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I See a Dark Sail on the Horizon

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
15/03/2022

...Set under a black cloud that hides the sun... When two tribes go to war, one is all you can play for... In the land of the hereafter the chariot of the Sun God is pulled by the grateful dead...

Jethro Tull, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. What else could it be dear reader other than part two of the Pitpass Season 2022 Preview? I challenge any other F1 related website to generate a more diverse opening to their pre-season considerations.

The first part of our preview, Hail Caesar, considered the sporting spirit of the pilots. Humans first, since we all prefer the human in the hot seat to be the focus not the upper radius of the third control arm of the fifth tensor...

This second article considers the entire concept of sporting competition and the need for a rules framework we can all abide to such that we imbue sporting contest with meaning. The third article will, somewhat remarkably for this column in these strange times, be about the actual changes to the sporting regulations for season 2022.

Dark sail? Because we all set sail in faith that we can arrive safely at journey's end. That requires a framework for success we can all respect within which to operate. Two tribes go to war? I think the illustrious Pitpass reader can work through the overloaded meanings there. The Egyptians!? From Alexandria to Star Gate, dear reader they are simply everywhere. Did I hear someone say "Fifth Element" down the back? Good call...

Horrid times to be human! Yet here we stand. Marcus Aurelius noted that "Our life is what our thoughts make it". The greatest stoic emperor. Yet before I over-egg the souffle, let us move rapidly to considering rules-based frameworks rather than paradigms lost in the endless churn of Twitter.

To live is to compete, to compete is to live. To live big, it might be argued, one needs to compete big. Business painfully loves phrases such as "We are at war with our competitor", "We need a ferocious marketing campaign", "It's a battle ground in soft toys these days..." The business world loves both battle-cry metaphors, and those of the sporting arena. Yet, within each of these domains we have rules, frameworks within which we can comfortably operate, and, because of our oh so human nature, cheats.

How is it that we can collapse from the journey being the point, to the obsession to win at any cost being the point? Honour and respect, to return to the mighty Greek philosophers, is the essence of humanity requiring compassion, insight, and a keen eye for the fair fight.

The fair fight.

Lewis continues wincing over the final race of this past year. Not because of V. Max. Not because of finishing second. Not because of Red Bull. No. Because he felt it was not dealt with in a clear, clean and fair manner. He wanted - no demanded - a fair fight. He feels he did not get it.

Lewis is not about to hunt down V. Max, and his family to do horrid things unto them. He is not about to stop buying Dutch goods. He is not about to launch an information war designed to stop the planet buying Red Bull. No, Sir Lewis is going to demand the monitoring authority, in this case the FIA (with cheery sideline inputs from Liberty Media), lift their game and provide a robust, clear and fair framework for the fight. Where the fight is to race as hard, fast and safely, as possible. Without the rules, the contest has no meaning.

Boxing has rules. Heck even "Real Steel" with Hugh Jackman had rules! The entire point of a fair, reasonable and understood sporting contest is that the rule framework is; a) Clearly defined, b) Well-reasoned, c) Fully understood by both sides, d) Clearly administered and e) Fully and completely respected by players, referees, or umpires, plus, rather importantly, the fan base.

In the event (a) to (e) are not in place, and well regarded, and curated... it all falls apart. From competition fishing, to UFC, to snowboard half-pipe, to F1. (A) to (e) or there is no sporting fun for U 'n' Me.

Why? Why as humans do we crave clearly defined frameworks within which to react freely? That dear reader is a philosophical point too far for this article. Yet it is simply true. The creativity on the field of Ronaldo or Messi, the between the lines genius of Federer, the on-court giant that was Michael Jordan, the crowning Golden moment of every Olympic victor. Each would be empty if it were outside the rules for the rules give the triumph meaning.

The meaning is the triumph within the rules. Why else care? Make your goal posts so close together a soccer ball cannot enter. Use a steam catapult for your Tennis serves. Turn up to a UFC fight with a main battle tank. To what end? Crushing victory of what kind is achieved?

Ever since the Greeks elected to convene the first Olympics, simply because we humans love nothing more than competition, a competition that takes root in every tree, we have formulated rules, regulations, regulatory authorities and either stuck by them as a matter of life or death. Or, been faced with folk who are happy to claim they follow the rules while utterly subverting the system for winning at any cost, thus rendering their victory hollow and without merit for all time.

Dear Lance Armstrong was a colossal hero of mine. His fall from grace felt like my own child had just been caught cheating in the junior school sack race. It was a personal horror. I still have a pile of Live Strong wrist bands. When I purchased them the dear young lady at the Nike store checkout said: "I've had many people through the last few weekends all buying differing numbers of these things, and nothing else from the store. Why is that?"

"Think about it, and you'll understand." I replied with a quiet smile.

"Sorry?" She responded.

"Think about why we all buy different numbers. It's a very personal thing."

As I walked away she placed her hand over her mouth, and quietly stated: "Oh God. I see."

Lance, a hero lost. Ali, a hero diminished in life, but a legend retained. Clark, Fangio, Surtees, Lauda, Schumacher. Each a hero, each human. Each a mighty sportsman, that, like Archimedes, asked only for a firm place to stand, to mount their pitch upon the field of sporting competition.

Expanding to the body politic, realpolitik, the human condition and the need for fine sporting rules, most especially for the fast approaching season 2022, FIA Formula One contest. We humans are each a walking contradiction. A collection of billions of cells, each masquerading as an "individual". We want autonomy, personal recognition, complete freedom and regulated acceptance by the "in" crowd all at the same time. So reason, rules, and frameworks gift us meaning in our lives.

Off-side matters as much as leg-before, as much as track limits exceeded, for the simple matter that we crave a known framework within which to express our creativity, right to life, and ability to succeed. Legend has it the ancient masters of combat arts commenced all initiates with a white belt. Then through years of practice, somewhere in the region of ten to twenty years down the road, the master would nod before passing the deserving soul a black belt. No steps, no grades... not worthy... until eventually worthy. When martial arts came to the Western world the idea of a single ranking system which took a decade to navigate was ruled a no-can-do... So, again, modern myth has it an American Chinese master came up with the idea of the belt system. Ten belts to be earned over ten years, to give our short-term Western attention span a yearly prize for continuing.

We crave clear indication of success. Of how to succeed, of how to win and win in a "fair" manner. Miss Physics, for she hides in every detail, has no concept of fair or unfair. Too soon or too late. For Miss Physics it simply Is. Thatis the speed of light in that media. That is the boiling point of water at that ambient temperature and pressure. That is the end of the World as you know it, because you just made the entire surface of the planet radioactive. Makes for a very simple World view.

We humans want chalk lines, side-lines, off-sides, leg befores and track limits because... well, because we are human. So we Geo-bound national concepts. We elect to use skin pigment as a differentiator. We refuse to form a Lingua Franca outside of Science Fiction because we all want our language as the language. You say tomato... I say I'll see you in the international court of arbitration.

Once you move from the imperious realm of Miss Physics, you are in the mirror hall of illusions and the thousand doors of life's endless corridors. You can fight, and never win, but never win without a fight. Sir Lewis wants confirmed rule of law. Footballers, and Tennis players want video umpires that deliver exacting truth. The international community howls for respect to international rules-based order.

The FIA promises we will have the most prescriptive rules in racing history to deliver the most exciting racing in history. Do not count on that dear reader. You drive on the 'right' side of the road. You do the 'right' thing for your pets. Yet endless infringements and unintentional errors still abound. And reality is such that as long as one does not cross Miss Physics, well one can go as badly wrong as one wants. The laws of the Universe trump rules of the humans every time.

Yet without rules where are we as a race? Without rules how do we race at anything? Miss Physics rules her universe, which we need to inhabit, with a fist of impermeable adamantine. The FIA pays less than the mighty teams to recruit people to counter those smarter and higher paid than they are to enforce overly prescriptive rules, and wonders why the teams endlessly have the lead. Did they do that on porpoise?

Yet it is all built on the vague, vital - no critical - concepts of freedom, utility, honour and respect that are unwritten around the World, yet craved and honoured. Unwritten, yet observed. Then an emboldened sociopath elects to press the unwritten rule to the limit. Bend it, break it, deny it, trample it, rewrite it in his own image. Then demand the rest of the rule system honours his rewriting of the rules. How ironic is it that rule breakers demand the system honour their rewritten rule? A sociopath who values sporting wins above the spirit of competition and above the honour of ethical competition within agreed, and honoured frameworks. Only valuing the sporting win so highly, because they know what it means to the rest of the World. If we allow this destruction of the rules facilitating the main battle tank rolling into the UFC octagon then all results are rendered meaningless victories. The humanity of the victory destroyed by the evil of the cheat.

When, at the battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas stood firm against Xerxes it was not in the name of sport. The next Olympics was not up-most in his mind at that moment the 300 drew swords together for the last time. The rule that applied above all others in that moment was the simplest rule of all on this planet. Kill or be killed. No need for a referee, as this is a self-monitoring situation.

Sir Lewis is not a warrior of old. The FIA is not an invading army. Our season 2022 gladiators are not stepping on to a bloody field of battle. Yet they bring passion, focus and honour. They expect the FIA in turn to provide a framework which applies rules such that skill can prevail, the playing field is as level of reality allows, and honour can be retained by all.

If the FIA fail to provide a fair framework? Then we have a dark sail on the horizon and storms closing in.

If Sir Lewis, V. Max, and the others in the 2022 mix drop all pretence of honour? Then we have an evil tussle and not a grand tourney since the tribes have gone to war.

The Chariot of the Sun God? Why dearest of readers, we all arrive there in the end. So let us not go quiet to the endless Winter night. Rather with honour, take the field of competition in good faith, knowing that faith and passion, is echoed, and as revered by the rule makers as it is by the gladiators. Otherwise, what is it we are fighting for?

Max Noble

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Max Noble, 27/04/2022 4:18

"@Chester - ah, no. Sir Lewis is mentioned where relevant. It is not “about” Lewis, but the much wider picture."

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2. Posted by Chester, 26/04/2022 13:10

"I am reading this five weeks after it was written. A very long, hard to read diatribe about Lewis Hamilton. As this year shows, Lewis has lived in a perfect car during the hybrid-era. And over eight years one cloud arrived which took away his chance for 8x WDC. I do not mourn. "

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3. Posted by Max Noble, 22/03/2022 12:23

"@Spindoctor - One should always exercise caution when spear fishing… most especially when the Great White Waffle is prowling the reef… :-) Glad you enjoyed!"

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4. Posted by Spindoctor, 20/03/2022 23:08

"@Max Noble
I searched high & low but failed to spear a single waffle. Given that all language is by definition metaphorical & all experience mediated I admire your style & agree very much with the substance."

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5. Posted by Max Noble, 19/03/2022 7:24

"@ClarkwasGod - A tragic history… Would have been amazing at the time… sigh… Not so much look back in anger, as look back and wince… :-("

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6. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 19/03/2022 1:11

"@Max - and I was in Paris for every one of his "victories " - can you have anti-climactic hindsight?"

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 19/03/2022 0:02

"@ClarkwasGod - my thanks, glad you enjoyed the key theme of the piece. Without the framework being known, and honoured, what honour is in the victory? I’m saddened to this day by Lance’s fall from grace. The defence of “Well everyone else was doing it at the time.” Is no defence at all. It just shows how normalised drug cheating had become within Cycling. Tragic on all levels. As for persons competing under “Neutral flags” at the Olympics… it makes a farce of the entire supposed anti-drug stance…

Chin up! Here comes the first race of season 2022! Track limits, weight limits, DTS no limits… Whatever next!?"

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8. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 18/03/2022 17:11

""Each would be empty if it were outside the rules for the rules give the triumph meaning."

As Ben Johnson demonstrated so shamefully.......

On your (as usual) excellent piece - I'm no fan of waffles - and this ain't one!!!

Is it surprising that certain "gents" within F1 are seemingly unable to resist opportunities to affirm that last year's ending was fair, sporting etc etc blah blah blah - are they trying to convince us? Nah - themselves, I suspect"

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 17/03/2022 3:22

"@Superbird70 - Amusing observation! Explains quite well why Kim Kardashian earns more than all those medical staff that have been saving lives at triple-time over the past two years…

@Devonlad - Ok… so we all have to have a new low before we can launch to a new high… I hear your message, but I’ll continue to write “alternate” style articles now and again, as this is pretty much the only site on the internet that publishes such different takes on the F1 universe…! Hopefully the third and final part of our season preview articles will be more to your liking. Miss Physics, and your eccentric scribe, actually take time to review the cars, and what we might expect over the coming season in terms of actual on-the-track action…

Agree with your observations; Yup since “Aqualung” the world has changed so very much, especially the commercialisation of sport! I read this week that the amount Cam Smith (Aussie Golfer) won for coming first at TPC Sawgrass (around $3.6 million US dollars…) was more from a single weekend than professional golfers would make in their careers back in the 1970’s…!!

As you note the colossal amounts of cash washing around Football make for insane salaries, and bizarre on, and off the field antics. Sigh…

Then the idea of stopping F1 every three seconds as they do in American Football would be surreal! If we could do it matrix-style and the referees could walk around the cars frozen precisely in time and agree who was being naughty it would be fascinating… and a 300Km GP would take about five days to complete! "

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10. Posted by Devonlad, 16/03/2022 17:47

"Alas I tend to side with Redphyve here. The best Max articles are lucid and thought-provoking with a clear(ish) message. This isn't one of them.

Since Jethro Tull (the band not the agriculturist) the perception of and interaction with the world of 'entertainment' (which includes sports) has changed beyond measure. Yes sporting rules are established but now spectator interactions are driven by controversies / clickbait. Netflix's Drive to Survive dismisses comments about inaccuracies and deliberate quotes out of context as 'storms in teacups'.

In football (a multi-billion pound worldwide business) it is acceptable to fake injury, waste time, swear at or try to intimidate the referee. In rugby union (tens of millions of pounds, played professionally in a handful of countries), try any of that and you will get sin-binned and / or the penalty moved forward 10 yards. Which sport has the bigger / clickbait audience? And attracts more sponsorship?

As a follower of F1 for 60 years, my personal opinion is that Lewis wuz robbed. I also think that the race stewards do a pretty good job the majority of the time. Rugby union referees have the luxury of stopping the game whilst viewing action replays of contentious moments from all angles - and fully consult the linesmen. F1 can't throw a red flag every time Max and Lewis rub wheels - or could they?"

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11. Posted by Superbird70, 16/03/2022 17:38

"@Max Noble- Interesting take on the situation. The use of gladiators or warriors as part of an allegory for sport is interesting. A point to remember is that gladiators were a small step above actors and prostitutes in the Roman social order. They used their bodies to entertain,and their value diminished with age. This a sport/entertainment driven by money. Max and Lewis are only valued as long as they put bums in the seats or eyes on the screen. The rules will be bent to make the spectacle as we may have alrady witnessed. Profit seems to win over humanity more often than not."

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12. Posted by Max Noble, 15/03/2022 23:12

"@Red5 - Xanadu split opinions last year… I’d prefer to think of it as art from start to finish rather than waffle… which is usually best served with ice cream and honey… :-)"

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13. Posted by Redphyve, 15/03/2022 14:52

"
Genuinely, I can't deal with this...it's waffle from start to finish. My apologies Max....but just...no.
"

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