Formula 1 is one of the most expensive sports in the world. Not only do the cars cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, but the teams also need to sped millions each year on logistics and staff in order to get to the races they need to be at. This makes many wonder if F1 is a waste of money.
F1 is not a waste of money. Even when taking away the entertainment factor, the sport has invested millions into critical research and development that has benefited the world’s automotive market. From safety to aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, many advancements have come from F1.
Despite the sport pushing the envelope in automotive safety and technological development, there is a huge entertainment factor to consider. Below, we consider the value F1 provides for the wider world, and discuss in more detail why F1 is not a waste of money.
Why F1 Isn’t A Waste Of Money
Formula 1 has been around for decades. While it has only existed as an official championship since 1950, the sport stretches back to before World War 2. Formula 1 was fairly low key in its early days. Without TV broadcasting it was simply a way for the elite to spend their money driving fast cars.
However, as the sport began to be broadcast on TV, it became more and more popular, and many would argue that it also became more elitist. Formula 1 quickly became a glamorous sport, with many celebrities along with thousands of fans attending races.
What Is The Point Of Formula 1?
Formula 1 may just look like really expensive cars and overpaid drivers going around a racetrack for an hour and a half. To the share of the population that believes this, Formula 1 can look like a waste of money.
But it could be argued that all sports are a waste of money, with millions being poured into sports like the NFL, NHL and NBA. However, the truth is that Formula 1 has done more for the world itself than any other sport on the planet, and it is still doing more than other sports, if we talk strictly in terms of tangible value, rather than just the entertainment factor (which is still important).
Beyond the glitz and glamour, the fast cars, and the heroic drivers, there’s a part of Formula 1 that doesn’t get enough recognition. Many people overlook this aspect of the sport and what it has done for the global automotive industry.
One of the main aspects of Formula 1 that is overlooked is the technological advancement that has come from the sport. Formula 1 teams are in competition with one another, and this has naturally led to each team trying to find new ways to beat the others and win the championship.
This factor has led teams to push the boundaries of technology to develop new elements on their cars. From active suspension to flexible wings and F-ducts, teams have worked hard to develop new ways to improve their cars, getting the edge over their competition. This has made its way onto our road cars and improved them for the public.
It’s not just the competition and finding loopholes in the rules that have been beneficial to the world’s automotive industry though. Sometimes the teams are challenged to build cars that simply defy what many people think is physically possible.
The current engine situation is a good example of this. Formula 1 teams have managed to build 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrid engines that can produce 1000 horsepower. This means they are able to get more power from a smaller engine, when compared the V10 and V12 engines they used before.
Not only are they able to extract more power from the smaller engines, but the hybrid system that F1 teams spent years developing also makes them more fuel efficient. In 2014 the cars went from a 55 gallon fuel tank down to a 30 gallon fuel tank, and they are able to go faster across the same race distance. This hybrid development has made its way into many modern road cars.
But another important area to consider is safety. Formula 1’s history has been brutal to say the least. There have been a total of 52 Formula 1 drivers that have been killed in the sport. The 1950s and 1960s were known as the “killer years” with 29 drivers being killed in these two decades alone.
However, Formula 1 has come a long way since then, and without the sacrifice of these brave drivers who put their lives on the line every single race, the automotive industry around the world would see a lot more deaths than it does today.
Safety equipment that is now standard on the modern road car such as ABS and traction control were developed and improved in Formula 1. While these technologies may have been conjured up elsewhere, F1 brought major improvements and development to each one, for the betterment of the automotive world.
From active suspension to further development of ABS and traction control, and from paddle shifters to the use of carbon fiber, F1’s technology has worked its way into modern road cars in many ways. But even the medical industry is benefiting, with McLaren’s systems being used for data monitors in hospitals!
F1 as a sport has also had an impact on various countries’ economies. Much like larger events such as the World Cup or the Olympics, hosting a Formula 1 race is hugely beneficial to a country’s economy even though it might be expensive to host.
Formula 1 races draw in a lot of fans, especially if the country has more to offer in terms of tourism. For example, races such as Monaco and Abu Dhabi will draw in a lot of foreign fans who bring their money into other parts of the city’s economy.
Tourists who attend the race will not only spend money on their tickets, but they will spend their money at local businesses and other tourist attractions that bring further income to the country hosting the race.
Formula 1 also presents the opportunity for businesses to grow. With the massive, worldwide platform that the sport has, businesses can use this to their advantage to grow and gain global recognition.
Sponsoring Formula 1 teams or drivers might not be cheap, but it’s a sure-fire way to get your business seen by people all over the world. Formula 1 cars appear in adverts, posters and TV shows around the world, so it’s a massive marketing platform.
On top of that, the sport is always in the news and pushing the envelope of technology, which makes your business look good. One example of a business that took advantage of Formula 1 is Red Bull, which 20 years ago was just an energy drinks brand, until they entered the sport through small sponsorships, and are now a multiple-championship-winning team.
Motorsport Industry Growth
Formula 1 plays a massive role in the motorsport industry as a whole. Formula 1 is considered to be the pinnacle of racing, and as such it has a big influence on junior and grassroot motorsport such as karting and open wheel racing.
One example of how influential Formula 1 has been in grassroots racing is that after the implementation of the halo, all junior single seater series also implemented the halo very quickly into their series. Even though IndyCar in the U.S uses the Aeroscreen, US Formula 4 uses the halo adapted from Formula 1.
Formula 1 inspires young drivers, engineers and mechanics to step outside of their comfort zones and progress into junior motorsport series. This allows further development of young talent in the form of drivers and engineers who will one day take over from the current generation and continue to develop the sport – and the wider world – in the future.
Addressing Social Issues
Formula 1 has been quiet about social issues in the past. In fact, the spot used to be part of the problem. Formula 1 used to be a very sexist environment, especially towards female Formula 1 drivers, but also in terms of the employees within the teams and F1 as a business itself.
However, ever since the rebrand in 2018 when Liberty Media took over the sport, this has changed significantly. Nowadays, Formula 1 is tackling social issues head on, with the Black Lives Matter movement and The Hamilton Commission taking the lead.
Gender equality is also promoted in the sport, with many female staff members making their way into teams, and while this may not be enough yet, it’s a step in the right direction. Furthermore, the W Series, which is a female only junior single seater series, has become a support series for Formula 1.
Another key argument as to why F1 isn’t a waste of money is the fact that thousands of people make a living as a direct result of F1. From the drivers and team management staff to the engineers and the media teams, there are countless people that depend on F1.
Some estimates put the total number of people employed in some way within the world of F1 at more than 50,000, across more than 30 countries worldwide. From the teams – which can have more than 500 people in them – to the event organizers, there are a lot of people that depend on F1 for their livelihoods, and they would definitely argue that F1 isn’t a waste of money!
Finally, Formula 1 is the top level of motorsport, and it has a lot of entertainment value. The sport has gained a lot of traction in recent years, with many new fans coming on board and experiencing the sport for the first time.
This is partly due to the Netflix series Drive to Survive, but also Formula 1’s push to become more active on social media. The sport has been notoriously slow to change amidst the social media surge of the 2010s.
However, modern day Formula 1 has embraced the fact that more people are getting into the sport and developing a passion for it. This is another factor that shows that Formula 1 is not a waste of money, as it provides people with entertainment, much in the same way any other sport does.
How F1 Technology Helps Car Makers
Over the years, Formula 1 has helped car makers in many ways to improve their road cars and not only make our public roads safer, but also much better in terms of the technology that is used on modern day road cars.
Formula 1 is always pushing the technology of the cars in different ways. Whether it’s to improve the safety of the cars or to get the advantage over their opponents during the season, teams are always taking on new challenges. These advancements are not only beneficial to the sport, but also to car manufacturers around the world.
There are hundreds of examples of how technology has been taken from Formula and put into road cars for their benefit. Some of the technologies developed in the early years are still used in road cars today.
Traction control and ABS are two great examples of F1 development helping road car manufacturers. Originally, these two features were brought into Formula 1 and developed in order to get the edge over the competition. Traction control allowed cars to accelerate better out of corners, reducing the risk of human error causing the wheels to spin.
Anti-lock brakes systems have also helped teams in the past by allowing drivers to brake as hard as possible without the risk of locking up their wheels. This allowed them to drive as fast as possible without worrying about making a mistake under braking.
Eventually this technology became so efficient at allowing the cars to accelerate and slow down without the drivers’ making mistakes that it was used to make our everyday road cars safer. While the first instances of ABS and traction control may not have been in F1, there is no doubt that the development within the sport helped to improve them both.
Eventually, ABS and traction control were banned from Formula 1 because they made the cars effectively too easy to drive. The ban of ABS and traction control is why we see some drivers locking up their brakes or spinning the wheels while accelerating. The ban effectively put more of an emphasis on the drivers’ skill rather than the abilities of the car itself.
Power And Efficiency
Formula 1 teams have developed new technologies in their engine departments over the years. From the massive V12 engines to the current 1.6 liter V6 turbo hybrid engines, the technology that has been developed in Formula 1 proved to be useful to car makers.
Ferrari, for example, put their ‘Formula 1’ gearbox into their road cars, which helped to boost their sales. Modern car gearboxes have developed their technology, smoothness and speed from the state-of-the-art Formula 1 gearboxes, with paddle shifters also owing their popularity to their implementation in F1.
Another clear example of Formula 1 technology being transferred straight into road cars is Mercedes-Benz using the KERS system in their cars. KERS uses the energy that is lost under braking and converts it back into horsepower. This gives the engine an electrical boost at the push of a button, and KERS development in F1 improved these systems now common in road cars.
But aside from the technology and the entertainment factors, do the dangers of F1 make the sport a waste of money?
How Dangerous Is F1?
Formula 1 is an extremely dangerous sport. With cars that go over 200 miles per hour, racing wheel to wheel, there will always be huge risks involved. A crash could lead to a driver being seriously injured or even killed, but safety advances in recent decades make this very unlikely.
Formula 1 used to be so dangerous that there was an era known as the “killer years,” made up of the 1950s and the 1960s. The sport had a reputation for being one of the most dangerous in the world. A total of 29 drivers lost their lives during these two decades.
A total of 52 drivers have been killed throughout the history of the sport. However, the frequency of deaths and serious injuries has declined rapidly since the 1990s, thanks to the tireless efforts of engineers and mechanics who have built cars that are safer than ever.
Formula 1 Becoming Safer
Formula has made plenty of advancements in safety over the years. These efforts mean that drivers can walk away from crashes that put them under forces of 40 G or more. Without the advancements in safety, more drivers would be seriously injured or even killed in an F1 season.
With the sport becoming safer than it was before, we’re seeing a lot less risk in the world of Formula 1. This is not only great news for Formula 1, but also for the junior series in motorsport where we often see younger drivers, many of whom are between 14 and 18 years old.
Protecting these younger drivers from serious life threating crashes is a top priority. We all love the sport for the thrill and excitement that it provides, but at the end of the day, the safety of the drivers is more important than the entertainment factor.
It’s Not Just Dangerous For Drivers
Formula 1 doesn’t just pose a danger to the drivers in the cars, but also to the crew members in the pit lane. Over the years we’ve seen mechanics being knocked over by cars, and in one scenario we even saw a loose tire bouncing down the pit lane and hitting a cameraman!
Formula 1 pit stops are on average just over two seconds long. The fastest pit stop we have ever seen was under 1.9 seconds. With pit stop times like these, it’s no surprise if mistakes are made. However, in this sport, mistakes could mean serious injury. We’ve seen mechanics with serious injuries such as broken legs before, and fires in the pit lane too.
This aspect of Formula 1 will always remain dangerous. However, steps have been taken to ensure that the mechanics in the pit lane are safe at all times. Basic rules are put in place by the FIA, and teams are fined if the rules are not followed.
From wheel tethers, ensuring tires stay with the car during crashes, to a ban on refueling during pit stops, F1 has become much safer than it ever was.
Should F1 Be Banned?
F1 should not be banned, as not only does it generate a lot of money for businesses and economies around the world, but it also entertains hundreds of millions of people every year. Plus, tens of thousands of people make their living as a result of F1, so banning F1 would eliminate those jobs.
But why would you suggest F1 should be banned anyway? One reason may be the sport’s effect on the planet. The 2012 and 2013 seasons saw a lot of protests from climate change activists who were unhappy about the state of Formula 1 and how it was not doing much to adapt.
Responding To Criticism
Formula 1 responded with the 2014 engine rule changes and by implementing several elements to reduce the sport’s carbon footprint. In fact, Formula 1 announced plans that it will be a net zero carbon sport by 2030, which is incredible considering the sport revolves around cars racing round a track burning fossil fuels!
Once again, F1 is pushing the envelope. No one would ever have imagined that motorsport, with combustion engines, would be net zero carbon. Being net carbon zero means that even the logistics and transport of the cars and staff will be done sustainably and as environmentally friendly as possible.
A 747 flight over the Atlantic uses more fuel than an entire season of Formula 1, in terms of the actual on track action, but it’s the logistics of the sport that add up. However, if Formula 1 can adapt to these challenges, and become net zero by 2030, the climate argument will only get weaker.
The Safety Argument
We’ve already discussed safety in F1, and it’s clear that the sport is much safer than it has ever been. This means that calls to ban F1 on the grounds of safety are fairly unfounded. However, this doesn’t mean the sport isn’t constantly trying to become safer. As the sport improves in terms of sustainability and safety, calls for the sport to be banned will undoubtedly lose their credibility.
Formula 1 is not a waste of money. Helping to advance the technology and safety of our everyday road cars is just one way F1 benefits the wider world. Formula 1 inspires people, helps businesses to grow, and helps economies to thrive, all while entertaining hundreds of millions of people each year.
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