As Formula 1 year begins, a reminder of its greatness

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All right, so you’ve probably noticed by the title that this isn’t the usual abusive rant about some topic to do with soccer. Instead this is going to be a loving rant about how Formula One is probably the coolest sport on the planet. And by the end of this article you will feel completely enlightened about the type of racing that Europeans love.

The first reason to give this season of Formula One a try is that there are currently six different world champions on the grid who represent fourteen different championships between them. Germany has Michael Schumacher, the most successful racing driver in the sport with seven world championships, and the Sebastian Vettel, the winner of the past two seasons. Britain has Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button representing her with one world championship each. Fernando Alonso of Spain has two championships and Kimi Raikonnen, Finland’s fastest current racer, has a single championship. Schumacher has only recently come out of retirement and Raikonnen has rejoined the sport after quitting to try his hand at rally car racing. This is the greatest collection of former winners in the history of this sport, making it a great time to get into it.

Supporting the sport typically means supporting either a driver or a team, or both can come together.
For Britain it’s an easy choice, since the best two drivers drive for the best British team, McLaren. The two drivers, however, have completely different styles: Jenson Button is very calm and keeps the car in good condition until the end of the race; Lewis Hamilton is the total opposite: he drives with a fierce ambition that either allows him to drive extremely well, or it leads to crashes. Both of these drivers have large followings in England and are considered to be major heroes.

The Germans have Michael Schumacher, who is known as one of the most cutthroat drivers, and used to stop at nothing to achieve victory. Sebastian Vettel is one of the greatest drivers to grace the sport: he was the youngest champion ever and is currently one of the sport’s nicest people. His style is aggressive but calm; he can maintain any lead he is given through his consistency.

Kimi Raikonnen is known as the Iceman because of his ruthless partying and driving. He may not be the most stylish driver or the most adventurous but he won his title in 2007 due to his consistency at getting in the top 3. Fernando Alonso is just plain arrogant. There are top drivers from countries across the world so people can support by nationality, team, or style.

Formula One is a global phenomenon. The races take place all across the planet, with drivers hailing from India, Australia, Japan, and Brazil. The sport is followed by a host of wealthy businessmen and celebrities wherever it goes, making it a bit of a playboy club. But with new teams joining the circuit each year — bringing new countries into the season — and new tracks being tested out, the sport is constantly moving around the planet, and there is no other sport quite as international as Formula One.

The sport is fraught with plenty of wonder stories about victorious drivers and teams. Button won his single title with Brawn GP, a team that only existed for one year and won the title. Brawn GP was created after Honda went bankrupt, and it won the title against much better and more established teams. Vettel won his first race driving for Torro Rosso, which is consistently one of the worst teams in the sport. From that moment on, Vettel has developed into one of the greatest drivers to ever grace the sport.

Drivers can win or lose championships right up until the last lap of the last race: Lewis Hamilton won his championship by overtaking the driver in front of him, Timo Glock, to secure 5th place in the final corner of the final race.

Another great thing about the modern race is the technical brilliance of the cars. These are extremely fast cars that race around a track of typically three kilometers per lap in about 1m:10s.

At this past weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, the winner, Jenson Button, regularly hit 140kmph, experiencing similar g-force to an astronaut when going into each curve. Driving 300km a race, drivers are in their cars for usually about an hour and a quarter.

The twisting circuits are considered to be an art form to create and many proposed tracks are not accepted simply because they are considered to be too routine. There are races through the streets of Monaco, the night race in Singapore, the ancient track of Silverstone in England, and plenty of purpose-built, high-quality, expensive circuits in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

I will get back to a column on soccer next week because I know that this is really what this is meant to be, but Formula One is one of the most technical sports around. It is how Europeans do racing: it is the cool, clever sibling of NASCAR who was captain of the football team and got all the girls in high school and college and in everyday life. It is just worth having a watch. The race is always on Sunday but you really want to check what time it is here since they race in the afternoon in whatever country they happen to be in (Australia and Malaysia start at 2:00am ET).

James is a sophomore. You can reach him at

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