Formula 1 is a racing series that drivers all around the world dream to take part in. However, very few will ever make it to Formula 1. Behind all the glitz, glamour and elite nature of Formula 1, some have wondered whether the sport is scripted, rigged, or just outright fake.
F1 is not fixed, scripted, or fake. There are too many variables to consider in terms of ‘scripting’ races. From mechanical failures to driver errors, it is impossible to control the outcome of a race. Aside from that, there are just too many people involved for F1 to be effectively scripted.
F1 has seen some questionable and controversial decisions over the years, but this does not mean the sport is rigged or fixed. Teams are punished for breaking the strict rules that are set out by the FIA, but there are also more practical reasons that prove F1 is not fixed.
Is F1 Rigged?
F1 is not rigged. It is simply impossible to rig a Formula 1 race because there are too many variables involved in the outcome. No single person can decide the outcome of the race, and even if a team tried to rig one part of the race, it likely wouldn’t go to plan or affect the outcome of the race.
For example, there’s no way to control the weather or the reliability of the cars. There have been many cars that have broken down while leading a race, and as dramatic as it may be, it is not scripted. In 2005 Kimi Raikkonen suffered a suspension failure on the final lap while leading the German Grand Prix, crashing out and costing him the win. It’s simply impossible to plan this.
Formula 1 is also an extremely dangerous sport, and no driver would crash on purpose and risk their lives for entertainment. No one can predict a crash, especially the severe, life threatening ones that we have seen in the past. It’s worth mentioning here one particular example of a racing incident being planned, though, to illustrate the difference between scripting and cheating in a race.
2008 Singapore GP – “Crashgate”
Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed at a specific part of the track in Singapore 2008, which eventually led to Fernando Alonso winning the race. This was a strategic move and Piquet Jr. did it to comply with team orders. This is not scripting of a race, as only the top staff at Renault and Piquet Jr. himself knew of the arrangement, and it was only to benefit Fernando Alonso in that one race.
This is simply cheating at the highest level, while also putting a driver at severe risk of injury during a crash. This was all to bring a safety car out to allow Alonso to move up to first place while everyone else took advantage of the safety car to get a cheap pitstop.
This had no major impact on the season results, as Alonso only ended up finishing 5th and Renault 4th in their respective championships. However, with this specific example out of the way, let’s consider what it would take to actually script an F1 race.
How Do You Script An F1 Race?
In F1, you have some of the most expensive cars in the world, 20 of the best drivers in the world, and world class racetracks. It would be practically impossible for everything to run perfectly smoothly according to a script.
Other variables aside, every driver always wants to win, and if the sport was scripted they would most likely ignore the plans and go for the win anyway. Formula 1 drivers are extremely competitive, and it’s not easy to tell them what to do!
If Formula 1 was scripted, it would purely be rigged to make the sport more entertaining. They wouldn’t have left fans with 8 years of Mercedes dominance only to change the rules to try to shake up the grid in 2022. Surely, if F1 was scripted, they would make each season exciting and dramatic, like 2021 was?
That’s not to say that F1 in recent years has been nothing but boring Mercedes dominance, although many fans will assert that to be the case. There have been plenty of exciting moments and races, but nowhere near enough to even entertain the thought of any of it being scripted.
What About Team Orders?
You might be thinking to yourself that team orders could be considered scripting. After all, Felipe Massa was robbed of a win in Germany 2010 after being ordered to let Fernando Alonso pass him for the lead of the race.
We’ve seen it many times before, and other notable examples include Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher having to swap places in Austria in 2002, as well as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas swapping positions on multiple occasions, even if it was not as obvious as telling the driver to let their teammate pass them.
However, the FIA has actually banned these team orders in the past, which they would not have done if F1 was rigged. Teams began to use coded language to instruct their drivers to move over for their teammates.
In the end, it is considered to be a part of the tactical game, and teams are allowed to decide for themselves whether they want their drivers to race or give priority to one driver over the other.
Someone Would Have Spoken Out
If Formula 1 was rigged, someone would surely have spoken out about it by now rather than it simply being a conspiracy theory. Formula 1 teams employ thousands of staff members, and if the sport were indeed rigged, someone would have leaked this out to the media by now.
It would be impossible to keep so many people quiet about such a controversial topic if it were true. In addition, the drivers who have not found success in the competitive sport would most likely have been the first to speak out against Formula 1 “working against them.” However, many still think F1 is rigged, with the 2021 season being a particular talking point.
Was The 2021 F1 Season Scripted?
The 2021 F1 season was not scripted. There were decisions made throughout the season against both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen that fans, teams and drivers disagreed with. But just because the season ended somewhat controversially it does not mean it was scripted.
The 2021 Formula 1 season was exciting, dramatic and controversial. With Mercedes dominating the sport ever since the 2014 engine regulation changes, it was refreshing for many fans just to see Max Verstappen challenge for the title, and even more so to see him actually win it.
Lots To Talk About
There were plenty of talking points that got fans riled up throughout the season, and it wasn’t necessarily just the title battle that ended up being controversial. Even though Silverstone, Monza, Brazil and Abu Dhabi were extremely controversial races for the two title contenders (along with many others), there was controversy all throughout the field.
The main talking points were the inconsistent decisions of the stewards between races, handing out penalties in what seemed to many to be random fashion. This made many believe that Formula 1 was either scripted or had biased stewards. However, this is nothing new to the sport, or to sport in general, as at the end of the day humans can struggle with tough decision making.
That doesn’t mean it’s right, and it is definitely something the sport needs to clamp down on. But these inconsistencies across the season affected many of the teams, not just the championship rivals. But the most important talking point came at the last race in Abu Dhabi.
The Controversial Season Finale
In the last lap of the last race of the season, Max Verstappen, who had freshly fitted soft tires, was given a fairly easy chance to overtake Lewis Hamilton, who was on worn hard tires. This is ultimately the moment where many fans were quick to call the FIA out for rigging the outcome of the race.
The final laps were seemingly engineered to place Max Verstappen right behind Lewis Hamilton for a last lap battle to win the championship. It’s the ending many fans wanted to see, but it’s not the way they wanted to see it happen. It seemed like the last lap of the race had been engineered to give the fans a last lap battle.
The FIA seemed extremely confused, and many believed that they were “making rules up on the fly” in those closing laps. Ultimately the decision came down to the race director, Michael Masi. However, it does not mean that Formula 1 as a sport is rigged or scripted in any way.
Importantly, the only reason there was controversy was that Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed out several laps before after a tussle with Mick Schumacher. This kind of crash could not be scripted, and given that it only benefited Red Bull in the end, Mercedes as Williams’ engine supplier would not have enjoyed writing that script.
The real controversy was around how the laps under the safety car were handled by the race director. The season as a whole and the final race were not scripted, but many argued that the script was written under the safety car, when the stewards saw an opportunity to make for a thrilling final lap.
Many fans also believe the races on the lead up to the final race had decisions that were scripted, with penalties given and not given on very controversial occasions, to seemingly engineer a way for Max and Lewis to be tied on points going into the last race.
But as we noted at the start, there are just too many variables involved for this to be the case. One of them could have gotten a puncture at the wrong time, another driver could have put their car on pole, or any number of other possibilities. The 2021 F1 season just was not scripted, even if the final race made it look that way.
Has F1 Ever Been Scripted?
Formula 1 has never been scripted. Many of the stories from races might seem scripted and unbelievable, but these events happened as a result of other variables, and there was no outside influence on the outcome of the races.
There’s no way to script the serious injuries and fatal crashes that drivers have suffered over the years. No driver would put their life on the line simply for the sake of entertainment. If Formula 1 was ever scripted, it would always be entertaining and there would always be something incredible happening somewhere on the track.
However, the truth is that some races can be boring, and this proves that they are not scripted or rigged in any way. But this is what makes the exciting, and seemingly unbelievable events in F1 so incredible.
For example, it wasn’t scripted for Lewis Hamilton to win the world championship in 2008 on the last corner of the last race of the season. It was down to a bit of good luck for him in that particular race, and other drivers’ bad luck. It wasn’t scripted, it was just an incredible occasion. But regardless of whether F1 is scripted or not, is it fair?
Is F1 Fair Or Unfair?
F1 is fair, in that all of the teams have to play by the same rules. However, there have been many decisions made over the years that may seem to be unfair to specific teams or drivers, and this is just down to inconsistencies in the stewards’ room, which is clearly still a problem.
The FIA are always working to ensure that the same rules apply to each team and every driver. Sometimes the rules need to be changed in order to accommodate some drivers and teams to make the sport more fair overall, such as Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi, being able to use a V10 engine in 2006 when other teams used V8s.
This rule was a rare example, and it didn’t end up working as planned, as the rule was supposed to benefit Minardi as they were a much poorer team. But Red Bull bought Toro Rosso at the end of 2005, and they were much richer than Minardi but they still benefited from the bigger engine. However, it didn’t prove to be much of a performance advantage anyway.
If these rules are broken, no matter which team or driver, a punishment will be given. The punishments are not always consistent, and it doesn’t always seem fair when you compare incidents to past scenarios.
One example of this is the Brazil 2021 qualifying session when Max Verstappen touched the rear wing on Lewis Hamilton’s car. The Dutchman was fined more than $55,000 for his actions, yet we have seen Sebastian Vettel touch other cars in the past with no consequences.
On Track Inconsistencies
There are other examples too, for example in Austria 2021 multiple drivers got different types of penalties for causing the same type of incident. You can see this across different races as well, where some drivers would get harsher penalties for the same type of incident that happened just a few races prior.
These inconsistencies between incidents that have similar scenarios have caused many people in the Formula 1 community to call out the FIA and claim that they are unfair and biased. It’s hard to say, since the stewards never owe the fans an in-depth explanation for why they give the penalties that they give.
It definitely won’t be the last that we see of inconsistencies in Formula 1, especially when it comes to on track incidents. At this point it’s difficult to change how the sport is run in terms of sticking with the rules, but there are some things that F1 can do to potentially solve this problem.
How Does F1 Fix This?
Inconsistent decisions by the stewards are frustrating for drivers, teams and fans. No one likes inconsistent rules and applications of the rules. It makes the sport seem rigged and biased, and no one ever knows what’s going to happen with a particular incident, even if the rule book suggests a clear cut case.
One of the main reasons the penalty decisions are so inconsistent is because Formula 1 uses different stewards at each race. Of course, if you throw different people into the refereeing chair at every race, they’ll always have different opinions, just as fans have different opinions about incidents.
One solution is to have the same stewards at every single race, with a set rule book on how they approach each situation. Video analysis at the time of past incidents could also be used to help the stewards to make more consistent decisions based on what they have done in the past. However, whether these changes are implemented is ultimately up to the people at F1 itself.
Is Drive To Survive Scripted?
Drive to Survive is scripted in the sense that it is an entertainment production, planned and written using events that occur throughout an F1 season. It uses real footage and interviews, which are not scripted, but Netflix uses “artistic license” to make the show more entertaining.
Drive to Survive is a popular Netflix documentary that follows the Formula 1 season and gives fans unrivalled behind the scenes access. It allows the fans to get a look at the other side of Formula 1 that they never get to see.
It has certainly brought in many new fans, especially new fans from the United States, where the popularity of Formula 1 has skyrocketed ever since the series was released. It has also allowed fans of the sport to get a new perspective on how everything works behind the scenes in a way that they have never seen before.
The Downside Of Drive To Survive
Drive to Survive is not necessarily “scripted” as such in that all the footage and interviews are real. The Netflix team genuinely does have behind the scenes access to all the teams and they are allowed to record much of what happens there.
However, there has been criticism from fans and drivers that the series is hugely dramatized, and it’s true. Max Verstappen said that he will no longer be part of the Netflix series as he doesn’t enjoy how over the top and dramatic the series is. He says that Netflix overexaggerates some elements of the sport to make it more appealing to potential new fans.
Whether this is true depends on an individual case by case basis. The bulk of the show is just footage from the races after all, but there is a lot of extra “dramatization” throughout, namely by strategically placing interview segments together. However, that’s just how the entertainment industry works, and as long as it has a positive impact on the sport, it’s not a big issue.
F1 is not fixed, scripted or rigged. There are too many people and too many variables involved for F1 to be scripted, and while there have been controversial decisions made in the sport over the years, none of the events constitute scripting of any of the races.