Formula One: A Sport For Geeks


Sport is always one of those things that I’ve never really been interested in. Take a look at me (there’s plenty of footage of me here) and I think you’ll agree that I’m not really a sporty type of person. When everyone else is out playing a rough approximation of the game known as football, I’d rather be in my studio doing…whatever it is I claim to do.

That doesn’t mean I’ve never tried to be interested in sport. Somewhere around the age of ten I had a group of friends that were all supporters of Manchester United. Naturally I was pretty fed up of not having a clue what they were talking about and I wanted to fit in. So I attempted to become a football fan. Obviously I was supporting United, my friends wouldn’t have it any other way, and we regularly took part in the playground football matches, which usually had about 50 players…at least. This went well for a time as it coincided with a World Cup Summer which made me believe I was more interested than I actually was but after England were knocked out by Brazil, the excitement died down and so did my enthusiasm. I think I still took part in the playground matches but that was more to be social than anything else.

When I was at secondary school I was also quite good at running. Since I’m asthmatic I assumed  I wouldn’t be very good at long distance races, something I confirmed when a P.E. Teacher made me do a 50 minute continuous running test and I ended up unconscious in the back of an ambulance. But in short distances I was good. I ended up representing my class in the 100 metre races for a few sports days, and I think I may have even won some, but I never really thought of running as a sport. Obviously when you look at people like Hussain Bolt you can see that running most certainly is a sport, but for me it was just something I had developed to escape from bullies.

I also continued to take part in informal football games during the many lunchtimes I endured while at secondary school but I never really enjoyed them. I always played in defence as I figured I would do the least damage there and wouldn’t get in the way of the kids who all thought they were the next David Beckham. How wrong that turned out to be. I also only played during the Winter and that was also my one reason for sticking with the games. At my particular school you were not allowed inside the school buildings during breaks and lunchtimes. That’s all very well during the Summer but if it rains, or is the middle of Winter and you’ve got to spend an hour outside then obviously you’re going to get cold pretty quickly. For some reason we weren’t even allowed to wear hats. I once questioned a staff member about this odd rule, and in all seriousness the answer she gave me was “Because you might be a terrorist”. I wish I could say that she was joking but I know for a fact that the woman wouldn’t know what humour was if it was wearing a brightly coloured hat and holding a ticking bomb that shot those spring snakes everywhere that had ‘THIS IS A JOKE’ emblazoned on the side! Anyway, back to the point, the only reason I stuck with those playground football games was because it was so cold and anything that got me moving was better than freezing to death. Those lunchtimes were some of the most miserable hours of my life, but thankfully as soon as the summer came I would abandon the makeshift pitch and listen to music in the sun.

I certainly wasn’t keeping fit thanks to the compulsory hour of P.E. that took place every week. That consisted of standing and listening to the teacher explain the rules of some bizarre game which we had never heard of before and couldn’t care less about because we would never actually get to play the game. If the government is making teenagers do P.E. in order to keep fit and active, the lessons should be more than simply standing against a wall for an hour. Chuck them a football and they’ll get more enjoyment and more exercise, lets face it, 16 year old boys don’t care about European Handball. I probably burnt more calories getting changed into my P.E. Kit than I did in the actual lesson. But I’m getting off the point…again.

So the compulsory P.E. was quite literally a waste of time but it didn’t matter because I was keeping fit with my extra musical theatre and dance lessons outside of school. Once I started training at The BRIT School I was more active than I’d ever been before, and I was enjoying it, which was a first. But I still don’t see dance as a sport. I would never do a dance routine in my spare time to relax and there’s no real game involved with dance…apart from ‘Who Can Do The Splits The Longest’ (that’s always a cracker…literally). But there isn’t anything to keep up with, no team to support and no favourite players to get behind.

I had long since resigned myself that I just wasn’t interested in sport, which is fine, not everyone is. But that was about to change. Earlier this year I was on holiday in a little bungalow on the beach that my parents own. It’s a pretty basic place, you have to drive to get to the local village, the house only got a DVD player at the start of this year and worst of all there isn’t a piano there which is what I use to distract myself with most of the time. So faced with a Sunday afternoon that was too rainy to be out on the beach I switched on the TV to see what we have on the three analogue channels that the TV could pick up. I was just tuning in to the start of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and for some reason I decided not to change channels.

In the past I had always taken the view that motor sports were rather boring. I mean who wants to sit and watch twenty four cars zoom round the same stretch of track for over an hour? Apart from the obvious excitement of the start and the finish what is there to fill out the long middle bit apart from the hope that someone will crash. Plenty, it turns out. Once I actually started watching it I was able to see what all the fuss was about. The cars are so delicate and temperamental that anything could happen. Couple that with the fact that every driver out there wants to be in first place and the whole thing goes mental!

Despite not having a clue who the drivers were, which country they were from and which teams they were driving for, I sat an watched the rest of the Monaco Grand Prix and absolutely loved it. Of course I didn’t think I would get caught up in the whole thing. It passed the time for one weekend and I enjoyed it but I had no intention of watching the next race. A fortnight later I found myself flicking through channels on TV again and this time came across the Canadian Grand Prix. Despite all the stops for rain I managed to be a pretty exciting race, especially when Jenson Button took the lead from Vettel in the final stage of the race.

I was hooked, and what tends to happen with me when I suddenly get very interested in something, is that I very quickly get obsessed with it. When I was writing my latest series ‘Stars Of The Future’, I discovered a similar TV show called ‘The Thick Of It’. Less than a week later I had the DVD Box Set in my hand and was well over halfway through the second series. That’s pretty much what happened with Formula One, and I watched all but one race on live TV for the rest of the season. And what a season it’s been! Vettel has dominated pretty much everywhere and Button, who happens to be my favourite British driver, has done exceptionally well despite having to deal with some difficult circumstances. I cannot in any way claim to be a true Formula One Fan having only just picked it up this season, and I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who know a hell of a lot more about it than I do. But I am starting to learn the ins and outs of all the different rules and hopefully by next season I’ll have even more idea as to what’s going on.

I find that the biggest difference with Formula One is that it is a sport that I enjoy. I look forward to each race and keeping up to date with the championship but there is something above all this that makes it even better for me. Formula One is a very technical sport. Yes the drivers have to be fit, both physically and mentally, to endure what they do over a Grand Prix weekend, but at the end of the day they can’t compete without a car. It’s absolutely typical of me that the sport I’m interested in is based all around technology and strategies involving that technology. I love all the hype about the different types of tyres, how are the cars set-up, what the weather will do, how many pit stops a driver will have and how that will affect his strategy. It’s also brilliant that the presenters and camera crews get so much access to all the different teams. Even watching at home you get a good idea of how each team operates.

There is one last thing that I really love about Formula One…it’s impossible for me to take part. There is no chance of me ever getting to drive a Formula One car and even if the chance presented itself I doubt I’d be any good. You can’t just go down to your local park with a group of friends and race Formula One cars round on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I think that’s great. I always hated those informal secondary school football games and now I’m getting my personal revenge by loving a sport that I can’t take part in. I am more than happy to watch from the sidelines, or rather from the sofa in front of my TV, knowing that the people who are out there driving are the best, and only the best get to drive Formula One cars. The best I can do is play the video game on my Xbox and that’s perfectly fine with me.

Sadly the 2011 season came to an end yesterday so all those who follow my Twitter can rejoice in the knowledge that I won’t be manically tweeting about the F1 every other weekend. We already knew that Vettel had the Championship safely under his wing ages ago and he’s done remarkably well this season. Congratulations to Webber managing to come first in the final race and a big well done to Button for securing second in the Championship too. Whether my enthusiasm keeps up throughout the Winter remains to be seen but I hope it does. By the time the new season starts in March I’ll be off on tour so it may be that I have no time to follow the season, but I hope I do. Until then I’m happy with the knowledge that I’ve finally found a sport to get behind.


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