April 18th, 2011

Chinese GP: As good as it gets

I quite regularly have pub ‘arguments’ and water cooler moments with people who claim that Formula one isn’t a sport. They say that it’s only overpaid men driving around in circles for a couple of hours, merely in the pursuit of a gaudy trophy. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ they enquire. ‘That isn’t entertainment.’

The very definition of entertainment is something that I hold dear in my life, something that I strive for as often as possible, and through the frequency of which I judge how well my life is going: ‘Entertainment: the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.’ I try to be entertained or entertaining as much as I can in my daily life, it helps everything to flow more enjoyably. Sometimes though, I find that I’ve peaked certain forms of entertainment, which calls into question whether I should continue with it or bail out at the top.

A few years ago I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers play, at the height of their popularity, a very intimate gig at The Garage in Islington. It was such an awesome experience, and I was so immeasurably entertained, that I decided I never needed to go see the Chili Peppers play another gig ever again. And I haven’t.

This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix was another one of those moments, a moment where I realised that what I saw couldn’t possibly be improved on, so was it worth continuing with, to risk the memory of that one perfect time?

For an F1 fan, a race doesn’t get better than what we saw, it had everything you could want. Seeing these men, the best drivers in the world, taking their machines to the very edge in the ‘mere’ pursuit of 1st place, is something that never fails to amaze me. And we witnessed an event where every aspect of the spectacle came together to make the ultimate motor race.

Right from the get go it was clear we were going to witness something special, as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull squabbled for the lead with the McLarens of Button and Hamilton. All the way down the field it was kicking off for the whole 305km race distance, with places being traded harder and more numerous than I think I’ve ever seen.

Michael Schumacher was back on form and showing some of that magic with which he won seven F1 driver crowns. Felipe Massa had clearly regained the spark that saw him fighting for a world championship a few years ago. And Mark Webber put in the drive of his life to come from very far back in the pack to finish standing on the podium, just one step down from his pole starting team mate Vettel.

Yet it was Lewis Hamilton who embodied the true spirit of motor racing, proving that with an aggressive and super confident drive – and some sublime overtaking – an F1 race can be won against the odds.

The whole race really was a joy to behold, where everything came together to create the best motor racing show on earth. But unlike that Chili Peppers gig, it hasn’t made me want to stop watching F1, it’s made me crave more. So is Formula One a sport? When it’s this entertaining, who cares?

Words: Jamie Hibbard