The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word race as “a contest of speed” and “a contest or rivalry involving progress toward a goal.” It also defines championship as “designation as champion,” while further defining a champion as “a winner of first prize or first place in competition; also: one who shows marked superiority.”
Sebastian Vettel won his ninth straight race at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil this past weekend. Ayrton Senna’s best season saw the Brazilian win eight races. Total. Vettel and the Red Bull team won their fourth straight championship this year, mathematically so far ahead of the competition that the race to the championship ended before the season did.
The racing we watch is a contest of speed, a contest and a rivalry towards the goal of winning a championship. If it were not an intensively competitive and far-reaching one, I would not be writing about Formula One on my couch in the United States while readers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, India, China, Malaysia, Australia and other points around the globe read my words and watch the same racing.
Formula One is an international sport. An international sport where the contest is defined by getting out in front of all the other participants and making it to the end of a set distance still ahead of one’s competitors, with the ultimate goal of doing so often enough to be declared the overall winner of the season. Vettel has done just that in a commanding way over his four championships, and especially so in the past two years, putting together impossible records at a young age with the assistance of a team of individuals whose desire to be the best and finish ahead of everyone else must surely match his own.
Yet, the bemoaning of boring racing has grown to decibels that seem to nearly match those of the engines powering the cars we watch race. Even commentators of the sport claim races are snooze-fests. Vettel is doing exactly what we ask of competitors at the highest echelon of sport. He is competing to win. Competing to push himself to be the best every day of competition.
When a driver in Formula One is regularly slower than a teammate, or finishes further down the order, he is publicly shamed. The fan base, those who write and speak about this sport for a living, those in charge of contracts and a driver’s livelihood, and his fellow drivers all wonder why that driver is not competing to his highest level, or if his highest level is worse than it should be. It is demanded that every driver finish every lap, that he spend that lap ahead of as many other drivers as possible, and that he always maintain his car in such a way that it carries him to the checkered flag sooner than any other of his competitors.
This is what Vettel does. This is where Vettel lives. This competitive spirit and talent and the hard work of the Red Bull team that put Vettel so far ahead of both his teammate and his competition is the very definition of racing and of being a champion. He is one “who shows marked superiority.” How can we call that boring?