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  • James Fan

Death is an afterthought in racing's close cut battles

Passions are inherently flawed. An all-encompassing obsession about a singular topic verges on becoming unhealthy, but it is celebrated as a passion. It will be hard to get people to understand your passion. They see an incredibly bland and boring subject, failing to comprehend the subtle nuances of what makes it special. The most commonly ridiculed passions, especially K-pop, possess ardent defenders that go to great lengths to point out why their passion should be validated. Everyone possesses a passion that will cause them to do exactly the same. I intend to use this logic to defend Formula 1.

Even though the cars are much safer, there are still heavy crashes, as demonstrated at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

Yes — Formula 1 at its core is just cars driving around in really fast circles. [Describe the specific qualities of F1 here — nonproduction cars, the most exotic in the world, etc., and maybe describe some features of the tech of the sport] However, that philosophy also applies to other sports as well. Football is just people in metal suits chasing a tiny leather-wrapped target. Basketball is just people bouncing a ball faster than the opposing team. Soccer is just people kicking a ball around…and so it goes. Obviously, these sports have much more to them than their simplified outlines, and Formula 1 is no different.

People underestimate the danger of F1. While it's true today’s F1 cars can survive a 200+ mph impact into a barrier without the driver sustaining an injury, it’s not as if the drivers are just getting into a faster car. These cars are designed to be as light as possible while producing the most downforce possible, maximizing the grip on the track because the air passing over the car pushes it firmly to the ground, increasing stability and top speed. That means turning in a F1 car is radically different than in a road car. In road cars, the tire limits the effects of the cornering in a car, meaning there is a lot of squealing as the car suddenly turns in, but it is still manageable. In a F1 car, the drivers are required to go on something called an “outlap”, where they warm up the tires and brakes. If they do not do this, the brakes will have a delayed response, causing the tire to rub at high speed against the asphalt, causing a lock-up, destroying the tread of the tires, and making it undriveable. Drivers also experience 4-6Gs in a corner, which means their necks have to be trained to acclimate to the brutally consistent force acting upon them in a race. For reference, a normal road car rarely exceeds 1G. A human can only survive 9G at maximum. This is why all F1 drivers have chunky necks. Additionally, F1 cars have no electronic aids at all, including traction/stability control, power steering, and anti-lock brakes. This by itself makes the car extremely difficult to drive already, but when it is combined with the physical characteristics of the car itself, it requires a superhuman combination of strength and focus to even qualify for a passable lap time. To be competitive, drivers have to push even further.

This often results in horrific crashes, the most infamous of which being Niki Lauda’s crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. The race was held at the Nurburgring. This track features 154 corners, whereas normal tracks usually feature no more than 20. Add to the recipe significant dips and bumps, heavy rain, and it becomes a dish for lethal disaster. Niki Lauda is an F1 World Champion, so he knows how to drive the car, but that day was ill-fated for him. Lauda started a petition to cancel the race due to the torrential conditions, but it did not gain traction. In the race, Lauda had a terrible start and was playing catch-up to his championship rival, James Hunt. Lauda pushed too hard into one of the corners and spun the car into the barrier, puncturing the fuel tank and setting him and the car ablaze. Worse still, Lauda’s car speared back on the track, making further contact with another car. Although Lauda was saved by the skin of his teeth, he suffered severe burns. Three more drivers would die later that day.


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