The Undercut: ‘Woke’ Formula 1 is a major turn-off

Orange juice and toothpaste. Bathtubs and toasters. Babies and walls. Formula 1 and climate change. Just a few things that, in my humble opinion, should not go together.

Of course, I am well aware that, unlike throwing a baby against a wall, there’s definitely a case to answer when it comes to F1 and the environment. Jean Todt said just a few days ago that, if the sport hadn’t ditched its awesome-sounding and competition-inspiring gaz-guzzlers of the past and swapped them for the ‘green’ hybrid (ahem) power units of today, F1 might already be in danger of being the latest victim of our cancel culture. And I actually agree with him on that one.

Let me introduce you to a ‘woke’ greenie:

Me: Hello. I write about Formula 1.

Greenie: You mean that fuel-burning, earth-killing, eardrum-bursting sport?

Me: Actually, while the details bore me to tears, you should look into that. F1 is actually a pioneer of the sort of green technologies that a greenie like you should be very interested in. And it’s all sorts of concerned about women and fairness and breaking down barriers and all that jazz, too.

Greenie: Groovy.

But while F1 may have dodged that particular greenie’s bullet, and avoided for now the sort of existential threat posed by western governments under pressure to appease the Climate Gods, it is at what cost, exactly?

For instance, I consider Liberty Media – in reality a huge company that exists purely to make mountains of cash – to be what I would regard as ‘woke’.

What’s woke, precisely? Let’s ask our greenie:

Me: Summarise ‘wokeness’ for a middle-aged straight white troglodyte, would you?

Greenie: It’s all about ending social injustice and stuff like that.

Me: Oh cool. Like Lewis Hamilton breaking down F1’s racial stereotypes?

Greenie: Yep.

Me: Or an all-women racing series that tells the men where to go?

Greenie: Now you’re getting it.

Me: Or pretty much guaranteeing a driver can’t get a head injury?

Greenie: Perfect.

Me: Or biofuels and carbon targets and exciting things like that?

Greenie: Groovy.

Me: Or banning sexy grid girls?

Greenie: I’m triggered by your overt sexualisation of women.

Me: Huh?

Triggered, as far as I can tell, is another woke expression that seems to mean that your vision of utopia has just been interrupted by a stark, stone cold, but absolutely valid point.

So here’s what ‘triggers’ me – Formula 1 falling hook, line and sinker for the cultural ‘wokeness’ of the moment. Why? Because it might just be recorded by history as one hell of a turning point not just for the world at large, but for the very oil and testosterone-powered sport that many of us used to love a whole lot more than we do today.

It may even be as existentially ‘dangerous’ (Todt’s word) for F1 as fuel-guzzling engines.

At the end of the day, most of us can for now just ignore the press releases about F1 being carbon-neutral by 2030, look away when the pathetic vacuum cleaners on wheels otherwise known as Formula E whiz past your local city monument, or spend the rest of the night on Google Images when we have a hankering for a bit of grid girl. But ignoring F1’s descent into one particular ideology (because it *is* just an ideology) will be harder to do in the coming years, which raises a very pertinent question:

Does Liberty even care?

If the ‘greenie’ I had the illuminating conversations with above becomes a Formula 1 fan – and the chances of that are increasing by the day – then it will be understandable. F1, after all, will be a platform that fights racism and sexism, celebrates diversity, inclusivity and equity, and wholly embraces the oh-so-important fight against the scourge of climate change. What’s not to like?

Some of us, though, if we haven’t scampered off completely to MotoGP or the UFC, will be watching through a grimaced expression, reminiscing with both delight and sadness about a fuel-drenched, cigarette-sucking real man like James Hunt, who had sex for breakfast and reached for a beer after the chequered flag rather than Instagram. We will remember a sport that was inspired by freedom and competition and sweat and victory and run by a wheeler-dealer-scoundrel, not one inspired by a polarised ideology whose bosses are corporate media moguls who openly moralise whilst furiously monetising.

Clearly I’m just a dinosaur. But I’m a dinosaur who, in our content-saturated digital world, still has plenty of ways to indulge those dinosaur passions. I just fear Formula 1 will soon no longer be among them.