Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

1. The soap opera

Forget the 'drama' of football - this is where the rivalries are. F1 is a soap opera with major events every race weekend - and between sessions, the gossip bubbles away, backs are stabbed, deals struck – Coronation Street would kill for such drama.

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watchingLewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Let’s say they’re not on each other’s Christmas card list. Pic: PA.

Before the season had even started one driver, Giedo van der Garde, took his team to court to force them to let him race - even though they already have two drivers. Then, on the day before the first race of the season, he tried to get the team's boss arrested, while bailiffs waited outside the track.

There are two competitions in F1 - one for the teams, and one for the drivers. Each team has two drivers, which means teammates are competing against each other for victory. And that, friends, makes for good TV.

Perhaps the most famous incident in recent years was when two of the sport's finest drivers, Hamilton and Alonso, both raced for McLaren in 2007. Alonso was a world champion, and Hamilton a young upstart. So Alonso parked his car in front of his team-mate during qualifying, denying him the chance to perform better.

To put that in context, it's like Paul O'Connell boxing Cian Healy so he can score a try — but there's no rule against it.

2. Yes, the crashes

Thankfully, no-one has died in a Formula 1 race weekend since the death of legendary driver Ayrton Senna – subject of the fantastic documentary film 'Senna' – in 1994 (though there have been three fatalities in non-competitive events).

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

Crashes, though, are common - and thanks to the incredible technology of today's cars, they're dramatic. Modern vehicles fly apart under stress, exploding apart to distribute the force of a crash - and keep the driver safe.

It's NOTHING like Nascar or other boring races

Do you think racing is going around in circles for no reason? Not F1. The tracks are designed with excitement in mind, with banked corners and chicanes (rapidly twisting S-turns), where overtaking is the name of the game.

Because every race takes place in a different country, you’ve got deserts, forests, rain, sun or monsoon to contend with. It’s almost like video game racing where every track is absurdly unique.

3. The glamour of a rich man’s game

Remember that scene in Iron Man 2, when Tony Stark drove a race car next to a luxurious hotel? That was the Monaco Grand Prix, and it's every bit as over-the-top as you might think.

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watchingMonaco oozes glamour. Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The Monaco circuit is one of the most beautiful in the calendar, taking to the narrow streets of the principality in real wheel-to-wheel racing. But the fact is, this is an expensive sport, and the champagne lifestyle oozes from every weekend.

From the hot tubs and the ‘pit girls’ to the kings and oil tycoons, F1 attracts the great and the good from all over the earth.

4. The drivers

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

"It's just driving around in circles". No, my friend - F1 is a sport for top-level athletes. Races are two-hour marathons, battling regular forces of five Gs, which is more than the force of a space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere. It's like riding a good, fast rollercoaster for two hours without the safety nets and being fully in control.

Drivers burn about 1,400 calories and lose three kilograms of weight during a race, and they aim for 8-10% body fat. Hell, Fernando Alonso can crack walnuts with his neck.

Schumacher and Raikkonen drive bare centimeters apart in Brazil 2012.

The endurance and strength required are off the charts when you're strapped to a fighter jet on wheels. And you've got to maintain enough focus to keep your car in one piece when driving inches apart.

5. The pinnacle of technology

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

This is Formula 1. The name literally refers to being number one - it's the highest-grade motorsport on earth. The best automotive engineers on earth build the fastest possible car for the biggest car companies in the world. It’s an engineering marvel.

That means it's the fastest, most advanced, incredible technology humanity has to throw ourselves around tarmac. The engines are V6 turbocharged engines with state-of-the-art energy recovery systems.

A side-by-side speed comparison of Gran Turismo racing and F1 on the same track.

And the energy recovery system part? That's the system where kinetic energy lost as the car slows down is used to charge the battery - which drivers can use later for a boost. Yep - F1 cars have a turbo button.

6. Bernie: F1’s very own Sepp Blatter

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watching

Ah, Bernie. What a character! The oddball leader-cum-dictator has all the charm of – soccer's Sepp Blatter and the dictatorial iron fist of Vladimir Putin.

The 84-year-old F1 Supremo is the sport’s chief executive, but he makes headlines all on his own. Like the time he said “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances," or that you can’t argue Hitler wasn’t “able to get things done”.

If F1 is a drama, he’s the one furiously re-writing the script in the back.

7. The international vibe

To be honest: wine is how I got into Formula 1.

Here's why Formula 1 is the best sport you're not watchingAlexander Wurz of Austria and McLaren Mercedes in action during the practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005. Pic: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Three friends had recently returned from a month-long hike across Spain and one of them was a die-hard F1 fan. Every Sunday, he had forced the others to stop at a bar for some wine and tapas to watch the race.

That's the beauty of Formula 1. It's very European – from the international flair to the languages used (Ferrari's radio messages are still in Italian) and the culture at every race. Kick back on a Sunday with a Fosters and a barbie one week, meet up for a glass of rioja a few weeks later, and then swap them for a weissbier and pretzel by Summer.

Every race is a new place.

Ok, you’ve convinced me. Where do I start?

The first race was in Australia two days before St Patrick's Day, but there are plenty more to come as the season runs right through to the end of November, as you can see from the calendar.

You might not want to watch any of the early morning races live, so you can tune into the delayed coverage courtesy of the BBC on BBC One - that’ll ease you in.

While watching, pick your driver - you need to back a horse in this race.

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