The beauty of being a motor racing fan is the bounty of choice available to us to admire and to see. We can watch NASCAR here and Formula Ford there. However, there has always been one series that has captured the imagination more than any other. Formula 1, since its beginnings has filled the imaginations of any budding racing fan, it has put dreams in their minds to such intense extent that the boys have started racing themselves and even raced in the very series their childhood revolved around. Yet, of late, Formula 1 has been sinking in the imaginations of not only childhood boys but the world itself. Its viewing figures are now lower than the Turkish Premier League! So as the cars get quieter and the rules less liberal, we as motor racing fans have been forced to look elsewhere as F1, like a confused teenager, works out what to do with itself.
The alternative though, as the picture above suggests, is just coming out of the shadows of turbulence. LMP1 for a while has been going through a re-emergence and re-strengthening programme. And as F1 goes through its ‘silly season’ LMP1 is drawing people from Formula One to motor racing’s other top level series, The World Endurance Championship.
Only three years ago the only team that could beat Audi was Peugeot or an ailing Rebellion Team. Now Toyota and Porsche, two of the greatest names in endurance racing and both former F1 teams are fighting toe-to-toe and even beating Audi. The Le Mans 24 Hours is now no longer a case of which Audi will win but a twenty-four hour, one-thousand four-hundred and forty minute nail-biting fight to the chequered flag. And because it’s so close, each lap has to be taken flat-out. No more sprints and jogs; each race is an extended qualifying run.
On top of this, the races themselves are longer than in Formula 1 so it really can be a day out for the family. They can watch the sun set on Indianapolis as Toyota, Audi and Porsche fly through it at one-hundred and eight miles per hour sideways seconds apart. And as well as being as intense as its two-hour-long comrade, LMP1 has and is also experimenting with technologies that soon, will be found in the family cars of the world. The technology that has been in the WEC since 2011 is only just being utilised in Formula 1, the supposed pinnacle of motorsport. The WEC then, is an organism that is only going from strength to strength as Nissan announces a full-on factory return to this category of motorsport and give the building fanbase a four-way fight for the title.
This contrasts with F1 which is in a supposed state of turmoil as the teams at the back and even the middle fight for financial survival in a sport once spoiled with seven manufacturers, but that is now the sick man of motorsport. It is being plagued by controversy amid piles of non-existent euros while the racing is better and more intense than ever. In a vain attempt to rescue the sport, Bernie Ecclestone is suggesting the possibility of three car teams to bolster the numbers on the grid and has included a double-points round at the season finale in Abu Dhabi this season. This though, as ex-Ferrari aficionado Luca di Montezemolo resigns as head of Ferrari looks to be too little too late. This is especially prominent as Ferrari is toying with the idea of a move away from Formula One to an all-out assault on the World Endurance Championship. Montezemolo even said not long ago: ‘Maybe we [Ferrari] should give it some serious consideration’.
If this were to happen it would be the one and only ultimate blow that would effectively wipe out Formula 1, a series that has been around since 1924 when it raced under the guise of Formula X. It would leave a black hole in the turbo-charged imaginations of children who each have dreamed at some point in their lives, of driving one of those scarlet cars heroically through the forests of Europe. However, the measures being put in place are being seen as desperate attempts by the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone to artificially enlighten the sport and put balloons on a ship that many people think is starting to sink.
Yet, regardless of these troubles, I believe that there is still something about Formula One that I think will keep it alive, that will keep Ferrari in. And what this is I cannot express because it is unique to Formula 1. But it is a force that lives in every commentator, comes out in every marshal and thrives in every fan every time they hear the lights go out and battle commence.