Marbles: Sword of Damocles

Thanks to Paul, loyal F1B reader for submitting a new Marbles piece. Marbles is our F1B reader Op Ed column and if you’d like to submit something to us for review, please email it to Here is Paul’s latest~ Editor


“Team” vs. “Individual”:  The Paradoxical Sword of Damocles

It is said that Formula 1 racing is a team sport.  This is absolutely true.  There would otherwise be no reason for a World Constructors Championship.  It does take a team:  A team owner, a team principal, engineers, a pit crew, all of these things are a part of what makes a team work.  Yet every team needs one driver, and all teams have two, and one is first; the other, second.  Only one of them , will have the skill and the speed to be the best.

However, Formula 1 racing is also an individual sport.  To uphold one while ignoring the other is to do a disservice to Formula 1 as a whole.  It’s like the American sport of baseball:  A team is playing, but only one can win the game.

What, then, do we make of this apparent paradox?  In a sense, this is a balance.   The needs of the team must be balanced out against the needs of the individual.  If done right, it can achieve great things.  Otherwise, there is unbalance, chaos, anarchy, even destruction.  In this sense, Formula 1 is on a balance supported by a Sword of Damocles, ready to cut in two if there is unbalance.  No individual can be greater than the team, nor can the team can be greater than the individual.

Sometimes, the situation will present a conundrum where the team has no choice but to clash with the individual.  When this forces itself upon that balance, decisions must be made that will benefit the team.  The individual is then faced with a crucial decision:  obey orders or go on his own.  Some drivers either care not for the consequences or fail to take them into consideration.  Others may consider such possibilities and decide that the risk is too great.

Consider, then, the2013 Malaysian Grand Prix:  One team has the lead and second.  They are told to hold station.  The man in second will not settle for less than a win, regardless of cost, and he bulls his way through and gets in front.  But even though he wins the battle, he loses the war in the eyes of the public, his teammate and the team.

The next team is in a similar situation.  In this case, the man behind wants to be in front, but won’t risk it.  Instead, he talks to the team boss, who explains that there is not enough fuel and therefore they cannot take a chance:  “Hold station.”  The man in second is unhappy, but he understands and holds station.  In the eyes of the public and his teammate, he is a hero and his team is vilified

Racing is a team sport and an individual sport, and you can’t have one without the other.  This paradoxical Sword of Damocles will always be there for as long as there are teams and individuals, and it will wait to strike the unwise who upset the balance.

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