MATTEO DALL'OMBRA

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Why Americans Will Never Get F1

June 10th, 2012

I recognize that part of this post is my fault. One of the things I dropped when I moved in the UK was TV. Yes, TV. I didn’t want to pay a lot for a TV license so I decided to go 100% streaming.

While for movies and TV shows there is Netflix, for sport events like the recently started European Cup or the ongoing Canadian F1 GP I have no choice but use “alternative streaming services”.

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That means that I’m currently watching the F1 GP on FOX. Sorry, what I wanted to say is that I’m currently watching commercials on FOX. During the first 20 laps I already saw three commercial breaks (I hate their jingle, seriously).

I can see what they are doing. They’re treating F1 as they treat NASCAR (I once saw a part of a NASCAR race, so I know what I’m talking about). The problem is that those two sports are totally different. The dynamics are different. I can totally understand that you want to break a NASCAR race with commercials as much as you can. If you lose 5 laps every now and then it’s not a drama. Out of 300 is not a big lost.

On the other hand you can’t lose 3 laps of F1 every 5 they do. F1 is much more dynamic. Cars try to overtake each other every time. Pit-stops are fundamental to understand the strategy of the race. If you miss them you can quit watching the GP all together. Even worse, the Canadian track is short and very quick with many places where cars can challenge each other. I think I’m losing many of those duels thanks to commercials like this one.

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What Americans don’t understand is that they can’t put their stamp over everything. F1 is not an American sport (thanks God for that), but if you look at it via their broadcast you could think of the opposite.

Do you want another sign of Americanization? During the live action the commentators tried to highlight with a yellow marker on the screen two cars fighting in order to make them easily distinguishable for the viewers. The result? Two yellow circle pointing nowhere on the ground? How could you possibly want to mark two cars that are running at hundreds of miles/kilometers per hour? They are not baseball or football player.

The commentators of the GP are not any better. I just gathered two quotes, but they are key to let you understand the tone of the race.

  • “Even the pit-stop are lighting fast on F1.” (They really cannot get a race shorter than at least 200 laps);
  • “You can’t go out and buy a F1 car, like you can do with other car series. You have to make it on your own.” (This is just funny. F1 is an elite sport, cars are tuned to perfection. Every tiny little piece have to be in his exact place for the car to work. They clearly just see pieces of metal with four tires moving around.)

This post is not meant to offend anyone. Clearly there are two different set of minds here, which are used to different sports and different way of interpret the same sport. The only point of this post is that now I can understand why F1 is not that popular in the US and why they try to Americanize it.

Nothing is lost though. Ron Award is coming out with a new movie called Rush about the incredible competitive atmosphere between Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Maybe it will help to close the gap.