Site logo

The Show Can't Go On


If F1 continues to put 'the show' before all else, it risks not only alienating the fans.

For quite a few years now, like many other sports, debate has raged over whether Formula One is a sport or entertainment, a show.

On Sunday we were given the answer.

"The whole point of red-flagging, it feels like it was just to put on a show," said Lando Norris. We've gone all the way to Australia, put in so much hard work, drive 56 laps perfectly, and because they try and put on a show... you can just get unlucky and everything can get taken away from you all of a sudden.

"At the end of the day, I know it is a show," he added, "but we're not here to just put on a good show, we want to race each other and be fair, and I don't think it's fair for everyone."

The McLaren driver's comments come just two weeks after Christian Horner described F1 as being like "the Kardashians on wheels".

From the moment Liberty Media bought control of the sport in early 2017 the mission was clear, to improve its popularity, and like the best shows to do this you need a great cast, superb production, an intriguing plot to keep viewers hooked, a first-class format and something for everyone.

The stars were already there in terms of the drivers, now what they needed to focus on was the production and the script.

While the regular fan was used to periods of domination by one team or driver, to entice a new audience what was needed was variety, and so the sport's powers-that-be set about levelling the playing field whilst seeking other means to 'spice up' the show.

A budget cap that had previously almost led to the break-up of the sport was finally accepted without a whimper, and whilst there were a few murmurs of indignation at the string of 'suggestions' coming from the new owner for the most part they were accepted, certainly by the teams.

In terms of placating the existing audience, 'fan-friendly' faces like Ross Brawn and subsequently Stefano Domenicali were brought on board. These were F1 people, F1 was in their DNA, "we can trust them with our sport" the existing audience felt.

But no sooner were they in position, enjoying the vast salaries FOM was willing to pay them, than it was clear that both had crossed over to the dark side.

As he assembled a technical team consisting of many of his old buddies from the various garages, poacher turned gamekeeper Brawn used every opportunity to push the latest gimmick being suggested by his paymasters.

His post-race debriefs never missed an opportunity to use the example of a set of occurrences that might have helped create an exciting race the day before to push the latest idea coming out of F1 Towers, be it the Sprint or reverse grids.

Meanwhile, Stefano became the smiling interface between the suits at F1 Towers, the teams and the fans, insisting that every move the sport made which appeared to be compromising its DNA was actually for the greater good.

With Brawn's retirement we were thankfully spared yesterday's debrief in which he would have sought to tell us that the stoppages on Sunday were necessary and that they had produced a great race.

What is most galling however is Stefano. Had he still been at the helm at Ferrari, his reaction to the penalty meted out to Carlos Sainz would have resulted in all manner of threats, right down to the infamous veto, or maybe even the threat to leave the sport. At the very least, he would have beaten Guenther Steiner to the stewards office to register his outrage at the unfairness of it all.

Of course, Sunday's events are what Drive to Survive is all about, and one can only guess at the number of pregnant pauses there will be when the DTS commentary team relives the drama when Season 6 airs next year.

If nothing else we have seen that lessons have not been learned since that infamous night in December 2021. Then again, why would they.

The sight of Michael Masi in the Melbourne paddock had the usual suspects up in arms, and now there is talk that his successor, Niels Wittich might soon face a similar fate.

We still believe, as we did that night, that Masi, though he made the incorrect decisions, was acting on orders, orders that came from the very top.

On Sunday, Haas' protest of the result, namely the decision to change the order before the final restart, was thrown out because time was running out and Wittich had to make a decision, fast.

Fact is, race directors are not there to make the rules, they are there, much like police officers, to apply the already agreed rules.

We have previously seen races end under the safety car, and while it is not satisfying - just like the decision to start behind the safety car at the merest hint of rain - it is the rule, and should not be open to change on the day simply because it will spice up the show.

Yes, that final lap at the Yas Marina in December 2021 was spectacular, it made the hairs on one's back stand on end. But the fact is it should not have happened.

And as for Sunday's decision to revert to a previous order, whilst punishing a driver for an incident that essentially never happened...

The 1976 movie Network, is famous for the scenes in which a Messianic TV newsman (Peter Finch) tells his audience to go to their windows, open them and shout "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

While one can understand F1 fans of a certain vintage feeling similar sentiments, the movie comes to mind because at times like Sunday and Abu Dhabi 2021, one can imagine the race director sitting at his desk while a screaming, ratings ravenous Faye Dunaway type from F1 Towers is screaming instructions in his ear... "Stop the race", "Penalise him!", "Let him catch up!"

There is no disputing that the most exiting parts of a race weekend are qualifying, particularly Q3 and the start.

Consequently, almost from the outset, F1 Towers has seen this as a means to improve the show, after all, why settle for one qualifying session when you can have two, why settle for one start when you can have two... three... four.

And as for those practice sessions, bin 'em, eh Stef?

Despite the fact that Baku is just under four weeks away the format has yet to be officially announced, a situation that under the old management would have had team bosses raging.

Indeed, for a sport/show that makes so much of its history, F1 Towers and the teams never missing an opportunity to celebrate a milestone, those men who made the sport what it is will be spinning in their graves at the sight of what F1 has now become.

F1 has been sacrificed on the altar of viewing figures, social media likes, clickbait headlines and talk around the coffee machine, and sadly, the teams, broadcasters and the media have been complicit.

Indeed, while Toto Wolff has criticised the number of red flag and called for clarity, contrarian as ever, Christian Horner has said the decision on Sunday was understandable, "the right thing to do", though one shudders to think how he would have reacted had either of his drivers been affected.

Ahead of Sunday's race we were informed that a cricketer enjoying the moments ahead of the race with a grid walkabout, had followed F1 "since Drive to Survive", the 2023 equivalent of Elizabeth Hurley's infamous "I'm going over there to watch the take-off" ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Bernie Ecclestone admitted that he had targeted F1 at an older, more affluent audience, those likely to buy yachts, expensive watches and cars as opposed to T-shirts and caps.

Under Liberty, F1 has aimed for a younger, much more diverse audience, and while this is great, and much needed - it cannot be at the cost of the sport's DNA.

The likes of Stefano need to remember why they fell in love with the sport in the first place, what made them not only want to follow it but to be involved, and if they are honest it will be a million miles away from what we witnessed on Sunday and what F1 Towers has planned for the future.

On Saturday, while talking about the forthcoming Sprint at Baku, Max Verstappen said the concept is at odds with the sport's DNA, hinting that further tinkering would cause him to reconsider his future in F1.

A lot of drivers were clearly very angry on Sunday evening, and if F1 continues to put the show before all else it could find that a number of its stars share similar thoughts to the two-time world champion.

Indeed, we hear whispers that despite what we see and what we are told, deep down a number of the teams are far from happy with the direction the sport is taking.


more news >



galleries >

  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • latest F1/Formula 1 images


or Register for a Pitpass ID to have your say

Please note that all posts are reactively moderated and must adhere to the site's posting rules and etiquette.

Post your comment



1. Posted by The stogie, 22/04/2023 0:38

"The problem right now with Formula One, the best series in the world, is that nobody seems to be able to 'steer the ship'. The BRUTAL Stewards program must be given a mercy killing, sooner rather than later. A REAL Race Director ala Charlie Whiting must be found somewhere. The criticism that the series has received over the last few years due to poor race direction has harmed it badly. "

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 10/04/2023 16:55

"One of the best parts of Melbourne? Seeing all the Austin Healeys taking the drivers round on the parade"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Max Noble, 08/04/2023 11:40

"Dang three races into the season, and PitPass is getting racy! Love spirited discourse, dislike nasty talk… Most of the time we all do a pretty good job of being respectful in our disagreements… long may it be so!

@Chester - Ah… @Kenji does “push the bounds” but that’s what makes the discourse fun! But let’s all be nice about it… I’ll be out the back holding hands and singing “We are the World” should anyone need me… Nah… that’s crap. I’m trying to out-pun my last article, and say something that gets the conversation moving… Someone pass me a fresh Red Bull and Vodka, let’s get the party started!

Rating: Positive (4)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

4. Posted by Chester, 07/04/2023 5:33

"@Editor and @Kenji: I see both of your arguments. For while, the top dogs pulling the strings want a show they can't control what the drivers do, namely driving like maniacs.

IMO, Kenji is not trolling. "

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

5. Posted by matra123, 06/04/2023 15:06

"F1 races have become an absolut farce, it is like four-wheeled World Federation of Wrestling events."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

6. Posted by kenji, 06/04/2023 12:14

"@ ED, Ah, you have me at a distinct disadvantage here as I have never seen the TC Affair so I cannot comment. As for fashion, well what can one say apart from the fact that what passes for fashion today is simply too
ridiculous but that may well be the desired effect!!! I do however believe that 'class and style' is sadly missing today and that great design is timeless. One really can't go past the dictum, that 'simplicity is elegance'."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

7. Posted by Editor, 06/04/2023 11:26

"@ TrackRecords

You, my friend, have hit a nerve.

"High fashion"?

High fashion is the work of Edith Head, the timeless class of Cecil Beaton's costumes for My Fair Lady and THAT grey suit Cary Grant wore in North by North West... complete with Ray Bans.

I saw the original Thomas Crown Affair on its release, and, being a Steve McQueen fan, absolutely loved it.

I saw it a few years later in a cinema and the first time Ms Dunaway appeared in one of those outfits there was (understandable) widespread laughter.

That movie has so many iconic moments, the flight in the glider accompanied by Noel Harrison's haunting Windmills of You Mind... "you were suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair..."

The chess match - albeit a little bit tame now - the robbery itself and the polo match, complete with parked-up Ferrari 275 GTB4 Spyder. Indeed, some of the suits Steve wore in the movie were almost on a par with Mr Grant's.

Only the other night, I watched the 1944 classic Laura, with the gorgeous Gene Tierney, her outfits were of their time but nowhere near as dated as those of Ms Dunaway in Thomas Crown.

If they were "high fashion" it was for the day, because now, and even just a few years later, they are a laughing stock.

And before you say anything, I have committed more than a few fashion faux pas myself over the years - 6 foot three and wearing three inch platforms (shudder) - but even so, I have never come close, in my own opinion, to making myself look as foolish as Ms Dunaway.

No doubt, Kenji will be along in a few moments to say that he liked the chiffon number she wore for the chess match so much that he bought it and that it now adorns a waxwork model of the actress in his man cave.

In the meantime...


I rest my case."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

8. Posted by Max Noble, 06/04/2023 10:03

"@trackrecords - all deaths are to be respected. I’m sure there are many Ukraine, and Russian mothers crying each night this past year… none of them would see the death of their sons as “additional”. At least Roland, and Ayrton died following a passion, not a lunatic Imperialist dream.

Coco had some brilliant sound-bites. She was also a pragmatic survivor. She would have been a world class ream boss.

I’m not in a position to comment on how many lazy women you’ve elected to consort with…

Films are story telling beauty, and the original TCA was a work of art for its time. The remake surprised me with how enjoyable I found it. The Southern PitPass Cats have Top Gun: Maverick on replay down here, so we’ve all sort of gone Hollywood OTT these past few months. I’ll be outback with a chilled beer and my Aviators if needed…

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

9. Posted by trackrecords, 06/04/2023 6:34

"@ FoytFan14

I assume that your comment is -naturally and obviously - stating, "on the same tragic weekend that took the life of Roland Ratzenberger too"?

His death was not secondary to Senna's, Senna's was additional to Ratzenberger's.


Rating: Negative (-1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

10. Posted by trackrecords, 06/04/2023 6:18

"@ Editor

"As for Ms Dunaway, the one and only thing that spoils the original Thomas Crown Affair is the horrendous and horribly dated outfits she wears"

As this has turned into International film discussions to fill the stupid 4 week gap when they could have gone to Portimao: the outfits Ms Dunaway wore were 'high fashion'.

As an astute Coco Chanel - the only time her name is going to feature on this site - stated, "Fashion comes and goes, but style lasts forever": case in point, the aforementioned outfits.

If I may add my own philosophy here: "maturity in realising that fashion does not necessarily equate to good taste, but dressing with style and class does." If you want a laugh, ask to see wedding photos of anybody married in the mid-1970s...

Equally quotable, and pertinent to motor racing, she commented the following:
"Strength is built by one's failures, not by one's successes";
"To achieve great things, we must first dream";
"To be irreplaceable, you have to be different";
"I don't care what you think about me. I don't think about you at all";
"You cannot keep up a nightlife and amount to anything in the day. You cannot indulge in those foods and liquors that destroy the physique and still hope to have a physique that functions with the minimum of destruction to itself. A candle burnt at both ends may shed a brighter light, but the darkness that follows is for a longer time";
"There are rich people, and there are those who have money. They are not the same people.";
"A woman needs independence, not equality. In most cases, equality is a step down.";
"Sin can be forgiven, but stupid is forever."

However, she wasn't infallible: "There are no ugly women, only lazy." - if that is so, I've had a misfortune to meet some women who are unbelievably lazy!

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

11. Posted by FoytFan14, 06/04/2023 6:11

"Baku will be the deciding factor in whether I continue to follow F1 or walk away. In almost 40 years of following F1 only the death of Ayrton Senna comes close to the current disillusionment I feel for F1."

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

12. Posted by Editor, 06/04/2023 3:22

"@ Spindoctor

It's what he does..."

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

13. Posted by kenji, 05/04/2023 23:58

"@Spindoctor....Trolling!...There is no trolling here just a different opinion which, AFAIK, was still an option. Rather than launch an 'ad hominem' attack why not simply debate whatever it is that is caught in your zip? The opportunity exists for you to freely debate anything that you see as wrong with my post in a seemly fashion. As for your accusation that I am ' contrarian', well I have no problem with that. I prefer to look at the facts and make up my own mind rather than slavishly join the 'herd'. Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm what? At least I own my own judgements."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

14. Posted by Spindoctor, 05/04/2023 22:48

"@Editor - quite so, F1 has an identity crisis & it looks like its going to "identify" as soap opera.

@kenji - serious level trolling there. Being contrarian only works if you can muster a credible (not necessarily correct) argument. "

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

15. Posted by ARL, 05/04/2023 15:08

" Quite so. How low can they go? Masi to return for a one-off at Las Vegas?"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

Share this page


Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2024. All rights reserved.

about us  |  advertise  |  contact  |  privacy & security  |  rss  |  terms