The Undercut: Formula 1 is elitist, but so what?

2020 drivers formula 1

If there is one thing that I really detest, it is the criticism from many of the unanointed that Formula 1 is elitist, and that because of that, it is somehow bad.

The thing is, they are absolutely correct, F1 categorically is elitist.

But, because F1 has turned out to be everything that it is deeply founded on, the inference that the heritage on which its very DNA is founded is wrong, just infuriates me.

When F1 was founded in 1946 it was defined as the premier and only true international single-seater competition in the world, and to this day the FIA and Formula 1 Corporate, the sports’ commercial rights holders, continue to define the sport in the very same way, using words such as ‘pinnacle’ and ‘prestigious’.

Let’s make no mistake about the fact that F1 is elite by its very nature, and that the yearly pursuits of both the World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships are so far removed from the technical and skill level of any other open wheel championship in the world, that any comparison to another open wheel competition is futile.

The inference that, in being exclusive and superior, the sport is somehow dysfunctional is naïve at best because it ignores the definition of the sport, and the basis on which it was founded.

F1 isn’t just an elite competition, it is in fact an elite niche industry consisting of managers, engineers, technicians, marketing and PR experts, and drivers, who all collaboratively need to be the best in the world to be capable of winning the world’s most important motorsport competition.

And yet, in the pursuance of its very intent, the sport leaves itself open to criticism of being elitist, and therein lies my frustration.

Every single thing in F1 is acted out in a manner to be the very best, because the end goal is to be the very best, and without intending to pursue that degree of excellence, a championship is never going to be realized.

Formula 1 has never been about the very basic act of jumping in a car, accumulating points, and winning a series of races. No, it is a much more sophisticated challenge to even just compete in F1, let alone win its grandest prize.

If the hypothesis that F1 is elitist is true, it might instead be a more valuable exercise to question why that is a problem anyway, rather than dismantling its proof.

One of the more general criticisms of F1 is that the naïve perceive it as guilty of self-proclaiming itself as the pinnacle of world motorsport.  The reality is that no other open-wheel championship has ever been able to remotely approach F1 from either a technical or talent level.

Anyone who feels they can challenge that statement simply do not understand the levels at which F1 operates, from all perspectives.

The crux of my argument is this: F1 has never been about entertainment or the provision of heroes. Those are nice, of course, but incidental.

F1 has always been, and I hope will always be, about the most elite driving talent in the world competing to win the World Championship in the world’s most elite automotive technology within a set regulative framework formula.

So, yes, F1 is and has always been elite, and that is not a bad thing because that is what it is meant to be.

Sure, there are commercial interests that are now attempting to dilute the elitist level of F1 with the intent to align with target markets that don’t necessarily subscribe to the assertion of elitism, but that will always be a short term strategy, because ultimately, there is always going to be that innate human interest in a competition of the very best, aspiring to be the very best of the very best.

F1 is elitist, and if you don’t like it, try something else.