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The current situation in F1 presents the Christian Horner paradox: while the races may be uninteresting, the excitement and drama have reached new heights.
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The current situation in F1 presents the Christian Horner paradox: while the races may be uninteresting, the excitement and drama have reached new heights.


The second episode of the latest installment of Drive to Survive opens with a heartwarming scene at Christian Horner’s home where Father Christmas pays a visit. This scene is a delightful addition to the show on Netflix, featuring Horner, his wife, Geri Halliwell, his two kids, and a TV crew equipped with at least two cameras to capture both panoramic and close-up shots. These moments of being involved in their father’s content creation are priceless for children, and Santa starts by asking them, “Has your dad been on his best behavior this year?” It appears the answer is no.

Not to break out the journalese or anything, but the boss of Formula One’s entirely dominant team is currently embroiled in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, thanks to a mushrooming scandal that I have very little legal leeway in terms of being able to discuss fully here. It’s all very Keeping Up With the Carkrashians. Let’s just say that Horner was accused of controlling behaviour by a female Red Bull employee, was cleared last week by a resolutely opaque internal probe, only for a cache of messages said to be between the two to be leaked.

During the recent Bahrain Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was seen engaged in a heated conversation with Max Verstappen’s father, Jos Verstappen. Meanwhile, Horner’s wife, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, arrived by private jet to put on a display of affection for the cameras. However, the event was overshadowed by the upcoming race in Saudi Arabia, a country known for human rights violations, and a whistleblower’s claim that the president of the governing body interfered to reverse a driver’s penalty during last year’s race.

If you are not familiar with Formula One or Drive to Survive, do not worry as they are easily understandable. Formula One is a sport where the primary source of power is not human, and in addition to the individual drivers’ trophy, there is also a team competition called the “constructors’ championship”. The races take place around the world, often in oppressive regimes, and one person has been dominating for a significant amount of time and is likely to continue doing so this season as well. Despite its increased popularity, Formula One has become more boring. This leads us to Drive to Survive.

Drive to Survive is a highly produced behind-the-scenes examination of a previous F1 season that has gained immense popularity among viewers. In fact, up to 53% of new fans have cited it as a major influence in their decision to start following the sport. It is essentially the pinnacle of what is now considered crucial for modern sports – compelling storylines. Its appeal crosses demographic boundaries and has attracted a diverse audience, including women, youth, and Americans, who have become emotionally involved in a sport where the drivers’ faces are not even visible while they compete. Personally, I applaud its success.

One would assume that the drivers are the main focal point of Drive to Survive, but surprisingly, it is Horner who steals the spotlight. No one in the world of sports seems to desire fame as much as Christian Horner, aside from a few young footballers. Despite being 50 years old, Horner only recently realized his ambition and has yet to fully embrace his natural charisma. Known for his short stature, Horner often plans extravagant clay pigeon shooting events and hams it up for the cameras on the pit wall. He enjoys inviting cameras to document his daily life, such as him and his partner Geri riding horses in the Cotswolds or asking his children leading questions in hopes of capturing their genuine wishes, like Max winning the world championship. According to his daughter, this desire for fame is Horner’s ultimate wish.

The current situation is not what Horner desired, but it highlights the negative consequences of sports trying to imitate soap operas. Similar to football, where coaches have become the main focus, the organizers of F1 have realized that the actual event only takes up a small portion of time, while a large portion of their desired global audience is asleep. Additionally, F1 can be difficult to understand unless one is closely following the on-screen stats and timers. Therefore, it makes sense to prioritize the non-athlete managers as “characters” and hope they generate drama. This way, the actual matches or races can be seen as events that happen in between episodes of the ongoing soap opera.

Unfortunately, F1 is facing a significant disadvantage due to its short punctuation marks. It is currently considered as the most uninteresting motorsport event on the planet, as its regulatory body lacks the initiative or ability to implement changes that can make it more exciting. This does not bode well for the sport, as evidenced by the first race of this season where one of Red Bull’s supposed opponents was questioned about their chances of winning. Toto Wolff, the principal of Mercedes team, concluded that it was already over after Max Verstappen dominated the race by a whopping 22 seconds.

As a result, the main topic of conversation for people is now things unrelated to the sport, such as the recent Christian Horner scandal which has generated a lot of attention. When asked in the past if he wanted Formula One to be more competitive, Horner dismissed it by saying he had no desire for that. One can’t help but wonder if his opinions have changed now.

  • and political commentator.

    Marina Hyde is a journalist for The Guardian and an expert on political matters.

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Source: theguardian.com