Formula 1 is back! The Australian Grand Prix which began the new 2015 season this weekend was hardly a vintage race. But that doesn't matter. What does matter is the baffling insistence by so many fans and media types that this does matter. Let me explain…
Formula 1 is a sport. It is not a 'structured reality' TV show, like recent E4 hit Taking New York – a 'reality' programme featuring real people doing real things, but where half of the action is scripted in order to ensure it is exciting and entertaining for the viewers watching at home. The point of competitive sport of any variety is to find out who is the best at whatever sporting discipline is being contested – in the case of Formula 1, that discipline is designing, building, and driving a racing car – within certain agreed-upon regulations and guidelines.
My apologies if this sounds rather like I'm stating the obvious here, but it would appear that some people really don't get this! So, let me be absolutely clear about this: since the objective of sport is to be the best it is possible to be, it is impossible to be 'too good' at it. If you're so good that nobody else can keep up, you deserve nothing but congratulations – and your competitors need to get their act together.
Unfortunately, the nasty, pernicious idea that we somehow need to 'make' F1 more 'entertaining' seems to have surfaced again. BBC Sport writer Andrew Benson writes:
"…the pressure behind the scenes to do something about [Mercedes'] advantage is only like to increase…"Do something about it?! That's pretty scary language.
What he means is to rig the competition. Falsify the results. Mercedes deserve their advantage over the rest of the field, because on merit they have a better car and better drivers than the other teams; team boss Toto Wolff is right to tell Red Bull's Christian Horner to 'stop moaning'.
What we saw on Sunday in Melbourne was an accurate representation of the relative performances of different cars and different drivers. One car – and, especially, one driver – was streets ahead of the rest. Fair play to them. To tamper with that is to turn a competition into a farce – an artificial spectacle which has been staged to 'entertain' – and in doing so, you are defrauding spectators who have been led to believe that they are watching drivers racing each other on merit, not to a tightly-controlled script.
If you want guaranteed drama every time, go to a West End show. If you choose to watch Formula 1, accept that if the reality is that one car is so much quicker than the rest it can't be caught on track, then that is how it should be. I don't want F1 races to be 'staged' affairs; I can't understand why anybody would.