time of it. Not just in F1 actually, in just about any sport.
We are hopeful, we are loyal and above all we are determined to be there, wearing the colours and flying the flag on the day that it all falls into place and we have a reason to celebrate again.
A small taste of those celebrations came in the last race before the summer break. It took place in Hungary on a tight and twisty track where the engine (which is McLaren’s predominant issue, but we shan’t dwell!) isn’t the dominant feature. If you are underpowered (and McLaren are, but totally not dwelling), this is a track where you have a chance to make an impact if you can set the car up well enough.
After a season filled with near misses and retirements, that race gave the team their first double points finish in … well, a very long time! And boy, did the fans celebrate! Even their star driver, Fernando Alonso, who has been sarcastically scathing for a long time, was in great spirits after the race.
Fernando, soaking up the glory of a well deserved sixth place finish in his iconic deck chair! [Image: Twitter]
It’s not a win, but it is a long awaited good result which elevated them from last in the Constructors’ Championship, to ninth – a massive morale boost. It’s the sort of thing the fans live for.
You learn to adjust your expectations. You no longer hope for pole positions and race wins, but you start by hoping for both cars to finish and then hoping they can get in the points. That way, when it happens, you’ve something to be pleased about. Progress, that is what we want. The loyalty keeps you there but the progress reminds you that your team used to be brilliant – they used to be the best – and one day, they will be again!
This is why supporting a team or, in my case, a driver through their ups and downs, can teach you a valuable lesson about how to look at other things. In F1 you know the lows are not always as low as they seem and that sometimes, it just takes a few things falling into place for you to get a promising result. It pays to be realistic in the short term, but optimistic overall.
I can’t think of a situation in life where that’s not a pretty good rule to follow!
The zen like state of enlightenment, obtained only through watching Formula 1