One of the strangest things about Formula 1 is how little the fans seem to care where their driver is from.
During the time of Damon Hill when there was a chance a British guy might win the championship there was a lot of support but in many ways it was caused by the rivalry with Schumacher who was German and therefore the jingoistic elements were stirred into action.
Now we seem to have a similar thing happening with Jenson Button. Jenson is one of the most overrated drivers of all time. He sometimes has amazing moments. He sometimes pulls something really great out of the bag. Whether it’s a flawlessly smooth qualifying lap or an overtaking move where nobody else would consider one but I remember in his first year a Williams when at Monaco he hotheadedly tried to overtake de la Rosa in Monaco. There was almost a massive and very dangerous crash, he was very lucky. But even so he did cause the race to be restarted.
He’s still never won a race so what’s the fuss about?
During the intervening years between Hill and Button we had Coulthard, Irvine and Herbert who all won races. Irvine was robbed of winning the championship even. And Button still hasn’t won a race.
Now I never have thought that any of these people could win a championship. Not so with Hill. And that might make me sound like a glory supporter to a non-F1 fan but that does seem to be much more in the F1 spirit.
Some people do have certain drivers or certain teams that they love. There’s something about them that they identify. I’d argue that the reason that they choose this driver or team is often much less to do with nationality than it is in other sports though. And these people will tend to support their driver or team through thick and thin.
But there is another type of supporter doing something else. Another type of supporter is watching the season more like a fantasy football season. I often think about who I think will win the race rather than who I want to win the race. It’s more about trying to guess who’s going to win. Perhaps this derives from the similarities with horse racing.
And I think that’s why nationality plays much less of a part in F1 than in other sports. Although try telling that to an Italian, Spaniard or Brazilian.