[Originally posted March 2011]

When I started following Formula One a bit over 10 years ago, it was a fairly simple sport to get into. It wasn’t like trying to explain the NFL to a European, or cricket to a Yank (or cricket to just about anybody, actually). Simple premise: each race team fields two cars which look alike; they have to design their own chassis, but they could pretty much buy most other parts – engine, transmission, etc. – from someone else. Cobble the stuff together, put the cars on the racetrack every fortnight or so, and go racing for about two hours. There are other minor details, but none that you need to really be concerned with in order to have a basic understanding of the sport. That’s about as much as you needed to know as far as the basic formula was concerned. It’s two dozen cars with wings going very, very, very, very fast around a twisty track for about two hours – and try not to die in a fiery crash while you’re at it. It’s not that complicated.

(F1 is the world’s single greatest sport. There is absolutely nothing else on earth that blends insane technology with unfathomable participant skill, held together by unrepentant arrogance and so much money it’ll make the NFL look like the owners of the Mets. No other sport comes close. Don’t even try to challenge me on this, it’s futile. There is no sport greater than F1.)

Then you get down to watching the races. Which is where potential fandom starts to break down. You got people who need constant overtaking, and you’ve got people who don’t. Count me in the latter. For example, NASCAR fans will declare (right after “the south shall rise again”) that it’s bullshit if there aren’t a half-dozen cars overtaking at every turn for four mind-numbing hours. To them, I extend a very simple, warm and friendly “fuck you”. I could go on for weeks on that debate but frankly, I’m a bit weary of having that same stupid argument after 10 years or so. An argument in which I win every single time, mind you. Every single time.

That said, one of the overwhelming criticisms of F1 over the years has been its lack of overtaking. Through the greater part of the 2000s, F1 was practically the Gobi desert of overtaking. The formula AND the cleverness of race engineers contributed to this. It got heaps better in the past two to three years, then it kinda sucked again last year for probably the same ol’ reasons.

So, here we are at the cusp of a new F1 season, and with it, a whole host of new rule changes. Most of them a casual fan won’t even really notice. But that hardly matters. Because the biggest, most retarded rule change of the year is supposedly in the interest of overtaking.

The adjustable rear wing

Here’s the basic idea of this new rule – the angle of the rear wing can be slackened by the driver via a button on his steering wheel in order to help make the car more aerodynamic, thus speed up to help it overtake the car in front. Got it? Good.

If the idea ended there, it’d already be a monumentally shitty idea. Why? Because racing comes from a driver using his steering, his throttle and his brakes to go really, really, really fast. He’s a racing driver, for fuck’s sake. Not a bloody Air Force pilot fiddling with flaps and slats and all sorts of other aerofoil-related shit . Tell you what, if you make a driver control his wing flaps like a fighter pilot, then you should be able to arm his car with a heat-seeking missile. Just one, completely at the driver’s discretion as to when he wants to use it. You wanna see some fast driving, try watching a Grand Prix driver try to outrun a Sidewinder missile. Holy shit, I think I just found another way to make F1 even more superb!

But I digress. Back to this stupid, stupid rear wing. So the damn thing is adjustable. But it doesn’t end there. There are rules onwhen and where you can use it:

  • Never on laps 1 and 2
  • Only if you’re trailing the car in front of you by 1 second or less (!).
  • And only in one (one!) designated section of the race track; you can’t go about using it willy-nilly anywhere you damn well like.

Bunch of fascists. Even as I was typing that up, I wanted to punch my keyboard. That is, by far, the single stupidest rule I have ever seen in any sport, then, now and possibly for all eternity. And this is coming from someone who’s whinged about stupid rules in F1 for quite a few years now (I’m an expert at whinging about this). Could they possibly add more conditions to using this wing? Maybe you can only use it on laps with prime numbers? Maybe you can only use it on even laps if your name ends in a vowel, odd laps if your name ends in a consonant. Maybe you can only use it if had bacon for breakfast that day. You can only use it if the temperature is between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s like giving somebody a brand new iPad and telling them they can only use it when rainbows appear, the town they live in contains the letter Q, and their dog must fart precisely at 3:12pm on a Tuesday.

It’s really fucking stupid. And I guaranfuckingtee this: this wing adjustment will contribute to precisely zero overtaking moves. Ze-ro. Its effect will be completely negligible to the racing. This wing will not raise one iota of interest to the sport. It won’t bring one additional eyeball to the sport. The pundits will yammer on about it the first race weekend, but by race day on Sunday, everyone will be completely bored of this stupid device. No one gives a shit about a wing that can tilt 1.5 inches. More importantly, no ones’s going to give a shit about a stupid wing that can only work in one part of the racetrack. It’s as if the sport wants to channel all the overtaking into that one part of the track – like I said, it’ extremely stupid. Even more importantly, it helps make me lose my argument to the NASCAR fuckwits.

Check this out:

I’ll bet the novelty wore off and you got thoroughly bored before you got anywhere near the end of that video.  It’s like watching a flying mail slot.  The only way that device could get interesting would be if a bird somehow got stuck in there. That would be brilliant – who wouldn’t want to watch a bird being taken for a ride on a race car doing 220mph? You can picture it, can’t you – Tweety screaming his lungs out, “HOOOOOLLYY SHIIIIIIITTTT!!!!!” Hell, why stop at birds. If I were at the racetrack, I’d be throwing all sorts of shit onto the racetrack to see if I could get it wedged between those wing flaps. A corn dog, a race program, a small ferret. Talk about a ramping up the spectator sport.

This stupid rear wing isn’t going to improve overtaking. You know what improves overtaking? Two things: massive hairy balls and sheer unbridled stupidity. One gives and one takes. You put them together, and you’ll get one car passing another going into a corner. It’s a proven formula that works. Day in, day out, every race, every year, for as long as time itself.

Work it, bitches.