Canadian F1 fans need to care more | Print |
Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:30
The 2010 Formula One season starts . . . and we could care less.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Courtesy Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Or do they?

I have talked to many people about how they would gauge their interest in F1, and am often confronted with varying degrees of indifference.

However, these sort of reactions are ironic considering Canada’s role with regards to Formula One.

In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal set attendance records and was the third most-watched sporting event in the world following the Super Bowl and UEFA Champions League final.

As for driving talent, Canadian Gilles Villeneuve broke into F1 for Ferrari in the 1970s and was one of its most prevalent stars prior to his untimely death in 1982. His son, 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, played a large part in reigniting Canadian interest in the sport in the late 1990s.

And then came the era of Michael Schumacher dominance.

Don’t get me wrong, I can respect the talents of Schumacher. He remains statistically the greatest driver of all time, and his aggressive on-track style made him a wunderkind in his native Germany and the world over.

But for many, ‘Schumi’ sucked the life out of the sport in the early 2000s. His constant winning and record-breaking was impressive, but became tiresome. Sure the crowds were out in droves, the exotic locales still present, the cars insanely fast, and the payouts ridiculous, but the on-track product became diluted.

After dominating for a solid decade, Schumacher called it quits in 2006.

And now he’s back.

This season brings the return of the seven-time World Champion, new rule changes, no refueling, new sponsorships, and the return of Montreal to the grid following it being overlooked last year.

Last year’s Turkish Grand Prix – which took Montreal’s spot on the season lineup – drew a paltry 30,000 spectators and saw organizers drape tarps over empty seats in an effort to camouflage financial losses.

From this season’s first two races - Bahrain and Australia - you can already see that having Schumacher around is bringing out the best in the entire grid. As cheesy as it sounds, drivers seem inspired that they’re racing alongside one of the best ever.

But Schumi and new changes aside, F1 is still lacking.

Maybe it’s the lack of head-to-head battles like the Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost era of the 1980s. Maybe it’s that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone continues to polarize fans and financiers.

Serious fans of the sport still watch races on a weekly basis, still purchase tickets, apparel, etc. However, chances are if you were to ask a fan about what could be improved upon they would quickly summon up answers.

It’s hard explaining that you’re an F1 fan to the unaccustomed, simply because most people dismiss your sporting tastes immediately. But there’s something about the piercing engine noise, smell of gasoline, and the sheer lunacy of the sport that appeals to me.

Only time will tell if Formula One becomes a relic of a past era, one in which extravagance trumped accountability.

But for me the glitz and glamour of the sport lives on, let’s just hope that Canadians continue to show interest as well.

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