Is Formula 1 A Sport?

Lewis Hamilton won his maiden BBC Personality of the Year award last night following a season in which he took 11 wins for Mercedes. He won his second championship in style, coming from behind to usurp Nico Rosberg from the lead of the championship with just 5 races to go. It should be no surprise that Lewis won Sports Personality of the Year as he is a huge box office draw, something F1 lacked when Sebastian Vettel was winning titles. Lewis is exciting to watch, often controversial and is nearly always involved in some sort of drama. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy that he won the award.

Social media revealed just how misguided some people are with regards to their view on Formula 1 as a sport. Those that don’t understand and follow the sport commonly hold comments such as ‘They are just driving cars or He only won because he had the fastest car’; those comments are incredibly misguided and almost laughable.

What is sport? Nowadays we refer to sport simply as competitive games, often involving some degree of physical exertion. Football, Rugby, Tennis and Cricket are all regarded as sports, but F1 is often overlooked. Of course, if you asked Ernest Hemmingway on his views on sport, it was quite simple:

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

Sport is more than just playing a game; in its purest sense it’s the pursuit of victory at all costs. Those that say F1 is just not a sport should talk to the Father of Jules Bianchi; his son still remains in a coma after suffering from a head-on collision during the Japanese GP of 2014. If Jules could get up and race again, right on the limit, I’m sure he’d do it in a heartbeat, such is a racer’s sporting attitude. I would argue that motorsport is maybe the purest of sports, with the drivers required to put everything on the line, including their lives, in order to win. There is no game is motorsport, you either commit or you walk away. It’s as simple as that.

One must also consider everything that top-end Formula 1 drivers must give up in order to compete for the victory. The physical fitness required to dance on the limit of the most fearsome cars in the world is no easy feat, and whether you’re Lewis Hamilton or Max Chilton, the training required to be fit enough to ‘push’ a F1 car to the limit for 2 hours is extraordinary. Jenson Button, one of the fittest athletes on the grid, notoriously competes in triathlons and unlike others triathletes, does so on the strictest of diets to ensure that he doesn’t put on any mass. At the beginning of the 2014 season he commented that he hadn’t eaten carbohydrates throughout the winter of 2013… would other athletes be able to manage that?

As far as Sports Personality of the Year is concerned, I’m delighted Hamilton won because as a sports personality, he is by far the biggest draw the U.K has. I can only hope that the ‘It’s not a sport’ belief held by some (unsurprisingly those that don’t understand motorsport, let alone F1) dies down and our favourite sport stars are recognised for the sacrifices and commitments they make to their craft. The highest levels of motorsport are much more than just ‘lapping circle’s’ or ‘driving a car’; they are a showcase for incredible talent and disciple, able to take control of the most dangerous and fast cars in the world for the pursuit of victory. If Formula 1 isn’t a sport, I don’t know what is.

Written by: Anil Parmar

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