Marbles: 5 Observations from a total F1 newbie

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Editor’s Note: IF you’re new to F1B (formula1blog.com), we offer a series called “Marbles” which is a reader’s opportunity to send us something they’d like to share with the community. We’ve had some great posts offered by many of our readers/listeners and this week’s edition is no different. Ryland emailed me asking why I was being such a bore regarding the new regulations and the 2014 spec Formula 1 (and with good reason because I’ve been very vocal of late) and he explained that he was brand new to the sport and loved it. We’ve always touted ourselves as a safe harbor for new and veteran fans alike and I thought this would make a great story for the rest of you who may be new to the sport or like the current F1 specification. What better way to shut us “old guys” up about how our sport is being destroyed et. al. than to get a new fan to tell us why he loves the sport after just 22 days. I hope you enjoy Ryland’s piece as much as I do. Here is an opportunity for some of you F1 anoraks to help Ryland out with his questions too…because that’s what we’re all about here at F1B.

Just 22 days ago I knew nothing about Formula 1. Now I can’t get enough.

It started with an innocent looking Wired headline. “Watch: F1’s New Rules Explained in Three Minutes.” (link: http://www.wired.com/2014/03/red-bull-f1-new-rules/) Red Bull’s ridiculously slick graphics told the story of super powered machines employing the very latest in hybrid engine technology to transfer as much power to rubber as possible on a limited amount of fuel. Restrictions such as number of “power units” (love that term) over the course of a season pointed to a playing field that while level in March, could look like a war zone by November. And if the Red Bull video lit a spark, the race in Melbourne poured high-octane fuel on the fire.

Do I really need a new sport to spend my precious DVR disk space on? Between following the Premier League religiously, watching enough golf to make my grandpa weep, and owning the polka dot jersey for king of the cycling-watching mountain (not to mention the upcoming World Cup and NFL season for my defending champion Seattle Seahawks), there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for this all-American sports fan (no, I’m not from England). Alas, I’m unable to resist the turbo-whine’s siren’s call.

And speaking of whines, here are a few observations I’ve made in my first three weeks in the spectator’s seat.

1. Who Cares About Sound?
My thirst for more F1 info during the interval between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur lead me on a tour of F1 sites and podcasts. While this brought me the pleasure of discovering the excellent F1B podcast, it also meant I was overwhelmed with pundits decrying the execution of their sport because the cars sound different.
Huh?

Now this is simply one newbie’s opinion, but I couldn’t give a downshift about what the cars sound like. Perhaps there is a big difference in person, but on television, I just don’t see (or hear) how it matters. For me, the excitement comes from the competition, not the visceral experience of an engine roar.

2. The Race Is Just Dessert
There is no doubt that just like a nice chocolate lava cake, the race is the sweetest part of the meal, but so far I’ve been just as enthralled by the practice sessions and qualifying as any of it. This points to the real strength of F1: the narrative. Dueling teammates, constructors battling with restrictions, drivers and bosses transferring between teams, and all sorts of rock star personalities (short rock stars, that is) make up a tapestry of story lines that play out from the first televised practice to the post-race interviews. It’s all fascinating, and any moment from a malfunctioning sensor to a slight bump on a crowded chicane can be the week’s biggest plot twist.

3. What Happens Monday to Thursday?
This leads me to one thing that definitely feels lacking in the sport. Maybe it’s just the US coverage, but it seems like F1 doesn’t exist once the box doors close Sunday afternoon. Even in soccer-hating America, there are almost-daily shows on ESPN, BeIN, Fox (actually, what happened to that show?), and enough NBCSN to at least keep Rebecca Lowe employed. I was shocked there wasn’t a single episode of F1 Extra for 12 days after Melbourne and there certainly isn’t coverage on the other networks. What are the teams up to? How the hell do they get all the equipment from Malaysia to Bahrain? Come on NBC. I need my fix!

4. I Still Have A Ton To Learn
Granted I could just spend some time researching all of this (come on, the Champions League is on), but here are a few of the elements of F1 that are still mysterious to me two races in:

– DRS. When can it be used? Why isn’t it used more often? Why don’t they talk more about it if it’s such a game changer? How do the DRS detection zones work?
– How do the teams operate structurally? How do they choose drivers? How does the pay structure work with sponsors and prize money?
– How are the courses chosen and why is it one race per country? Why does everyone seem to dislike Bahrain? What is up with the US Grand Prix?
– How are the “minor leagues” structured? What is Formula 3.5? Do teams own cars in all “leagues?” Do they race the same tracks? Do I need to follow all of that?
– Do teams face relegation and promotion? What happened to other engine manufacturers like Toyota and BMW? Is there a consequence if a team (like Sauber) never completes a race?

5. Why So Much Animosity?
In all my reading and listening so far, one thing seems pretty consistent; everyone hates the changes to F1. From the engine sounds (see #1) to the fuel restrictions to the severity of penalties for driving out of your pit minus a lug nut, if something is different, it needs to be decried. I get it. You liked things better before. But please, give it a chance. The fuel efficiency standards are a great way to put some of these millions in R&D money towards technology that could have positive impact on the city streets. And even if not, the restrictions seem like a smart way to increase the challenge, make it more about the driving, and give us even more narrative threads to follow.

You guys have got a really cool sport here. Don’t lose sight of all the great parts of it in the race to complain the loudest. Hell, I’m happy to be on board. Now I have to go clear some space on my DVR.

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When not glued to the TV, Ryland Aldrich is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles where he also functions as Festivals Editor for movie website TwitchFilm.com. You can find him on Twitter at @RylandAldrich. (link: http://twitter.com/RylandAldrich)

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