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March 15, 2004 | by  | in Opinion |
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Vroom vroom!

Formula One is the most watched annual sport competition in the world. At almost every race on the calendar, more than 120,000 spectators cram into the grandstands, all vying for a view of the millionaire superstar drivers. At that same time, in 150 countries worldwide, more than 300 million people tune in to watch the fight for glory in the comfort of their front rooms.

The only things to compete with it are the Soccer World Cup and the Olympics – and these are held just once every four years. And why shouldn’t Formula One be so popular? Every little kid who has a dream of being a racing car driver wants to be doing it in the fastest cars that there are, not a lesser series of cars.

One man who is coming close to living out his dream is our very own Scott Dixon. Last year he was champion of the Indy Racing League in the United States, which is a nice title to have when you could be considering moving to the Formula One circuit. The rumours are rife with who he may be signing. Dixon visited leading teams Ferrari, Williams and McLaren last year as well as Toyota, whose cars he drove in winning last year’s IRL title. Williams or McLaren might be the team courting him.
The last New Zealander to race in Formula One was Chris Amon, who never won a grand prix in 96 starts with teams including Ferrari, Lotus and Matra. New Zealand’s other greats were the late McLaren founder Bruce McLaren and 1967 world champion Denny Hulme.

If, or more likely when, Scott Dixon joins the Formula One circuit he will be mixing it with the big boys in the game, a star-studded line up of names that attract huge sponsors and a truly international competition. People like Michael Schumacher (who is going for his seventh world title this year) and Bernie Ecclestone, one of Britain’s richest men, are often credited with making Formula One so marketable and popular. But the list goes on; including past winners Damon Hill and David Coulthard and many others who are vying for supremacy against the odds.

Then there are the teams themselves, Ferrari, McLaren, BAR, Williams, Renault and a few lesser-known and less successful teams. Each team invests vast amounts of money into the development of their cars, as races are won and lost over seconds, so it’s necessary to fine-tune everything to get the most grunt and performance. The latest technology is used often straight from the military, and many car engineers and designers come from aerospace and computer industries. These vehicles resemble a modern day jet fighter rather than an automobile with all the materials technology and design that go into their construction.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. The teams and drivers travel the world to glitzy and glamourous locations in places such as Australia, China, Brazil, Monaco and Italy. That is what makes this sport so exciting to follow and watch: To see the feuds between drivers, the psychological warfare on the track, the extreme pressure on the pit crew, the scantily clad women who are placed wherever men may look, the excessive speeds and great Gs that the drivers must undergo, the media attention off the race track and the constant testing of cars on it. All this while traveling round the world should surely be more thrilling than any other reality TV show.

Last week Michael Schumacher took the first win of the season Down Under setting a new lap record on the course. Will he be able to repeat this next weekend in Kuala Lumpur where he holds the fastest lap time there as well? Or will his team mate Rubens Barichello or maybe favoured Fernando Alonso, or Juan Pablo Montoya? They will race 310 km, reaching speeds over 300km per hour and pulling over 3 Gs over a total of five laps.

Who knows what will happen, but here’s a little joke to keep you entertained till then. The Ferrari F1 Team recently fired the whole pit crew to employ some young unemployed youths from Liverpool. The decision to hire them was brought on by a documentary on how unemployed youths in the Liverpool area can remove a set of car wheels in less than 4 seconds without proper equipment. This was thought to be a good move as most races are won and lost in the pits these days, and Ferrari would thus have an advantage.

However, Ferrari soon encountered a major problem: Not only were the lads changing the tyres in under 4 seconds but within a further 10 secs they had resprayed, re-numbered and sold the vehicle to the McLaren team.

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