Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Formula None

Formula 1 has always intrigued me, but, for the most part, for the wrong reasons.

To me F1 is a sad sport made of people that dream of victory but that end up racing for a 5 minutes of glory.
Drivers stuck with slow cars, or even worse, stuck with being inevitably slower than other drivers, no matter what.

What makes matters worse, is how much of a cut throat business it is.
Somebody bumps into you, you have a streak of bad luck, something happens and you are out.
Next you are stuck racing alone in a track, testing cars for the actual competing drivers.. those that get the glory and the fame, or that can at least keep showing the bad luck they are having.

Maybe I'm seeing this wrong. From the outside it's all about the glory, but probably in the inside it's an exciting job nonetheless and many are OK with sticking around even if they are never going to break any records.

Maybe it's a bit like us game programmers, where a few famous figures catalyze most of the attention, but their fame and success doesn't make us any less achieved.
Then again, single game programmers don't normally have to represent whole development teams.. it's not about getting to a podium or becoming a tester !

Also, game programmers are probably more like automotive engineers, while the driver could be the game designers.

..but never mind the analogy, F1 is a sad sport to me.



  1. I have my favorite team and driver, but mostly I watch F1 for the sport itself.

    Its interesting to follow the developments of the cars and teams for the length of the season.

    You could probably compare F1 to TV series with each race being a single episode. I think that currently with no one single team dominating, it is particularly interesting to watch.

  2. Kaz, from analysing you last few blog entries, I've come to a profound conclusion: You're getting old! 8P

    In all seriousness though, I don't think F1 is necessarily so much about the victory in and of itself, but rather the process that leads to the victory. There's a whole lot of R&D, engineering, tuning, optimizing, etc. that goes just into one of those cars alone and some of that data/experience (eventually) ends up in consumer vehicles or the technology is transferred into (hopefully) something useful.

    I think the driver driving the car simply represents that age old concept of "man mastering the machine as well as himself". I could easily see a day where F1 racing (or some from of car racing) becomes more about not so much the driver driving the car, but the software that's driving the car. I suppose in that day, you'll have many F1 drivers complaining about how they're being replaced by computers to do the driving and you'd have the creators of this software espousing the virtues of how the software allows them to be able to measure things more accurately and safely and how (ultimately) it's for the good of mankind.

    Hmm ... maybe I'm on to something here: "Autonomous F1 racing." Such a thing can't be too far off (we'll probably be old men if not already dead by then!) with DARPA's Urban Challenge

  3. Mr. Paul,
    I think some drivers (if not most ?) are wealthy to start with and so have other things to look out for.
    But at the same time.. one has to be so focussed and dedicated and risks spending many years following a dream that somehow cannot be achieved by skills or will power alone.

    Driving in F1 is extremely testing and unforgiving, and I can't help but thinking that it's too much based on luck.

    Those are the situations that I instinctively dislike and think that are unfair.. this is why I like programming, because not only I can set my mind to it, but also know that I can work out success (whatever that means) out of my head. One can fall, but then get up again and continue.

    With F1, drivers seem more and more like disposable machines. It takes a lot of effort to become a bit of a machine.. but then what's the reward ? The average driver will never see an F1 car, and most others lose their chances really fast.

    Sir. Ragin,

    If you think I'm getting old, then I think you are getting crazy ;)

    I like the technology behind F1 for sure.. my concern is really about the drivers. Perhaps F1 careers are a mirror of life.. but at the same time they are also a magnifying glass. Success and failure are so extreme and so rapid.

    I remember some sort of autonomous F1 driver project from a few years ago. I think it was just a press release of some people that were trying to get some coverage and some funds for such a project. I don't think it ever got anywhere.

    Anyway, once you take the human action factor out, then there is very little for most people to look for.
    Imagine race queens posing for headless cars.. not happening 8)

  4. Kaz, motor racing is an expensive sport and being wealthy is definitely an advantage there. But not all drivers started wealthy. I believe that Kimi Raikkonen for example came from a poor, working class family:

    Raikkonen's parents sacrificed a lot to allow their sons to race (Kimi's brother competes in rallying). The family had such limited means that they lived for years with no indoor toilet-remember: this is in frigid Finland. "We struggled many times, but luckily we always found some money from somewhere," says Raikkonen. "We didn't have much money."

    Luck is a big factor in motor racing in general, because of speed. Things happen very fast. And in Formula 1 it is further amplified by the fact that reliability and performance are pushed to the limit, so the smallest incident can determine the outcome of the race. But to me that makes it more interesting to watch. If I wanted to watch some average drivers in cars that can bounce off each other and still recover and go on to win a race then I will go and watch NASCAR =)

    Can I ask what particular driver inspired you to write this? Is it because of Luca Badoer being unsuccessful at Ferrari?

  5. The topic comes indeed from the Luca Badoer recent story..

    Interesting the story about Raikkonen. That makes him more likeable to everyone, and shows that if one tries really hard, anything is possible.

    Perhaps in F1 like for anything true will power is necessary, and most people would give up pretty quickly, with many more being happy to just be able to race.

    I have this vision of drivers dreaming of extreme glory, while people like us.. well, for example becoming a famous game programmer often equates at being a showman more than a skilled programmer.

    So, in a sense, fame for a programmer can be a sign of lameness, while fame for a driver is index of skills (plus the car of course 8).


  6. Badoers main problem is the new F1 rule that you can not test drive the actual model of the car used for racing. In the past test drivers got as much experience as race drivers, if not more by driving the car, but now they cant do that.

    This is F1 administrations 'effort' of trying to make things equal for everybody and support the 'underdog' teams that can't afford extra test cars or test drivers, and also limit the amount of development you can do off the track.

    I totally disagree with that rule. I think drivers should be allowed to test drive the cars as much as they want in their free time. And we can clearly see how in the case of Badoer the 'underdog support' policy is completely backfiring.

    Also that fame/dream thing that you talk about sounds too romantic for race drivers and programmers! I think you should replace "fame/dream" with "success/goals" to make this sound more analytical!

  7. Just to draw an analogy between the ban on testing and programming...

    The ban on testing is like telling you that you can only use a computer at work and only during work hours. Because if you use it outside work hours it will be unfair for the programmers that can not work overtime or can not afford a computer at home...

    So if you are looking for someone to blame for Luca's problems then blame the F1 administration, but dont blame the team or the nature of the sport itself. I am sure Ferrari would be very happy to give him cars to practice on as much as he needs in order to get more competitive.

  8. Interesting details... however you say that the rule is new.. and the guy has been testing Ferraris for 10 years or so..

    Success and goals sounds better, but in F1, for a driver, success and goals equate to fame. Engineers and even test drivers clearly do very solid work but without direct fame 8)

    I wrote "dream" because being a F1 champion is clearly so far out there for the average person. It seems so necessarily tied to so many prerequisites and right sequence of events that one cannot help but dreaming to achieve that goal.

    I think that becoming an F1 champion is more on the fame/success lane.
    As a kid I may have dreamed at some point to become an astronaut, but once personal computers came out and I wanted to become a programmer, the state of things changed because it was much more accessible to reach any level of sophistication.
    You don't need a degree or to be in shape to be a programmer 8) ..it's something that can be done almost autonomously and with a lot more freedom.