At the turn of the millennium, Formula 1 was already the mainstream sport par excellence. With Ferrari caps you sat in front of the TV and cheered on your favorite. And now that feeling is suddenly back – and yes, that’s a good thing!
Yes, before you say it: quite away Formula 1 never was, of course. But since Michael Schumacher finally hung up the ignition key in 2012, interest in the fast runabouts has noticeably decreased, and not just in Germany. Feels more every year. Sport probably couldn’t do much for that, there were always mainstream trends in sports.
In the 80s it was tennis with Boris and Steffi, in the early 90s basketball with Michael “Air” Jordan, in the late 90s the bizarre interlude with ski jumping, when suddenly Martin Schmitt became a household name and Pur composed a song extra. Around the turn of the millennium, we all loved Formula 1 and were rooting for the duels between Schumi and Mika Häkkinen. And then – then there was only football for a long time.
But trends, as we already know from fashion and music, move in cycles. The kids on the streets are again wearing cropped pants, hipsters and baggy jeans. And while ski jumping is still waiting for its big comeback, Formula 1 suddenly seems to be on everyone’s lips again. Even a Schumacher is driving again – Michael’s son Mick, who has been a driver in the Haas racing team for a year and a half.
You are now sitting in front of the TV again on Sundays and are spellbound for a good hour watching 20 cars driving in circles. Accompanied by the meditative roar of the engines. Brrrrrrrmmmm. Brrrrrrrschmmmm. Plus coffee and cake. One can find that boring. You can even find that bad when, in times of the climate crisis, massive exhaust gases are blown into the atmosphere or races take place in countries like Qatar, Azerbaijan or China. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that this spectacle – faster than you would like – can absolutely captivate you.
Formula 1: The cars don’t really matter
I don’t know anything about cars, I don’t know how engines work or what the difference is between petrol and diesel. I don’t even drive myself. But I have to admit that I’ve been fully involved in Formula 1 again for a good two years. Not because of the cars – because of the people.
The very successful Netflix documentary series “Drive To Survive” certainly also contributed to this, as a result of which many viewers started following the races live – although they had previously had zero interest in Formula 1. Like me, they don’t watch because they’re technically interested or because they’re celebrating the design of the new Ferrari or the elegance of the Mercedes, but they’re watching because of Daniel Ricciardo’s charming grin, Max Verstappen’s uncompromising determination, the dramatic back and forth between Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and finally Sergio Perez too. Exactly: because of the people.
Netflix has really done the sport a big favor. Now, when a Red Bull vehicle crashes into the gang, you know how, behind the scenes, Toto Wolff lets a casual little grin flicker across his angular face and Christian Horner tears his hair cursing. And how he might then call his Spice Girl wife Geri, who will later comfort him in flowing white robes in the English country house. Conversely, when things aren’t going well at Mercedes, you imagine Wolff grumbling and ordering just one pumpernickel instead of two at breakfast.
And currently everyone is happy for the always stressed-out team boss Günther Steiner, who had to flatter questionable investors for years in order to keep his permanently sluggish racing team afloat – because Haas driver Kevin Magnussen surprisingly reliably scores points this season.
It’s interesting what happens behind the scenes
Basically, that’s right, in a Formula 1 race you watch a bunch of different colored cars driving in circles for almost 60 laps. To anyone who doesn’t know anything else about the sport, this must indeed sound strange to pointless. That’s even more boring than the 22 boys with the ball, isn’t it?
But for those who know the characters behind the wheels, and the people behind the scenes, each race is like another episode of a well-made soap opera that doesn’t even need dialogue. Whereby the brief verbal contributions that the willing spectator gets to hear from the radio communication between the team and the driver can be quite fun – never forget Sebastian Vettel’s frustration Exclamation in German: “My God, does that have to be?!”
And probably every fan has their own storyline that they feverishly follow. In my case, that’s the great hope that Sebastian Vettel will finally end up back in the place in the table that he would have deserved when he was at Ferrari – if the car hadn’t been so bad and the team so uncooperative at the time. The problem is: His current Aston Martin, despite high expectations ahead of the new season, is more likely still lousy. Is there any way to get the car faster? It remains exciting.
It’s also exciting: Which drivers have a chance of a place in one of the better teams in the coming season? Which cars could be such a surprise in 2023 as the Ferrari this year? Which teammates can’t smell each other (looking at you, Mercedes and McLaren…), which drivers are thinking about retiring soon?
Then, of course, there are the race strategies: who chooses soft tyres, who chooses hard ones? Who bets on one, two or three pit stops? And who bets on ramming their opponent off the track in a kamikaze tantrum?
Pick your favourite
You can of course choose your own favourites. This season, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are the candidates with the greatest chance of success. However, cheering for one of them is a bit like being a Bayern Munich fan. It is just boring.
So if Sunday afternoons are always boring for you, just watch all the Netflix seasons of “Drive To Survive” and you’ll know quite a bit about the current field of drivers. And then pick your own personal underdog – and keep your fingers crossed until the end of the season while watching small, colorful cars on screens. Brrrrrrrmmmm.
Netflix documentary series “Drive To Survive”: all episodes to stream
Next Formula 1 race: May 8th in Miami, can be seen at e.g RTL9:30 p.m