Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Rise of Formula 1

Photo by Formula 1

By Beth McCowen

Formula 1 has been a popular mainstream sport since long before many of our readers were born. The internationally renowned competition is ever-changing, and remains at the heart of multi-faceted discussions of its core elements, along with their wider implications.

Here is a brief overview of how the top flight of motorsport has dominated the world of sports media, and some of the problems that have arisen along the way.

The 2022/23 season came to an end on Sunday 26th November, with Dutch superstar Max Verstappen and Christian Horner’s Red Bull continuing to dominate both the driver and constructor’s championships. 

Over the last few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of young people who follow the sport. This is, in part, thanks to Netflix’s documentary ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ providing a brand new audience demographic with an insight into the lives of drivers, managers and team owners both on and off the track. The series has offered behind-the-scenes looks at some of the sport’s most exciting, controversial, and dramatic moments in its recent history. For example, Romain Grosjean’s horrific crash in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Verstappen’s much-disputed title-winning race in Abu Dhabi 2021, and Daniel Ricciardo’s departure from McLaren. 

Despite its popularity, the thrilling, high-risk activity is not without its criticisms. There is constant debate surrounding what Formula 1 is, how it works, and how it can be problematic. Several of the drivers have expressed personal disapproval at some of the recent changes to the ever-growing industry. 

The introduction of Sprints has been at the heart of F1 discourse as of late. Sprints were introduced at the British Grand Prix in 2021. This addition to race weekends has since expanded, with six shootouts taking place across the most recent season of action. The purpose of this development is somewhat straightforward: to make things even more exciting. However, it was not a universally popular decision. World Champion Verstappen has shared his view with the media that the activity takes away from the excitement of Sunday’s main event. 

Another high-profile argument has been one regarding the pre-race entertainment on display at races such as the Miami Grand Prix. American sport is known for its spectacle, but this is a relatively new concept to many of those who play a part in the world of Formula 1. Mercedes driver George Russell told Give Me Sport “It’s distracting because we were on the grid for half an hour in our overalls in the sun and I don’t think there’s any sport in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business that all the cameras are on you to make a bit of a show.”

It was also inevitable that, with climate change as a rightful hot-topic of today’s global news, it would be a factor in determining the future of motorsport. With 10 teams, 23 races held all over the world, and 20 cars, it is obvious that the carbon footprint of F1 each season is monumental. This has seen the sport become the subject of protests, with a track invasion by Just Stop Oil protestors taking place at the Silverstone British Grand Prix earlier this year. There is no denying the environmental impact of the much-loved motorsport, and former competitor Sebastian Vettel has been vocal about the role of this in his recent decision to retire. It must be noted that F1 has pledged an ambitious goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030.

These are just a few of the highlights from recent talks on the elite sport. Formula 1 and motorsport more widely has a rich history, as well as a constant large, diverse (and still expanding) community of supporters. It will be interesting to see how this, along with the sport itself, develops over the coming years in light of the issues discussed here.