At some point I remembered the German Grand Prix was also on, but I admit I only half-listened to BBC Radio 5 Live’s coverage. With good reason, because the race was effectively over at the first corner and at the first utterance of the phrase ‘tyre management’ a few laps in, I found some more compelling household chores to absorb my attention.
Formula 1 used to be the sport that shaped my weekends. From the season’s start to the finale, I’d set alarms for early-start overseas races, negotiate parental permission to eat my dinner in front of the TV or program the VCR if we had an inconveniently timed family outing.
Now it barely registers, a fact compounded by its transferral to Sky Sports, my reluctance to spend hard-earned cash on a subscription and abject disorganisation when it comes to me working out which races are still broadcast free-to-air on Channel 4.
I often ponder whether I’ve simply grown out of Formula 1, now I’m in that phase of life where the past is adopting a rose-tinted hue. But then I consider what other more significant people think: Adrian Newey finds his cerebral powers no longer exercised by F1’s increasingly restrictive technical regulations, which is why he’s found other challenges away from the sport.
Ross Brawn, an interested first-time visitor to the Silverstone Classic last weekend, echoed similar sentiments when he told guests: “F1 alienates the fans a little bit, but events such as the Classic are great at bringing the fans back to motorsport.”
That, for me, is starkly concerning: two of the foremost minds in motor racing now find the challenge of the sport somewhat dulled.
In some countries, fans think similarly, disillusioned by too-high ticket prices, uninspiring on-track action and increasingly distant competitors. On Sunday, Radio 5’s commentators reported that several of the grandstands at Hockenheim had been covered over with tarpaulins to disguise the paucity of spectators turning up to watch. The crowd was put at about 50,000.
So what’s the solution? In my view, Formula 1 has to either revert to an ‘anything goes’ technical formula similar to CanAm (to re-engage the Neweys and Brawns and provide much-needed variety) or equalise performance like the BTCC (to serve up great racing for the fans).
The CanAm race at Silverstone was fantastic because it pitted a pair of distinctly different machines against each other, a factor is missing from Formula 1. The CanAm McLaren is powered by an 8.8-litre V8 and sounds like thunder; the Matra (running to World Sportscar rules) has a 3.0-litre V12 and produces a distinct shriek.