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Understanding Formula 1’s Unique Global Allure

What is it that just makes Formula 1 so special?

Leo Shvedsky
October 18 2021

Formula 1 has been capturing the hearts and minds of racing fans and car enthusiasts alike for almost a century now. It is the subject of popular Hollywood films, documentaries, and media coverage. Its drivers are world renowned celebrities who are followed by throngs of paparazzi. In short, people can’t get enough of F1. Being the diligent observers of the car enthusiast world that we are, we wanted to explore what it is about F1 that holds so much sway.  

Or maybe a better word for it is “drift”: Shutterstock

Formula 1 as we know it today began in 1950, but motorsport’s history goes a little beyond that. Car enthusiasts going back to the early 1900s would saddle up to see who had the quicker jalopy in a race. Eventually, as happens with any sport, people started to talk about organization. It took until 1950 for everything to come together for the first ever F1 Grand Prix (Grand Prize in French) race at Silverstone speedway in England, where Giuseppe “Nino” Farina won in his Alfa Romeo 158, with King George IV watching in the crowd (that’s the one from The King’s Speech).  

Alfa Romeo 158: Shutterstock 

So, what is it that caught people’s imaginations about this race for generations to come?  

We believe part of it is due to what we like to call “the World Cup effect.” The famous international soccer tournament held every four years is a shining example of how a simple sport that includes all nations can bring everyone together. Even here in the U.S., where soccer isn’t necessarily the most popular sport, the World Cup is a massive event.  

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Lewis Hamilton gunning the Mercedes at the Grand Prix of Spain: Shutterstock 

That’s what F1 is, but with amazing machines instead of a ball. Any country, car manufacturer, or person can compete in the series – as long as they have $200-$400 million on average to run a team each season – and win as a representative of their country or brand. The togetherness of it all is a large part of the attraction. 

Another part of it is, of course, enthusiasm for the machinery. The mystique of the driver alone in a vehicle that can reach speeds of over 200 mph with limited visibility bounding around tracks with hairpin turns and devilish straights – that touches a very special nerve in most enthusiasts’ minds. 

It is a nerve that yearns for that sensation of controlled chaos, imminent danger, and excitement of the unknown. This is the same kind of allure that drives most entertainment out there. It’s a feeling that, for a brief moment, you can leave whatever ails you and experience the thrill of going 150 while trying to take the inside corner on a turn at Monaco. In short, it is escapism.  

It’s a bit sharp at Monaco: Shutterstock 

That’s the reason why, in our minds, over 430 million people tuned into watch F! races in 2018. It’s the reason why the Ferrari team alone is worth $1.35 billion. It’s a sense of community in which all are striving toward the simple innocence of crossing a checkered flag first. It’s the awe-inspiring speed and danger that we can all feel projected onto Lewis Hamilton reaching for a trophy. And, for auto-enthusiasts, there’s an elegance to that which can’t be replicated anywhere else. 



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