How politics ruined racing

Posted on | Author Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson, who helps run the F1 Fanatic Live Blogs, writes his first guest article on how politics and penalties have spoiled his love of F1.

Being a Canadian, and a proud one at that, I have always been fond of Canadian drivers no matter what form of motor sport. But there was a time back in the mid 90s that I was very proud to be a Formula 1 fan.

I saw my first glimpse of Jacques Villeneuve racing when I was nine years old. It was on a track around the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia in the Formula Atlantics series. I was immediately hooked, along with my father, on this up and coming star.

Even though Jacques did not win the championship in Atlantics that year, he moved on to the Indy Car series in 1994. Again, as a rookie, he was quite successful but did not win a championship in his first year. But the following season he won the Monaco Grand Prix of Indy Car racing, the Indianapolis 500, along with the IndyCar championship.

The following year, my father and I watched intently as Jacques teamed up with Damon Hill at Williams, becoming the first Canadian driver in Formula 1 in many years. We weren’t to be disappointed either, as in his second year he fought tooth and nail with Michael Schumacher to become world champion. I was a very proud Canadian and a very proud Formula 1 fan. We had bred a world class racing driver, and not only did he succeed, he conquered.

Ten years ago Formula 1 drivers were men on the track, racing each other, respecting each other (even if now and then there was a little bit of drama), and all in all provided a spectacle that was unmatched anywhere else. I was young and all I watched was the racing. I didn’t pay attention to the politics of who was colliding with who and getting punished in a negative way, or who was spanking who and being punished in a manner in which you don’t want to be caught on film.

I just loved racing. And Formula 1 was the acme of motor sport.

Fast forward to the 2008 season and, even though there has been lots of on track action and unpredictability, I have been thoroughly disappointed and completely gutted. There’s been scandal after scandal, on and off the track. There have been penalties galore and lots of complaining about them from both sides of the fence. But, most of all, there has been a lot of whiny, childish, and absolutely inconsiderate people involved in the championship this year. And I hate it. They are ruining it. They are ruining my sport. And I don’t like that one bit.

Since when did someone get penalised for racing? Since when did someone’s private sexual life have any credence on whether they can make judgements on motorsport? And since when was a sport so tainted by bad decisions that it seems that everyone has given up on making it any better?

I sit here waiting. I’m waiting to wake up and hope this has all been a dream. That my father will wake me up, make some breakfast, and reminisce about the amazing race we saw yesterday where Jacques made our country proud and won a championship. In a proper way.