When Lewis Hamilton won his third world championship title last month, papers and media outlets went crazy congratulating him on being such a dominant force in this current season of Formula One. This scenario of ruling over the grid is hard work in the making: a prolonged and continuous journey of self-belief, examples of which can be seen from archives of a very young Lewis Hamilton on the BBC. Hamilton, as well as other men who have since become icons from showing such superiority in the sport, are often talked about as being the ‘best of their generations’ but when these inevitable questions and debates arise about the topic, I can’t help but feel the media do not mention how it is not just the driver who should be praised, it is a team of incredible men and women who work continuously to make sure their face of the team is remembered in years to come.
Of course there are several chances over the season for the international media to talk to high-profile representatives from the teams and retrieve various opinions on events over the weekend. Using Mercedes as an example, Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe are a great option for broadcasters to allow fans to understand the issues on the car in a greater depth. Broadcasters are also able to discuss this ‘dominance’ that we have come to see, however this topic runs the risk of becoming a dull and predictable. To me it almost looks like the media are afraid to supply us any technical information from the cars as we might find it… well boring.
I have always wanted to learn more about the technical side of the sport and it was this interest in technical analysis that saw me so pleased when Gary Anderson joined BBC in 2012. Anderson, a designer for teams such as Brabham, Stewart Grand Prix, Jaguar Racing and Jordan, was with BBC throughout the 2012 and 2013 season, enlightening viewers with his phenomenal wealth of knowledge on the subject. However as the 2012 season went on, it appeared to BBC that “viewers weren’t that interested” in this technical analysis, a quote direct from Gary himself. This disinterest in the engineering behind the cars we claim to admire and adore lead to Anderson being dropped by the BBC at the end 2013 – just months before one of the biggest changes in F1 engineering in a generation. With weeks until the start of the 2014 season, Gary was featured in his first ‘Ask Gary Anderson’ piece on AUTOSPORT.
“Ever since I started working with [the BBC], I’ve been pushing them to do more on the technical side, and during the second half of 2013 it appeared to me that they were wanting to do less. For example, I set up an open-house visit to Renault to cover their engine package for 2014 in detail and twice on the day before we were due to go it was cancelled by the BBC (Renault were the current constructors’ champions at this point). The reasoning was that as far as they were concerned, the viewers were not that interested,” Anderson told AUTOSPORT in 2014.
In my opinion, Formula One has become a sport in which it is more likely a fan will have a favourite driver rather than a favourite team; it is more probable that you know the name of their dog than the name of their engineer; you’d take more interest watching an interview of the driver in a casual situation, rather than listen to him talk about the engineering behind his car.
The changes in how we view the drivers could lead to us having a more direct view of a person’s achievements; direct in the sense that they are the cause of all their attainment, letting us put the team ‘behind’ the star and not on par with them. Of course, this is only a generalised view of mine. Plenty of fans are sure to thank teams like Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari for providing such a fantastic piece of machinery for a driver they admire and are sure to celebrate victories with the team and not just their ‘hero’.
Looking back at even very recent history, this dominance in the sport from a driver has been due to the machine that supports him in almost every way. Inevitably, a driver must have superb skill to actually drive the car on the limit, and understand all the technical aspects in the case of a failure to their communication device between them and their machine or team. This is however the way the sport works – it’s all part of the crazy game that is F1. The issue of dominance is something that has been and will be a problem in Formula One for the rest of its years.
As well as the team effort that goes into creating a Formula One car, there is of course the brains behind some of the cars that have ruled over the field in previous years. With such a focus on the technical side of things, why not look at the lack of credit that people like Adrian Newey and James Allison receive, once again this being my opinion. The BBC occasionally talk to the pair, Tom Clarkson often grabbing the chance to talk to Allison on their forum or pre-practice coverage on the Red Button service. What I want to know is why should this pair not be given the media coverage that the racers do, as they are the driving force behind their winning cars, respectively. Of course both men, and other technical directors in the sport, are respected hugely but they do not receive the recognition that the drivers do on a race weekend. Surely the fact the driver has best the car on the grid, rather than skill, are the reason they have won a grand prix – just look at Fernando and Jenson at McLaren.
I suppose what I am trying to get at is that although a driver can show great ability and continuously win, that doesn’t make him the driver of a generation. He is simply in the right car at the right time. Call me a pessimist but that is what I see true. As the way the sport is broadcast and has adapted, we see the driver as the face of the team as so it is he we focus on. People are more likely to know that Hamilton has won the drivers’ world championship, rather than Mercedes has won the constructors’ championship. It is just the way the sport is broadcast to the world and I think this needs to change.