Even though we are just a few days into 2010, I’m willing to bet that the majority of you will have broken some of your New Year’s resolutions already. Promises to lose weight, give up smoking or go easy on the alcohol consumption have probably all gone down the drain as you continue to enjoy whatever is left over from the festive period.
There is still a glimmer of hope for you, my motorsport loving friends, as I have an easily achievable goal for you to at least have a stab at this year: try following something other than F1 for a change.
Now some of you may have scoffed at the previous sentence, perhaps because you already keep a watchful eye on the various rungs of the F1 career ladder. In which case, you can close down this tab in your Internet browser and go about your business as I won’t need to use my powers of persuasion on you.
Still reading this? Well I guess then you’ll want some sort of rationale behind why I think you should make the effort in watching something other than the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’ for a change. So here goes.
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with watching F1, to suggest otherwise would just be plain silly. The problem I have is rather like the Premier League in English football, it riles me that some folk believe it to be the quintessential, all-important element in motor racing. When the truth is, is that bubbling underneath, to the side, wherever, there is a wealth of racing just waiting to grab your attention.
So let’s think about all the things you currently dislike about F1. Go on, go make a mental list.
Now using my best Derren Brown mind reading trickery, I’m going to hazard a guess that the likes of politics, lack of overtaking and boring PR-speak probably popped into your cranium at some point. These are all part and parcel of F1, where egos clash, aerodynamics rule and sponsors need to be appeased.
The same is true in whatever racing category you care to take a peek at, yet thankfully, elsewhere they are much more contemptible, which your tolerance levels will undoubtedly thank you for in the months to come if you choose to spread your racing interests into other fields.
So where should you start? Well if you want to make life easy for yourself you should probably take a punt at the GP2 Series which roars back into life in May. With the likes of Bruno Senna, Nico Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi all set for a full season in the big time this year, it’s pretty apparent that GP2 is the next best thing and is the place to find the next generation of grand prix drivers.
As it follows the F1 calendar for most of its European leg of the season, GP2 shouldn’t prove too much of a culture shock for any new followers as proceedings take place on instantly recognisable circuits. Thanks also to its popularity, coverage is widely available both on the goggle box (ESPN in the UK) and on the Internet.
As a finishing school for F1, GP2 drivers are also prone to the odd mistake as well, which gives the racing an air of unpredictability. Whereas most F1 drivers will understand that four cars won’t fit through a chicane three cars wide, their GP2 equivalents think four cars just might. (Actually, GP2 drivers think 15 might). Some might see this as just sheer stupidity; I see it as a redeeming feature which is apparent in just about all feeder series.
See it all stems from the fact that nearly all the drivers in various formulae have a firm belief in their own invulnerability. The younger they are the greater it seems to be. This allows them to attempt passes that wiser drivers would probably avoid, but as we all know, fortune favours the brave. Which probably explains why some of the best racing I have ever seen has been outside the confines of F1.
The further down the F1 career ladder you descend, the more things become slightly diluted, with a variety of single-seater series vying for your attention. You have British F3, F3 Euroseries, Formula 2, Renault 3.5… and just when you though just one more category and motor racing would go pop, along comes a new one in the guise of GP3 which has already quickly attracted a healthy field for 2010.
But there is an easy way to contend with this possible mountain of confusion though. Simply choose one category and stick with it throughout the course of the season. Perhaps even take a vested interest in a couple of drivers and see how their campaigns pan out though the year. The more exposure you have of them, the more information you will gain, the more inquisitive you become the less daunting and confusing it all turns out to be.
Whichever feeder series you do settle on, I’m sure you’ll quickly discover just how entertaining they can be. Races are won by drivers and race engineers, not wind tunnels and computer labs. There are typically more races and fewer weekends to contend with and like F1, they have a first lap, pitstops and a chequered flag. But manage to cut out a lot of the boring bits in between.
So even if you only manage to give just a flickering interest at best, at least try and give an alternative series some thought this year. Perhaps even go experience the sights and sounds of a live race meeting as the UK is blessed with an abundance of circuits, and one of the best things about going to an event is the wide variety of cars and racing you will see.
Go on, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose. Have you?