F1: not just a sport

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

India is supposed to hold its first F1 race in 2011

India is supposed to hold its first F1 race in 2011

The Indian government has waded into F1’s dumbest argument: whether it’s a sport or not. The ministry of sports told JPSK Sports, the promoters of the proposed 2011 Indian Grand Prix:

F1 is not purely sports. It is entertainment and this venture by JPSK is a commercial initiative. […] The proposed F1 race does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavour for excelling in competition with others, keeping in view the whole sports movement from Olympics downwards.

This is probably a political tactic rather than a statement of sporting ideology. But even here in Britain, where F1 is much better understood, I often hear people telling me F1 ‘isn’t a sport’. Why is this? Do they have a point?


We should be wary of taking the above quote too seriously. Clearly, the idea that sport and entertainment are mutually exclusive is ridiculous.

Cricket, a firm favourite of many British and Indian sports fans, does nothing for me, but I wouldn’t try to make the case it isn’t a sport just because other people find it entertaining.

It doesn’t take a cynic to conclude that, for some reason, this government department doesn’t want to fund an Indian Grand Prix and is reaching for a flimsy argument to get out of coughing up the cash. GP2 driver Karun Chandhok had this to say:

Unfortunately in India, if it’s not cricket and it’s not an Olympic sport then it’s classified as a non-sport. Formula One is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It’s sad that our ministers and officials don’t think so.
Karun Chandhok, GP2 driver

‘It’s all down to the car’

Early this year the F1 world was rocked by the speed of the Brawn cars, which transformed Jenson Button from back marker to championship leader in a matter of months.

This provoked some complaints – mainly in the mainstream press – that F1 is simply a question of who has the best equipment.

There’s no doubt you aren’t going to win a world championship unless you have a decent car. The fortunes this year of the other British driver, Lewis Hamilton, are a pretty good case in point. Football blog Soccerlens recently put the case against Formula 1 on these grounds:

Lewis Hamilton was the youngest Champion in F1 history last year, shining with his aggressive driving style, tactical nous and cool temperament. He still possesses all those attributes this season too. But what he also possesses is a car that he has at various times this season described as ‘dead slow’.

But this overlooks the role a driver plays in developing the car. McLaren started the year with a slow car, but thanks to the efforts of the team and drivers in improving it, it is now a race winner. The same happened with Renault last year.


The dictionary definition of sport is “an activity, pastime, competition, etc that usually involves a degree of physical exertion”.

There’s no disputing the serious demands F1 racing makes on the strength and fitness of drivers. Their training regimes are notoriously rigorous.

So much so that we increasingly see top F1 drivers competing in athletic events, even during a racing season. Jenson Button ran an excellent triathlon time earlier this year, Mark Webber has run his very tough Pure Tasmania Challenge (where he broke a leg last year) and Jarno Trulli has contested marathons.

In a Grand Prix lasting up to two hours F1 drivers face constant, punishing physical demands while also maintaining unrelenting concentration and razor-sharp reactions

Something more

F1 not a sport? Hardly. Perhaps what India’s sports ministry meant to say is F1 is not just a sport.

The fact that F1 is more than just a sport is a fundamental part of its attraction to me – and, I suspect, many F1 Fanatic readers.

It’s not just a case of having a driver who can drive quickly, race hard, and and physically tough enough to get the job done.

It’s also a question of competitive engineering – who can build the best car and keep on developing it throughout a season.

Yes, the great days of outrageous innovation in F1 may be behind us – six-wheelers, ground effects, turbos and the rest. But F1 is still at the bleeding edge of technological development and it’s that which makes it a cut above other motor sports.

And, as far as I’m concerned, any other sport you care to mention.

Thanks to Dinesh Ciyanam on Twitter for the tip.


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114 comments on “F1: not just a sport”

  1. The dictionary definition of sport is “an activity, pastime, competition, etc that usually involves a degree of physical exertion”.

    But I thought Chess was a sport?

    It’s all just semantics really, but the real problem lies in what drives the sport (or whatever it is!) forward.

    In cricket, people talk about Twenty20 as a ‘product’ to be ‘marketed.’ Such talk drives me mad – but unfortunately we have people in charge and with power (Flavio and Bernie) that are getting more and more interested in the same language… the ‘show’ for example.

    It’s inevitable in capitalism to have competition marketed… it’s just when they tinker with the rules to suit the ‘market’ that’s when it becomes less of a ‘sport’… – and wanting shorter races is the classic example (F1’s version of twenty20 I guess).

    Make me a little sad to be honest… Now what happened to that Marx chap!!?? :)

    1. Sorry Keith.. I’ve had nightmare with my ‘bquote’ there : <

    2. What’s cricket?

  2. I’ve pointed out before, and John H brings it up above, that compared to other sports, the insiders of F1 definitely talk about putting up a “show” much more often. Even the drivers say things along the lines of “the important thing is for the fans to enjoy the show.”

    Quoting Alonso:

    But above all, Monaco is about the show for the fans and spectators who can get really close to the cars.

    “Above all,” really? What other principals in a sport have come close to saying something like that?

    I think a good filter for a sport is this: Would it exist or continue to survive without a large fan following? Sports like fencing aren’t exactly very popular, but they keep going. Often at the grassroots level.

    Would Formula 1 continue to exist without such a large fan following?

    1. On those lines, I think Rallying is much closer to being a sport than F1 is.

    2. Your filter’s a good one. But the following question might be improved by drawing less of a distinction between Formula One and open-wheel racing generally. The top-flight series is actually just one iteration of a much wider sport.

      We’d argue that there will always be amateur racers keen to get out on track at the weekends in the best equipment they can afford – and there are a large number of open-wheel formulas that allow them to do just that.

      Therefore open-wheel racing would undoubtedly continue to exist without a fan following and at grassroots level. But the sheer scale of the budget needed to race an F1 car – well that’s another matter entirely.

      On the other hand, we do remember reading some speculation over the last year or two that Ecclestone might dispense with the trouble of throwing open the gates to the paying public and hold a ‘closed’ event for F1 insiders only…

      1. Yeah, good points.

        If someone wanted to argue that F1 is indeed a sport, the best way to go about is to first argue that motorsport in general is clearly a sport (easy to do*), and then argue that F1 (and as you say, open wheel racing) is a specialized form of motorsport.

        * You could go from: Running is a sport => Bicycling is a sport => Motorbikes are a sport => car racing is a sport.

  3. “F1 is not purely sports. It is entertainment and… a commercial initiative.”
    Isn’t that any proffessional sport these days? the first part of this article annoys me like crazy. How is F1 not a sport in the slightest? to me, that statement has the implication that swimming isn’t a sport now due to the advance in that controversial suit. i can’t understand how such ignorance can be within the ministry of sports! keith, you should invite them to an ‘F1 Education session’.

    1. As I said above, In my opinion F1 becomes less of a sport when the rule changes are purely to put on a show (such as the two tyre compounds).

      Swimming authorities have taken the step to ban the special suits for other reasons – namely to keep it as a fair contest between athletes.

      The difficulty comes by thinking that in F1, part of the competition IS developing the car/swimsuit. This is what makes it different from other open wheeled formulae.

      1. you have to admit that it’s entertainment more than sport.

        the teams and bernie etc even weigh in and remind themselves that they are in the entertainment business.

        for the drivers and teams it’s a sport, but for everyone else it’s more entertainment than sport.

        comparing it to football, anyone can go outside and play football, but no one can go outside and play f1.

        india is looking at it from a ‘how can we help the people with the money we are spending’ point of view, and comparing it to football it doesn’t make the cut.

        motorsport as a whole is sporting, anyone can go out and get into karting, and work their way up to small and mid engine open racing and what not. lots of low cost ways to be in motorsport – but f1 alone i’d rate higher as entertainment than sport.

        imo anyway.

  4. This may sound a bit wieird. But I’ll chip in my 2ps worth.

    I grew up in a military family, and as such, we went to lots of Airshows. And for my own personal part, I see F1 as similar to an Airshow.

    I am more interested in the amazing machines than the drivers and teams. When I see “Fanboys” and people kissing and praying over the cars as I saw in Monaco, I realise I am not a real “fan”……

    So for me, the race days, and practice sessions are more about hearing and seeing the cars, than following any “sport”…

    Though I DO get cought up in the excitment and sporting elements too. Its just not my main reason for watching.

    Weird huh……lol.

    1. I’m the same :)

    2. Well, It’s different for you, you are clearly not a fan of the sport… just a fan of the cars, which are really cool, but in other hand, I do follow practices, driver switches and winter developments, etc…

  5. There’s no doubt in my mind that Formula One, or motor racing in general, is a sport. In fact, according to E.M. Hemingway, it is one of only three sports. ;-)

    However, F1 is also a business, as well as a political arena, as is any business of a certain size, and with certain (financial) interests.

    The same goes for sports (or games, to stick with Hemingway) like top league football all across the globe, Major League Baseball, athletics, et cetera.

  6. I dont know about you guys, I got in it to see those massive crashes, with bits and tyres flying all over the place. I was 12 at the time, and didnt care much who won, but eventually like Senna and carried on supporting him until that day. from then on i supported the innovations in F1, and now i’m kind of bummed out that they have dumbed down the whole point of the Formula. but still i was bitten and now an infect and contagious fan.

    F1 is as much about money as it is about sports. if you look at it from a driving point of view it’s physical sports and endurance no doubt. from a team’s perspective, it’s more crucial for the team to be on the ball than a football squad. as a show, it definitely is a show as well, after all the Olympics is all about the show, the world athletics championship are where the best of the best race, and records are set.

    I was a sprinter in my school track team, and appreciate all sorts of athletic sport, but then i drove a track car around a track for 6 laps, and there i gained a greater respect for the endurance race drivers have, not to mention skill and consistency.

    I say put that politician in a proper race car and send him off for a few laps, and he will then change his mind, and India will probably have gov support for its race, although i believe India has enough private money to help fund a racetrack, but that is a different discussion.

  7. I don’t think anyone here would not describe F1 as a sport.

    You often see debates on sports pages about what is a sport, people will bring up Motorsport because of the machinery and things such as Darts and Snooker which some describe as pub games.

    You could argue that events such as synchronized swimming and other ones where points are decided by judges, rather than who crossed the line first or had the quickest time, have more in common with the arts such as dancing than other sports.

    I think in the end the term sport could probably be used to describe a lot of things from the World Tiddlywinks Championships to the Olympics.

    When people describe putting on a show in relation to F1 it might just be a catch all term for practice, qualifying, the race itself and all the other extras such as autograph sessions.

    Sometimes someone starts using a phrase and it then becomes commonplace in that group, you just have to look at ‘for sure’ in F1 or phrases such as ‘at the end of the day ‘ in English Football.

  8. Good article.

    With all these cost cuttings though, I expect it to become more of a sport. Less money means less research, which also means less innovations. I partially understand that some stance was needed, but I fear it’s too much now.

  9. Of course we all know Football is a sport, no doubt about that, aye? you barbarians. There’s no better way to gauge a sporting activity then to see its fans bottle each other.

    That’s why F1 isn’t a sport, I’ve never been punched in the face by a Kimi fan.

    1. ROFL!

      In my opinion, people who don’t watch the sport are just too blind to see it. Just because it is the driver who appears in the television, they think it is a one-individual sport, and that it is just the driver and his machinery who makes things happen.

      What they do forget is that Formula One is a team sport, and that the car does not build up by itself. There are a lot of engineers and mechanics who makes things happen, working hard as a team to make a race winning car, but it does not drive around the track by itself, so they need a good driver.

      A grand prix is won by a team, not by a individual driver, and maybe when they realize it and the competition between the teams, they will consider it as a sport.

      Anyway, it is more down to a philosophical interpretation, and those who dislike motorsport in genereal tends to think it is not a sport.

      1. Exactly, I was getting ready to post something similar. To add to your post and to comment on the Football blog, all team sports are won by a team, not a person. The reason Lewis isn’t what he was last year is because of his TEAM. The same thing happens in sports like football, American football, baseball, and so on….
        I can remember when the Chicago Bulls didn’t win championships even when they had Michael Jordon, just like McLaren is not going to win, even with Hamilton.

        I think the Football blog argument is even worse than the Indian governments argument.

  10. Indian politicians are amongst the most corrupt organisms that dregs this earth. This country is being held back by dirty corrupt politicians who don’t give a damn to anything, except to gobble up public wealth. Politicians are just one face of the coin.

    Cricket, its a god damned sport played by a bunch of weirdos, who dropped out of school or college. Its the most frustrating,over-hyped, good for nothing sport i’ve ever come across. This effing cricket has destroyed all other sport in India.

    I purely blame the colonial Britishers for having taught indians how to play this useless cricket. its destoyed every other sport in india. Prior to the rise of this cricket, India were 7 time Olympic gold medalists in hockey ,but india didn’t even qualify for the 2008 olympics. india is ranked some 150 odd in football, shameful. for a nation of 1,147,995,904 people, thats a disgrace.

    Are they good at cricket? no, they are not!!! they are ranked 3or 4th!! And only 8 proper nations play this cursed sport.

    I blame the Indian politician & cricket for this appalling decision.

    P.S. India well never host a grand-prix, not until these good-for-nothing politicians are puked ;)

    1. Failed to make the First XI, did we? ;)

    2. Bigbadderboom
      27th August 2009, 11:22

      Nice balanced viw mp4, guess this once cuts a nerve with you!! ;)

    3. so tell us what you really think…=)

  11. I was expecting an article on this issue from you, Keith.

    As an Indian, this statement hurts. Formula1 is a sport as much as cricket or football is. And for avid followers, it is more than that.

    However, when an Indian politician answers any question posed to him, he doesn’t look up the dictionary to qualify his / her statements (like Keith). The Indian politician only speaks to please his / her voters.

    And the 1 billion strong Indian population is ignorant about Formula1. A member of parliament who says he wants F1 in his constituency is likely to get 100 extra votes. A politician who says he wants a cricket ground in his constituency is likely to get atleast 10,000 extra votes.

    The current Congress Government is also pro-poor. It would rather distribute the F1 money to peasants who are suffering due to the errant monsoon this year. Or as the latest trend goes, build more and more IITs and IIMs, and dilute a great brand. Reason: It gets the votes!!

    India’s best chance of getting a F1 race was back in 2004, when the BJP was in power. And a certain Chandrababu Naidu, the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the 2nd largest state, was enthusiastic for a Formula 1 race. Sadly, he is now the leade of opposition.

    Unless, this vote-bank politics is eradicated, India can kiss F1 goodbye.

    1. I think there is a need for a Third Reich in India, not the NAZI way though.

      1. In India, politician go behind “common man” stuff… Say conman man’s transport – autorikshaw, common man’s sport – cricket(can be played with wooden bat(selfmade) and ball made up of rubber bands).. and F1 is clearly not common man’s sport…

        The spokesperson of ministry of sports ws like –

        And i think it makes sense… apart from that glamour part, F1 in India is not worth the money. They better invest that money in infrastructure.

        1. what spokesperson of ministry of sports was telling was –

          It was not one where sporting excellence or development of sports was involved. This project is absolutely beyond the realm of common man. We express our inability to consider it

          1. there is only one solution to this…. Bernie should meet the sports minister with a little bag with “something” in it….

  12. Well, Keith, the Indian Ministry of Sport has got a d–d cheek, sir, given what the Indian Premier League has done to the game of cricket worldwide in its bid introduce superfluous entertainment into what was already a perfectly good sport.

    Hypocrisy is a bitch, isn’t it?

    1. given what the Indian Premier League has done to the game of cricket worldwide in its bid introduce superfluous entertainment into what was already a perfectly good sport.

      Hypocrisy is a bitch, isn’t it?

      I think the Local Governing Body for Cricket BCCI in conjunction with Internation Governing Body ICC has done that. Blamining Indian Govt for that is barking on the wrong door isn’t it.

      I for one should congratulate Indian Govt for not falling in for Bernie’s trick and ending up with White Elephant of Track complex dumped on to them and then continuously get black mailed by Bernie that he will take event else where if they don’t come up with monies he want

      1. I think we could certainly agree on the fact that the current model being proposed by Ecclestone for countries wishing to stage races is unsound. Don’t forget that the future of the British Grand Prix is very uncertain just now. And one of the possible venues, Donington Park, has got itself into a right old mess trying to meet his requirements.

        Still can’t bear Twenty20, however :D

        1. I love test cricket, T20 and One Day are both bad vistas not showcasing beauty of cricket. So for that I agree with you that T20 is indeed irritating. Do you know I have seen in India Insect repellent brand called Tick20 ( and the brand has been around for ages) :P

    2. given what the Indian Premier League has done to the game of cricket worldwide

      Sorry, you’ll have to fill me in on the details. Is this that cricket premier league thing?

  13. Well here’s sitting on the fence but can F1 not be all of these things? There is the sporting action, there is the politics, there is technological prowess, there is the entertainment.

    Fans of the sport can follow all or a handful of the different aspects as their interest dictates.

    I love F1 primarily because I like seeing the most advanced drivers in the most advanced cars taking corners on the edge of adhesion in a bid to beat the other guy. Equally I keep on top of the politics between races because of the personalities involved; the Bernies, Maxs, Rons, etc. of this world.

    I don’t see why F1 can’t tick all the boxes.

  14. The only true sports are car racing, bull figthing and mountain climbing, all others are mere games” -Ernest Hemningway

    1. I’ve always modified that one to be sports car racing, boxing and mountain climbing. Bullfighting is a ******** coward’s game, a circus put on for more cowards.

  15. That’s why F1 isn’t a sport, I’ve never been punched in the face by a Kimi fan.

    Lol that’s why f1s better;)
    F1 is always going to be a business and have politics thanks ti the manufacturers and the teams that’s how it’s run with the big personalities in control but that’s how it still exists but it exists because it’s a sport and the races are watched because that is the sport in action.
    I think the only reason why people would say something like cricket or football is more of a sport (cricket for India because it’s also a big part of culture) is because behind of a wheel of a car it doesn’t look as physical, a remote driver behind a wheel even though we know there is a lot more to it than that. I’d rather watch f1 than seeing a portuguese dive everywhere. The critique of it being car dominated well that’s just part of the sport too with each team against each other, just another dimension.

  16. Circus vs. Gymnastics should draw out similar arguments. Is a circus a sport?

  17. f1 is a sport, its competitive and physical,

    F1 is a team sport, like soccef if you are a good player and you end up in a **** team, you are not going to make much of an influence, untill you work your was up to a better team.

    The exact same thing happenes in f1 the best drivers will end up in the best team. F1 is a team sport and you have to depend on other aspects not just yourself, like the car

  18. But this overlooks the role a driver plays in developing the car.

    Because it has nothing to do with how the competition is conducted.
    Also, it is not even the basis for evaluating drivers. And the drivers influence on the car’s development cannot even be measured. We may often give the driver more credit than it’s due. What else does the driver give his mechanics besides a driver’s feedback anyway…

    Think about it:
    Let’s say Button was faster than Sutil in Australia by 2 seconds. We imply this was only due to the Brawn being a faster car than Force India.
    Now, during the season the Force India car has impoved a whole lot more than the Brawn. At the last GP of the season the Brawn is a faster car than it was at the first GP by half a second, the India car is 2 sec faster than it was. So the India car is now only 0,5 sec behind Brawn, yet still a slower car.

    Now, we may say that Sutil has made a far better job at developing the car (his car improved 4 times more than Button’s) – but will he (or the team) be rewarded for it, relative to Button’s reward for his car development?
    No. Neither the efforts, nor the succes at developing the car will be rewarded.
    So you see, that’s not part of the competition.


    In a Grand Prix lasting up to two hours F1 drivers face constant, punishing physical demands while also maintaining unrelenting concentration and razor-sharp reactions

    There’s plenty of activities like that. Construction work on large heights requires the same, for even bigger amounts of time. But that doesn’t make it a sport.

    1. At the last GP of the season the Brawn is a faster car than it was at the first GP by half a second, the India car is 2 sec faster than it was. So the India car is now only 0,5 sec behind Brawn, yet still a slower car.

      well that’s because the Force India, with all due respect was a worst car than the brawn at the beginning of the season. the same would apply for Hamilton which had an even worse McLaren. driver feedback is an art similar to how a sprinter explains how he wants his shoes to be designed, it contributes to his performance.

    2. Damon, c’mon. Car development has everything to do with the competition because it is the car and the driver on the track. The reason Force India is not being rewarded is because although they have improved their car, they have not improved it enough. And Sutil, he had chances to score, spun into the wall and failed. I don’t think that should be rewarded. The bottom line is that F1 is more complex than some other sports because you’re dealing with high dollar cars that have loads of development. A good driver will be rewarded for better development (Alonso and Shumacher most recently).

      You’re construction argument is beyond weak.

    3. Sport involves competition. Construction workers don’t compete against each other in an organized way.

  19. Prisoner Monkeys
    27th August 2009, 11:52

    I think a lot of the decision arises from the rumours that Force India is in trouble. Vijay Mallya denies it, but the suggestion is that Dave Richards and Prodrive could buy them out and run the team in their stead – kind of like when Spyker purchased Midland and became known as Spyker MF1 – and then take full control for 2010. Even with the grid vacancies being opened up, it’s looking less and less likely that an Indian will be in the sport any time soon. Narain Karthikeyan had his chance and disappointed, while there’s a whole host of GP2 and Formula Two drivers like Hulkenberg, Soucek, Petrov and so on who would likely step up before Karun Chandhok is even considered. If there are no Indian drivers and no Indian team in Formula One, the Indian government is going to be very hard-pressed to make a case for funding an Indian Grand Prix.

    1. Vijay Mallya is one rich SOaB!!! He’ll never pull-out of F1 in the near future. The man’s a juggler. He has stepped foot everywhere. From politics to airlines, from alcohol to IPL(a useless cricket league). He’s involved in almost everything. I have never personally liked him though, with all those riches, he can do some charity, but he doesn’t. He’s an Indian version of Flavio to say the least. I’m sure Force India will stay on in F1 for some more time.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        27th August 2009, 12:45

        I wouldn’t go crediting him with too much. Sure, he owns an airliner, but it is notoriously difficult to run an airliner at a profit. And I’m told he’s been trying to sell off large parts of the booze business, bu he hasn’t had any takers. Nor is it likely he can rely on financial institutions like ICICI given the worldwide financial situation.

        Sure, he’d like Force India to stay in the spot. Be he supposedly owes both Ferrari and Mercedes massive amounts of money left overfrom their engine suply deals.

  20. In the same article you can read this:

    Sanjay Sharma, head of motorsports JK Tyres, was also surprised by the comments made by ministry officials. “This sport has always been patronized by the government. In the 1980s, in the Himalayan Rally, some of the world’s top teams participated and the President used to flag off the rally. The FMSCI is recognized by the government. So what exactly is the issue at hand is a bit unclear,” remarked Sharma.

    I’m afraid the minister declarations have not been very fortunate but, at the end, I think he was trying to send a clear message to JPSK Sports: “This goverment is not going to subsidize the event”

    I don’t see anything wrong on this.

  21. If the Indian Government does decide to host a grand prix in 2011, i sincerely hope they do not hire the mass formula one circuit rapist HERMANN TILKE. He’s raped enough tracks around the world. Please this is a plea from an F1 fan.

    1. I second that motion, but one sec, i see a lot of people insinuating that governments should help, i don’t think they should.

      F1 is a major undertaking with a heap of benefits, if done right, any private rich SOB can finance a race in India, why are they reaching to the government? i still don’t get it…. Vijay himself can undertake this and pull it off if he truly wants, but what he wants is the Gov to put some cash in because if the business is a looser, he wont loose much…. nope no it doesn’t make sense, i tried at least.

      1. Ronman, I think that government money are needed due to Bernie’s greed. He charges just too much to host a F1 event. Then the ticket prices goes as high as the stratosphere and there is just no crowd with enough money to watch it: just look at the grandstands at the Turkish GP and the hell lot of people outside the track because they just couldn’t afford the tickets!

        So, if there is no crowd, there is no revenue and the promoters loose a hell lot of money. Then they ask help from the government, which instead of funding schools, hospitals, police stations and medical researches, spend money in a F1 event. In the end, those who paid $1.500 for a ticket may have paid $1.700, because it public money is used to fund the event, and we are talk about millions of money.

        I think the indian government is absolutely right in not funding it (as well as any other government that does not fund it), because if Bernie were less greedy, everyone could make money from it. Shame.

        1. I think keith must write an article on the greediest people in F1. bet bernie would figure on the top.

    2. But does the Indian Government has anything to say regarding who wiill design the circuit? I guess it would still be Tilke even if the government opposes him

    3. the mass formula one circuit rapist HERMANN TILKE

      Do you honestly believe he has a free hand at designing and remodelling tracks ?
      If you do then you’re either very young, very naive or both.

      He is given a very strict set of rules to follow from the FIA and is then given a specific design brief from the owners of the circuit.

      It’s easy to sit at your PC criticising but I’d like to see you, or anyone else for that matter, do a better job under such conditions.

      He showed some of his own designs in an interview he did a few years ago (I think it was with F1 racing magazine but I can’t find a link) and the tracks had loads of elevation changes, banked corners and all of the other ingredients you’d want in a dream circuit. He also had a design for a track in the Alps where the start/finish was a few hundred meters above the back-straight with some unbelievable gradients in between. Unfortunately he doesn’t get to build tracks like these because that’s not what the FIA and the track owners want.

      If you want to vent your pseudo-outrage at someone then you’d be better off directing it towards the FIA and the people who write the track design regulations as they’re the ones who have made exciting track design against the rules due to the banking, gradient, run-off and other limitations that have been imposed on new tracks.
      The best corners & best tracks throughout the history of F1 would now be illegal due to these rules and that’s the real reason modern tracks are so boring.

      1. It’s his job, isn’t it?.

        Some people had to build the Titanic and they did it, even if the technoligies didn’t help at the time.

        If he signs a contract to build a new race track and it ends up being as rubbish as the Valencia Street Circuit, then he really is doing his job badly!

        A doctor has to cure people successfully. An engineer has to design a great engine. And Herman Tilke has to build a great race track, and bear with me, he’s failing!.

        1. If he’s doing such a bad job then why is he still doing it after so many years and several tracks ?

          The FIA want him to build safe tracks with enough space for grandstands, pit-lanes, TV camera stations, marshalling posts, medical facilities, paddock club facilities, media facilities, transport links, merchandise stalls, heliports and lots of other things too but at no point have they ever told him to build a great track.

          I may want him too, you may want him too but we don’t sign the contracts, the FIA, FOM and track owners do and they couldn’t care less as good racing is not their number one priority, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the quality of racing isn’t even a design brief requirement.

          For example, the Chinese GP, the owners wanted a track layout that was inspired from the Chinese character shang the first character in the name of the city Shanghai. How good a track can you design when the owners give you such a specific brief, considering the already stringent FIA regulations and other requirements ?

          If you wanted a chocolate cake for your birthday but the person who ordered it ordered a banana cake then it wouldn’t make the baker bad at his job just because you got a flavour you didn’t want, equally just because we want tracks that provide good racing it doesn’t make Tilke a bad designer when the FIA etc order a track with different characteristics.

          There are many things about current F1 cars that I hate but I don’t blame the designers as they’re just working within the regulations they’ve been given, the same is true for the tracks, in my opinion.

  22. If horse racing or boat racing is a sport, F1 clearly is. Surely even events such as archery and shooting put some emphasis on the equipment used as much as the competitor.

  23. I always compare it with Yatching. There, the “machinery” is essencial. You can’t win with a dreadful little boat. You have to have a top shelf yatch.

    And it’s considered a sport (it’s even an Olympic sport).

    This is it’s not about F1 only. The whole motorsports world is often said not to be a sport. I’ve always wondered if the people that say that have ever got in a car and tried to drive as fast as they could. I’m quite sure they haven’t.

    You push yourself and the machinery to the limit. You try to go beyond the limit. Just like Usain Bolt does when he tries to run 100 meters in 9.5 seconds, or just like Amstrong tried to win the Tour of France. And you wouldn’t say: “it’s only the bike”, would you?

    1. Completely agree with this analogy.

      But would you specify 2 types of sail throughout the race to improve the show?

    2. I always compare it with Yatching. There, the “machinery” is essencial. You can’t win with a dreadful little boat. You have to have a top shelf yatch.

      That’s a really good point of comparison, I think.

      1. I honestly think the people that says Motorsport is not an sport think: “well, it’s 4 wheels and an engine, isn’t it?”.

        It’s still and endless discussion.

  24. Anything that is on Eurosport is a sport to me. I don’t hold with the “can you do it holding a beer” line of argument, I once scored a double hattrick in an admittedly casual game of football with a can in one hand throughout.

  25. F1 is not purely sports. It is entertainment and this venture by JKSP is a commercial initiative. […]

    tell me which sport in this world is not viewed as entertainment? All entertaining sports are commercial in nature.Such a stupid remark by the noob indian minister.

    The proposed F1 race does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavour for excelling in competition with others

    endeavour: earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something.

    Tell me what is cricket accomplishing? Cricket was a pass time in imperial britian,probably the longest & most boring sport played only by former british colonies & there exists a world cup for this!!! & only 8 nations participate!! yet the indian govt rejoices when its nation finishes runner-up!! muahaha.

    A man almost lost his life trying to reach the very peak of human endeavour barely a month ago, yet this indian govt calls cricket the pinnacle of human endeavour, when its players wear a protection to cover their ballz!!

    keeping in view the whole sports movement from Olympics downwards.

    Who is this bloody indian minister making these statements?? i would stuff his mouth with the dirt from the un-asphalted indian roads! Since when has cricket been an olympic sport? These Indian ministers are a bunch of hypocrites, they never fund Olympic sports. instead, the sport minister will use up that money for managing his various wives.

    corrupt politicians destroying the image of the nation.

  26. I think Luca Badoer is a prime example of how it’s not just the car. If it was just the car wouldn’t he be next to Kimi. It takes skill to even drive these cars let alone race them so how is it not a sport?
    Also on the equipment side of things we have the new swimming suits and better bike tech for cycling, both of which can give advantages, yet they are still considered sports.

    1. I concur.

    2. I too concur.

  27. And I thought it was Soap Opera…….perhaps better suited to Bollywood?……..perhaps they can get grant from the Indian Government for a film!!!!!!!!!

    1. Well Said .. they should go to Govt and get it approved as Entertainment
      After F1 is all the happens between the racing weekends and then a dull procession on Sunday Afternoon..

  28. If Foosball and Billiards are enough of a sport to be shown on channels like ESPN and Versus (ESPN’s competition), then they need to shut up about F1.

    And in virtually any sport if you don’t have the latest and greatest in equipment, your competition will crush you! Cycling is a perfect example of one such sport. Swimming is another recent example where some swimmers had a new more hydrodynamically efficient suit and were beating the ones who didn’t.

  29. From my point of view soccer and cricket seem to as political and as technological as F1, with all these ‘third umpires’ and cameras in the stumps.
    Soccer certainly is run as a business and wouldn’t survive in this country without sponsorship deals and TV money – and the teams fight over that just as much as the F1 teams do.

  30. It’s whatever you want it to be…

  31. Organsised teams engaged in competition with each other for prizes in front of millions of people around the world under a structured set of rules?

    Of course it’s a sport.

    1. well a fluctuating set of structured rules, you should have said LOL

  32. Cricket: One of the only games I know, which can go on FOR DAYS, scores in the 100s…and STILL end in a “Draw”…


    1. Valencia GP or for that any F1 race, no activity on track, races won on strategies(In Pits),

      So much bitching and backstabbing between drivers-teams-Organizer(FOM)-Governing Body (FIA)
      Sound more like Soap-Opera than a Sport. Of course when one driver wins his GF shaking Jugs in Team Garage is only entertaining thing of the race weekends.

      And this view comes from a Fan who loved F1 in 80-90’s the new millenium simply has made F1 a running Joke

      1. Still in there though ain’t ya, or stumbled here by accident?

  33. “There are only three sports, bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering. The rest are merely games” – Ernest Hemingway

    That’s one of my favorite quotes of all time. I guess that sums it up.

    The Indians will never get anything apart from Cricket. If there’s a wicket, bat made of a coconut tree branch, and ball made of straw, its cricket and nothing less.

    I’ve many a person comment on F1’s credibility as a sport. Some people honestly think that racing is just about driving round in circles!!!

  34. I think the only thing required for F1 to be a sport is for the results to not be contrived. But when things like the 2006 mass damper controversy happen it makes you wonder…

  35. But people here must note that some of the most fanatical f1 fans are from India. Google trends show that Indians follow F1Fanatic very avidly, surprisingly they occupy third-spot :) .Pity this fact gets overshadowed most of the time. All the countries in that trends list, 10 in all have hosted an F1 race at some-point in time. Surely India deserves its race.


    1. Yes, F1 popularity is growing rapidly. Only in cities though. As you rightly pointed out, Indians are the third most popular set of people here.

      That explains why articles about the Indian GP have now graduated from the “F1 news in Brief column” to “Articles in full”. This is also the first article written in detail by Keith about the Indian GP, I think.

      1. The effing Indian government must scrap the mission to moon or Jupiter or where ever they want to send their satellite & man to!! The Americans never went to the moon, nor did the russians, so i’m pretty sure indians will never go to the moon. Apollo,Sputnik,chandrayaan its all a farce. general public never get to see whats happening inside nasa or isro. Its high time indians got real, get a non-hermann tilke,non-street circuit for themselves. I would rather boast of a spa like circuit in bombay or bangalore or where ever, rather than being shown moon-like rocks,convincing me to believe its from the moon, only for me to later find out that it was dug out from the mariana trench!!!

        1. The circuit location has been finalised as Greater Noida, 50 km from Delhi. The circuit will be roughly 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) and will be designed by F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke.

          Source: Indian Grand Prix article at Wikipedia ;)

          Sorry if I did shatter your dreams, mp4…

  36. I’m a big fan, but I wouldn’t call it a sport at all either. Somebody said “It’s only a sport for about two hours on Sunday.” I can almost agree with that.

    1. It was Frank Williams.

  37. I for one should congratulate Indian Govt for not falling in for Bernie’s trick and ending up with White Elephant of Track complex dumped on to them and then continuously get black mailed by Bernie that he will take event else where if they don’t come up with monies he want.

    I have seen how Malaysian Govt is taken for hostage to maintain the Sepang Circuit and doesn’t make pittance on F1 race and for non-F1 events there is hardly any crowd attendance ( Have watched A1GP and Touring Car events from Grandstands having paid for cattle class tickets coz grand stands were empty). If Indeed Indian Govt wants to stay clear off this F1 initiative and let it be baby of JPSK Sports or whoever is wooing Bernie to get event to India, I heartily applaud Govt of India for that

  38. I do not think Indian Government should get involved in this at all. If F1 organizers wish to purchase land, they should get it for market price. NO subsidies. I only hope they will put the money that they get to good use.

    F1 should get a private sponsorship for creating and maintaining the track, not government subsidies. Let Max and Co. give money for once.

  39. My definition of sport is people competing against each other regardless of the equipment; tennis balls, soccer balls, cricket bats, or cars. Obviously the skill sets and conditioning for each may be different, not to mention the costs of competing.

    Even if F1 died motor racing would continue at the grass roots level, where it all originated. Unless the Greenies and safety Czars manage to banish the concept. Not opposed to either concept, just don’t mangle the context of my favorite sport beyond recognition.

  40. I think there are two questions.

    Firstly, is F1 a sport? I’d say it’s a mix of sport (human driver skill and endurance plus team strategy) and competition (driver technical know-how plus team engineering etc.) If we imagined the cars racing automatically without drivers, it would still be a competition, but not a sport.

    Secondly, is F1 a fair sport/competition? This is much trickier. Here there are two issues: the funds and other resources available to each team, and the administration of F1 (i.e. FIA). Personally I think this – the politics behind FIA and the team politics – is where F1 tarnishes its image as a (fair) sport.

  41. Well, this is not a black&answer. If you look at any newspaper, web site, pretty much anywhere, all car/motorcycle/speedboats stuff is grouped under “motorsports”. So, no one argues that these are all sports, just different kinds of sports, where not just athletic abilities play a key role, but also car, racing strategy, mechanics changing tires (yeah, recent Alonso and Hamilton incidents) play critical role. Remove one block and all falls apart. I remember dumb discussions: would Schumacher, win in Minardi, or Alex Yoong (or Badoer for recent example) win in Ferrari? been there, seen this.
    Yes, all motorsports ARE SPORTS, just different. And by the way, ALL sports ARE shows and entertainments. And if any one argues otherwise, well, that’s stupid politics and even more stupid politicians who serve their agenda (did I mention that we elect them :-)?) Well, next time you have elections in your country/province/state/county, whatever.. ask politician if motorsports are sports or not. Then make your vote accordingly. (Just joking)!

    And for the next race: GO RUBINHO GO!!!!!

    1. Igor! when will you post your next set of vintage photographs? :)

      1. Hi there
        Thanks for remembering those. check my online galleries: http://picasaweb.google.com/Igor.Entin2
        I keep adding new stuff. Recently I received photos from Mansell and Forghieri (Ferrari Chief designer 1963 – 1985) – will add them by weekend; there are new photos from “El Cabezon” – Froilan Gonzalez, Stirling Moss, Robert Manzon, Giannino Marzotto, Mario Andretti and Jackie Stewart. Now 1968 Spanish GP is double signed by Brabham and Stewart and 1976 British GP – by Lauda and Andretti. Also, check the first gallery – new autographed photos of Ascari and Farina. Some good stuff.

  42. I think that Keith hit the nail on the head when he said that the sports ministry was just offering a lame excuse when it said that F1 is not just a sport.
    The fact of the matter is that an F1 track requires a huge amount of investment which the Government is not ready to dole out, nor should it imo.
    India is a developing country after all with a huge population that needs feeding and massive improvements in infrastructure required. I see people blaming the Government’s support for cricket but you have to consider that the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control of India) is one of the biggest earners for sports team in the world.
    Even I as an F1 fan think that that money can be used for much better purposes (you only have to drive on Delhi roads for about 2 hrs to come to that conclusion).

    It is not a question of whether F1 is a sport or not rather whether F1 is a sport worth investing so much time and money for a developing country.

    Imo F1 is only worth investing in for developed economies or for economies with a lot of oil money ;).
    Sadly, India doesn’t fall under either category!

    1. Then why the hell does India want to send man to the moon?

      Why the hell does it want to develop supersonic intercontinental ballistic missiles?

      Why the hell does it falsely declare the 1998 Nuclear tests a failure & go ahead with more nuclear tests?

      Why the hell does it want a permanent membership at the UNSC?

      Why the hell is it a part of G-20?

      Why the hell is it hosting the commonwealth games in 2010?

      Why the hell does it falsely declare its economy is growing at 9.8%, when it isn’t ?

      Its high time India stops behaving like a quack nation, & gets itself a formula one track.

      N.B. Rio isn’t such a rich place after all, its surrounded by probably the biggest slum in south america, yet brazil has some of the finest racing tracks in the world, not to mention the finest ever driver(rip).

      1. Most of the things you mentioned above are major steps to becoming a developed nation. Sadly, hosting a formula 1 race has no bearing on a nation’s status at all.
        And do you honestly think that if India did have an F1 track we would be able to fill the stands with the ticket prices being the way they are? I went to Germany this year and watched the German GP live and I dream of the day I can do that in India. It isn’t a question of 5-10,000 die-hard fans shelling out 10,000-20,000 Rupees for race tickets, its whether a 100,000 people are willing to spend a lot of money to watch a sport some of them do not understand.
        Owning an F1 track is not a profitable business (as demonstrated by Fuji and Hockenheim) even in countries that have a long history in motorsport. For this reason an industrialist would not want to invest in it except if they have passion for the sport. The only Indian industrialist with that kind of money and passion is Vijay Mallya and I think he gets his fix for F1 through Force India.
        The Govt. on the other hand doesn’t have the resources or even the interest/inclination to invest in the sport (demonstrated by the lame excuse given by the sports minister).

        Trust me I would love to see the day India can boast of a state-of-the art F1 circuit, but, I’d rather see it after India can drastically reduce the poverty levels and create a healthier education system.

      2. I also believe that if the Indian Sports Ministry wants to promote F1 as a sport and take it seriously they should start by establishing top-class karting tracks and young driver programmes as that is the only way we can see top-class Indian drivers in Formula 1 in the future.

      3. Maybe the reason they gave was wrong but clearly the govt. is right in refusing the race promoters. There is no reason to spend taxpayer money on building a circuit that will be used just once a a year.

        And who’s to say Bernie won’t dump India after 5 years and move on to the next country that he can sucker out of their cash. What then?

        As much as I would like to see an F1 race in India, I think is really unfair for India to even be considered as an F1 venue when Montreal & Silverstone are not on the calender.

        And for the record, I think F1 is a sport.

  43. Falls short on the ‘degree of physical exertion’ test, doesn’t it? Unless the pieces are really big.

  44. Max should resign now!!!
    27th August 2009, 19:47

    Hi Keith yes F1 IS a sport and the greatest of all in my opinion, but when you find out that there are teams who are being favoured such as Ferrari with their secret veto, which was clearly done because it’s the team that attracts more viewers then yes its stops being a pure sport or at least it gets tainted.

    For F1 to be considered a sport it has to remain clean and transparent, nobody should try to mix things up so that the star of the “show” gets more airtime or whatever (stewards anyone???). The definition by itself doesn’t matter, would anyone dare to say the WWF (wrestling) is a sport? It’s just a sopa opera, there’s
    physical activity and they do wrestle but I can’t consider that a sport.

    So well just to finish up. Does anyone remember what Fernando Alonso said when he got penalized for “blocking” Massa during his hot lap in quali in Monza (2006)???

    1. I thought that the veto wasn’t ‘secret’, I thought the other teams were informed and it was discusses. Anyway, the veto thing is still stupid.

  45. For what its worth, the toxic dwarf would scare the biggies out of any self respecting government flunky, just look at the fangs on him! Willing ready and able to hold any country to ransom for the sport? balls! its the money! Greedy buggers are destroying my favorite sport!

  46. Grace Lovvorn
    27th August 2009, 21:39

    F1 is still a sport, even if it’s a motorsport. You have to have an immense strategy to drive the car…it’s no walk in the park. I also consider the drivers as athletes. They can’t be sitting in their living room every day eating ice cream and cake, can they? They wouldn’t be able to finish a race in that shape. Plus, I don’t think cricket players go do triathlons in their spare time, do they?
    In conclusion, F1 has every right to be considered a sport. And what does the Indian government have to do with it, anyways? They need to keep their noses out of the business of F1, and keep watching their boring cricket.

  47. These discussions about whether F1 is a “real sport” or not, are insipid, and boring and old.

    I absolutely hate all those inexplicably smug British sports fans, the vast majority of whom are slavishly devoted to football, who say crap like “Oh, but when one car’s faster than the other, it’s not a real contest is it?”.

    But when faceless foreign billionaires buy all the world’s best players and put them in three or four clubs, they’ve got no problem with that.

    Last year’s Belgian Grand Prix was far more exciting than anything that’s happened in the world of football in the last few seasons – even taking into consideration the fact that it was needlessly overshadowed by the trumped up “controversy” afterwards.

  48. Oh, and another thing. In F1, you won’t have your afternoon ruined by some annoying dork with a trumpet. Even if he did show up, you wouldn’t be able to hear him over the engines.

  49. It depends alot on your point of view as to whether F1, my favourite sport, is really a sport.

    Despite being an Aussie I watch premier league football and one could argue that it is not a ‘sport’ in the purest sense, since the teams with the biggest budgets win all the time. You get the odd upset – like Burnley beating Manchester Utd – but the status quo rarely changes.

    F1 is the same. The biggest budgets invariably win, keeping the same four or five teams at the top. The big change this year was in the regulation shake up combined with Ferrari and McLaren racing in ’08 down to the final round.

    But 2009 has shown F1 to be more a test of car than driver to the general public. F1 fans knew this for years. In this way, the Indians have a point. They may produce the greatest racing driver the world has ever seen but unless he/she is in a top car, they would not ever have a chance of winning their home GP (unless it rains). Why spend all the money required to host a GP when there is a back marker team from India (sort of) and no Indian drivers, certainly none who stand a chance of winning?

    1. How is F1 different from lets say football? In F1, the team with the best package usually wins the chamipionship. By best package, I mean car, driver, team boss, resources and facilities. In football, the BPL for example, its exactly the same. The team that ends up champion, usually has the best players, best manager, deep coffers and the top class training facilities.

      Lets draw parallels between F1 and the BPL in 08. Mclaren, arguably one of the most well equiped teams in driver(Lewis) , car (last year’s car was brilliant), team boss (Ron Dennis, 30 years in the sport!), deep coffers (can’t deny this) and facilities (arguably the best in F1 behind Ferrari). Man Utd have always had the best package as well. They had Ronaldo, best player in the world along with Messi and Iniesta, willy team boss in Sir Alex, loads of money and of course, they have the best training facilities in England…so whats the difference? When you look at both sports over the last 10 years or so, when has an outsider won the championship?

      You could have considered Renault as an outsider in 05 and 06, but you can’t deny the backing a manufacturer has. Same can be said about Chelsea in 05 and 06, Roman Abromovich’s millions got the them the best package.

      If F1 is 2 hours on Sunday afternoon…football is 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon…am I the only one who sees this?

    2. Clay, Toyota has the biggest budget in F1, so it’s clearly not 100% budget driven.

  50. To me, drivers are like the gladiators or the Knights of our modern age. Sport for the populations enjoyment. Sport.

  51. My friend has a theory that the difference between a sport and a game is that in a sport the physical action of perfmoring the game requires skill. For example, snooker is a sport because the physical action of playing a shot is a skill whilst chess is not because the physical action of moving a piece (not on deciding which move to make) requires no skill. Interestingly tiddlewinks is a sport by his metric ;)

    The “football vs F1” is interesting* in that it appears to think of F1 very much as an individual sport rather than a team sport. This seems to be the view taken by most casual fans and, really is the basis for all complaints along the lines of “it’s just depends on what car you get”.

    I can see how the confusion occurs but for me this is a fundamental part of the sport’s appeal. Motor racing is as much about cars as it is about drivers and people who do not like that are watching the wrong sport. Try telling Bernie though, the views of the harcore fan are generally the ones to be ignore when maximising profit is the aim.

    *I also couldn’t help but chuckle at the assertion that Hamilton won the world championship thanks to his ‘cool temperament.’ I would say he won it despite.

  52. When all’s said and done, does it really matter whether it’s called a sport or a show?

  53. Hello
    If f1 or motorsport is not a sport then why is it that i get really exhausted when i do 30 – 40 laps in a gokart and not soo tired or exhausted when i play a cricket match?

    I am from India and i belive indian goverment is retarded!

  54. Excellent post. It makes me realize the energy of words and pictures. I learn a lot, Wish you make a further progress in the future. thank you!

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