Fastlane

Why Americans should care about Formula 1

Formula 1 can be extremely exciting. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

First of all, they are the fastest cars on the planet around a racetrack.  This is not in dispute. They have shared tracks with NASCAR and Indy car and completely blew away the former and were several seconds faster than the latter. They’re also significantly faster than MotoGP, aka the fastest motorcycles on the planet. So, if you’re into the fastest cars, these are them.

As far as G-forces go, no other profession routinely endures the level of G-forces that F1 drivers do. Fighter pilots are capable of it, but as a matter of course, they do so only rarely. An astronaut being launched to the space station will very briefly take on a load of about 3 G’s during the launch. An F1 driver will take as much as 5 G’s in a turn and in excess of 6 G’s during braking and do so repeatedly throughout the course of a race. Because this begins to approach the limits of reasonable human endurance, the “Formula” is a constant battle between rules makers trying to slow down the cars and engineers trying to overcome the rules to make them faster.

The Formula 1 paddock is like no other. With a global audience of nearly 400 million viewers the F1 paddock is THE PLACE for international celebrities to be seen. There are models, athletes, musicians, movie stars, captains of industry, and royalty all twittering about between the likes of the Ferraris, Red Bulls, and Mercedes prior to the race. Lewis Hamilton, 4 time world champion and current points leader for Mercedes AMG, is a frequent attendee on red carpets of all kinds all over the world.  

One of the common criticisms from American motorsports fans is that the style of racing is boring, with very little overtaking as compared to Indy car or NASCAR. The difference, to use a baseball analogy is very similar to the difference between a 10-8 home run derby style game and a 1-0 pitcher’s duel.   When you have 2 first rate pitchers at the top of their game, they are very nearly unhittable. They locate their pitches within fractions of an inch and strategically choose their pitches to keep the hitters off guard, first one to make a mistake loses. The battle at the front of an F1 race is often about he who makes the fewest or even no mistakes. The cars are placed inch perfect lap after lap even as conditions change with regards to fuel levels and tire wear. The margins for error are so unbelievably slim.  A fast pit stop can literally be the difference between winning and losing. What’s a slow pit stop? In excess of 3.5 seconds. A fast one is less than 2.5 seconds with a 3 second stop being fairly average.

And then there’s the races in the rain. Most motorsports stop for rain, but not F1. They have wet and intermediate tires with large grooves capable of dispersing nearly 23 gallons of water per second at speed. Multiply this by the entire field over the course of a racetrack, and they can move an Olympic pool’s worth of water every 3 laps or so. Because the setup of the cars is not allowed to be changed between the beginning of qualifying and the start of the race, the potential for upheaval due to rain is quite large. Often the fastest cars on a dry track are the slowest on a wet, sometimes this is a strategy based on the weather forecast.

What about the drivers? Are they better? Obviously this is very subjective, however, Formula 1 drivers who have had small amounts of success in F1 have generally gone on to do great things in other series. Most recently, 2 time world champion Fernando Alonso won Le Mans and was leading the Indy 500 2 years ago when his engine let go. Other notables include Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansel, Emerson Fittipaldi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alexander Rossi and the list goes on. Not to mention, the best F1 drivers are far and away the most highly compensated racers on the planet. There are 2 currently making close to $50 million this year. (Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes AMG) It’s not a stretch to say that as competitive a breed as race drivers are, wouldn’t they go after a prize that large if they could get it?

There is now a purpose built Formula 1 track in the United States. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin has hosted Grand Prix since 2012. It has become a very popular race for the drivers and teams. Their enthusiasm for American fans, food, and culture is obvious. We also have an American team, Haas F1, owned by legendary race team owner, Gene Haas. While we don’t yet have an American driver, it seems inevitable that we will soon.  Alexander Rossi was a reserve driver and did actually drive in a few Grand Prix before getting a full time ride in Indy Car and winning the Indy 500 in his rookie year.

The ownership of Formula 1 recently changed hands. The new owners, Liberty Media, are Americans and have expressed a desire to make the sport more accessible to the American audience. Regardless, if you like fast- if you like brute force- if you like strategy- if you like flash and you’re not already checking out Formula 1…you’re missing out.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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