I like certain racing drivers. Others I admire. And yet more I think are jerks or fools. And finally there are the drivers who I simply feel I don’t know.
I think a lot of this year got sucked into the cult of personality. I think this was largely a reaction to the exit of Schumacher. Michael was a driver who had a certain reputation for being boring and he also seemed to not be a fan of being interviewed. And when he left Lewis arrived and that shook everything up.
People find it difficult to understand F1 at first glance. In football it’s easy to spot a skilful play even if you don’t understand much of anything about the game. But it’s difficult to know all of the players in the premiership so people seem to mainly just learn the players from their team and remember the players who did something really exciting from the rival teams. In Formula 1 it’s the opposite for most the sport is their team, and in fact the entire field of drivers and test drivers is around the same as a large squad: 33.
So personality is easier to latch on to. And because of that, and the influx of new fans we’ve ended up slightly skewed towards it.
Right at the last gasp there was a surge of popularity for Kimi. I think this was reaction to the personality wars going on over at McLaren. Kimi’s lack of obvious personality (although I’m keenly aware of how the press are massively over playing this) seemed refreshing to many.
The point is that Schumacher’s era did seem to be more about “I’ll do my talking on the track” with only Jaques and DC really up for saying anything very interesting. But as the old adage goes, “be careful what you wish for”. Now the rarity seems to be the aloof drivers who don’t talk much. people like Kimi or Heidfeld spring to mind. Is their driving better because they are quiet or is it simply that it seems purer because it’s easier to forget who is behind the wheel.
Eventually you learn with formula one that there are only four kinds of driver,
1) Drivers who were great
2) Drivers who were comically bad
3) Drivers who were world champion but not that great
4) Drivers you can’t really remember.
But that’s for the future looking back. For now we face a time where it’s slightly more difficult to judge skill and achievement because everyone is watching the racing through the prism of personality.