Not content with being earthly superstars Formula One drivers are about to experience the bestowing of mass Sainthoods as they are all to receive their Halos next season.
While Vettel will be clear of competition as the Patron Saint of Potty-Mouths, I can see a season long battle between Lewis and Kimi over whom should become the Patron Saint of Ice Cool.
What we need to see is a unified step forward by all our superstars so we can see they are still heroes. Let us cast a longing eye back a year or two.
The Motorcar was the centre of chic, design, style, and adventure for the first half of its life. It was only once governments made the genius connection of protecting revenue raising on safety grounds that the motorcar became robustly hated in some social circles, and less of a celebrated cause in others. Ralf Nader was the US politician we have to thank for forcing the manufacturers to build safe cars, and at the time rightly so. Tens of millions of us owe our safe daily drives to his remarkable work. Yet this drive for safety was a double edged sword. Fun, excitement, and flare were swiftly replaced by stern messages that slower was safer, the car is a curse on our cities, and evil is the one who dares enjoy driving. All rather forgetting just how many people were killed in horse transport accidents just prior to the ascendancy of the motor vehicle. And please don't forget the curse of manure on our city streets.
Look at this picture (top right) from the early days of racing... that was cutting edge. Oh, and note how we can see the driver. Pretty much all of the driver.
We can directly observe the human drama of the driver taming the beast of a motor vehicle just as surely as one can see a show jumper on the back of a horse. The human is visually a key part of this synthesis animating the machine, giving life to its soul, and drama to the action. No need for Tweets and press releases assuring us the driver is a hero. We can plainly see that is the case. Especially so should we ever stare in awe as this beast flies down the road as a vision of furious, barely contained power and speed.
Now we jump forward to our second image (right). An exceptional picture of a 1930's Mercedes at speed. Once more the motion, the art, the sport, the hero, is captured in raw, simple beauty that demands no press release to underline the awesome feat captured on film. The heroics of this age could simply all be covered by mighty black and white photos and the phrase "No Caption Required". The spirit of heroes would seep effortlessly from the photograph and infect us all with excitement and awe.
Let's roll forward a few more years. The mighty Jack Brabham pitches his car into a brisk right hander. Somewhat more enclosed than the heroes of the past, yet the focus in Jack's face, the effort, the artistry of the gifted driver at work is there for all to see. It is a fascinating delight of human and machine working in union, but the focus is the heroic effort being expended by the driver to tame the best machinery the mind of engineers had yet developed to challenge the immutable laws of physics.
Now let our questioning eye rove over this image of Lewis similarly pitching into a brisk right hander.
Ah. Now we need the press release, the Tweet, the post qualifying interview. We need them all to paint the picture. Is Lewis dancing on the edge of the possible his entire body and mind consumed by the mighty battle with the Laws of Physics? Or is he a spring-powered Bobblehead glued into a child's remote-controlled car? Impossible to say from the picture. We have car. We have Bobblehead, sorry, helmet. And I think we have a couple of fingers cosseted within a custom racing glove.
Who stole our hero!?
Wrapped in the soothing shawl of carbon fibre. Software whispering calming words in his ear. Electronic sensors making sure no unsafe perturbation bruises his manicured hands, or feet.
Without the assurance of all those PR words it's hard to understand there is any effort captured in this photograph at all. The spirit of Black Jack, and all those other early heroes, has left the building.
But we have the noise! Oh no, that's been tamed.
We have the corners that only the fearless dare face down! Oh, no, those have been re-profiled, removed, or wrapped in the soothing influence of twined chicanes.
We have beasts roaring on the very edge of the impossible, bending but not breaking the laws of physics! Ah no, the FIA has those wild ideas all caged and under sedation thanks to an ever growing corral of rules.
We do have the Bieber generation addicted to Instagram, and able to read to the end of an entire Tweet (that's 140 characters, excluding pictures folks!). Opinion is all and fact is not worth the hunt for the truth. And the plan is to entice them with Super Bowl like wonder to an event that takes days to unfold! Would cricket be any harder to sell?
So now more than ever we need to see our heroes! We cannot connect with them if we cannot see them wrestle these beasts. We cannot see them dance on the edge of physics. We cannot hear the roar of engines our road cars can only dream about. We cannot see them risk it all to earn the title of Hero with sweat on their brow, fear in their minds, pain in their muscles, and the soul-feeding knowledge that they risked it all for the win.
So now, to further keep them safe from any danger, real, imagined, possible, or highly improbable, we will in the name of avoiding future court action, crown them with a Halo, and increase the frequency of press releases reminding Formula One fans that this is what a hero now looks like.
The pictures used to say it all. Once Halo is in place an unrelenting stream of romantic words will be required to explain all you can no longer see. Not one square centimetre of flesh will be visible. And now barely a hint of glove or glimmer of helmet. Remote-controlled Bobbleheads could fill the entire grid and no one would know. Naturally we'd use very stiff FIA approved springs to attach them, so as to avoid any nasty contact with the inside of the Halo.
Given their love of bringing the party to Formula One, how about a retro 'Blast from the Past' for the fans? Liberty could wheel Bonnie Tyler on stage to revive that Footloose wonder "Holding out for a Hero". In the song Ms. Tyler delightfully asks "Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?", before moving on to state that she was, "...holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night."
To give context; Holding out for a Hero was written by Dean Pitchford, and Jim Steinman. Jim is best known for his songwriting with Meatloaf, with Bat out of Hell giving a poetic view of Jim's views on road safety. The lyrics of Holding out for a Hero were created in the more relaxed environment of 1980's rock, and heroes back then were allowed to be far more Jack Brabham and a lot less Ralf Nader with public blessing.
No one should be placed at serious risk for the entertainment of others, but calculated risk taking needs to be intelligently undertaken when pushing the bounds of the possible. We as a society only have ourselves to blame if what we consider an intelligent calculated risk becomes less and less of an adventure with each trip around the Sun.
Thanks to social mores and the FIA it's set to be a very long night waiting for a hero. Unless you worship Bobbleheads.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here
Picture credit: Many thanks to Brian Watson for the picture of Jack Brabham at Oulton Park in 1967. This and many others, can be perused - and bought - here.