It’s not you, it’s me . . .

It’s over. We’re officially on a break. It’s gotten to the point where there’s less pain separating than staying together. I never, ever, thought it’d get to this. But what’s going on just makes no sense, seems perfectly conceived to drive us all away, and is shameful and embarrassing. Maybe we’ll get back. But it’s not possible to think of that now. Good bye. Good luck.

No need to rehash the past, but let me just put some of the why’s on “paper” – it’ll make me feel better about this, help ME to put my thoughts in order. Maybe to convince myself that I’m doing the right thing by walking away. It might be a bit disjointed, a bit rambling. Sorry for that. I’m pretty emotional about this.

It started for me in 2008, with my demotion and replacement by someone who not only had never cared for an accident victim of any sort, but had only ever attended two or three races . . . as a spectator. At the time, I was told by the president of the FIA Medical Commission, “We still need your knowledge and experience, though. You’re our life insurance policy.” Can’t be clearer than that, eh? We need to wait a few years for the consequences to play out, but they do, and the price is awful. A grievously injured driver, barely clinging to life, spends three quarters of an hour on soggy roads in a creaking ambulance, before receiving proper care. It still sickens me.

Here’s a scoop: there will soon be published, in an international peer-reviewed journal, a scientific paper demolishing the current system of extrication that has not been changed in over 20 years, despite dramatic advances in this field. The lack of knowledge and experience at the medical lead is so blatant that several Chief Medical Officers of the F1 season are worried that by following existent FIA protocol they are making themselves vulnerable to medico-legal consequences by failing to follow current standards of care. Read that again. This from a sport that purports to be at the leading edge of everything.

I’ve ranted about this before, and stayed faithful to the sport. But there’s more.

The qualifying debacle currently playing out to the shame of all concerned is the proximate cause. Think back – the problem years ago was an empty circuit when meteorologic conditions were such that running wasn’t advantageous. True to F1 form, complication was chosen over simplicity. Rather than a simple rule constraining teams to get their cars out there or be penalised, all manner of contrivances were instituted. Only to wind up with . . . an empty circuit at the end of quals, arguably what should be the most exciting moments of all. I can’t say who gains by this, but I sure know who loses.

What about safety car procedures? I’ve never understood the delta times, never understood keeping the car out there for two or three extra laps so that “lapped cars may unlap themselves” All I know is that under conditions that by definition are some of the most dangerous, when the entire circuit is covered by yellow flags (need I quote again the regulation concerning driving under yellows?) we have guys driving flat out. Remember Fernando’s accident at Brazil? He used the first of his thankfully many lives there . . . under the safety car. And it’s only gotten worse. Once again, why do simple when we can do complicated. And the public (who want racing once the accident has been cleared, not cars unlapping themselves) be damned.

What about grid penalties? These were treated with humour last season, but seriously? Hundreds of places of grid penalties with a grid you can count on two hands and two feet? Who is kidding whom here? Who is mocking whom? I’m sick of being mocked.

What about engine tokens? With a brilliant and potentially transferable technological formula for energy recovery, we institute a byzantine system in a half-assed attempt to control costs. Complicated, when simple would do.

We’re not complicated, we the fans. We just want good racing. We want to see the skill and cleverness and bravery of drivers battling for position. We’ve all known for years that sophisticated aerodynamics makes for incredible cornering speeds, but makes overtaking more and more difficult. Everyone smart and savvy has been clamouring for years for less aero and more mechanical grip. Huge slicks and small wings – and let the drivers do the rest. What do we get? More aero in the next version of the tech regs, and a promised 4 to 5 second fall in lap times. Do any of us care about fast processional laps? That’s what I thought. The sport is not only not listening to us, but like a petulant child it’s thumbing its nose at us. How long must we endure that?

Should I mention tires? And the absurdly complicated allotment system, the engineered degradation “to make the racing more interesting”?

In a way, these are details, but they are telling. More importantly, MUCH more importantly, is what is going on with the circuits. The circuits are where it all plays out. Where we are reminded, season after season, of the glorious history of the sport. Where, depending on the stroke of the architect’s pen, we are either treated to almost two hours of thrills, or relegated to 305 kilometres of boredom. What about the circuits?

They are being strangled. They are being charged money, much too much money, for the privilege of hosting this soon-to-be farcical spectacle. They are signing contracts that guarantee multi-million dollar losses, and this despite often fantastic attendance. They are forced each year to beg, cap in hand, for a pittance to keep functioning, to continue to host a sport where BILLIONS are earned and distributed. And finally, one after another of the temples of this sport are throwing in the towel. Now Monza is under dire threat and may not be on the calendar in 2017. The only places who can meet the current levels of parasitic pricing are those with governments that are either flush with petrodollars (not sustainable anyway in the current market) or flush with corruption.Or both. Bernie and todt getting touchy-feely with Putin was and is an abidingly nauseating spectacle. Who are they kidding? And who is losing out here? Yep – we the fans. I’m sick of it.

todt has proven that, since becoming FIA president, he either has no idea how to make sure his flagship championship flourishes, or just doesn’t care. Either way, his term has been a shameful example of (almost laughably ineffective) self-promotion. Of blatant abdication of his roles and responsibilities. Of cowardly acquiescense to others.

Bernie, a man I love(d) and respect(ed), has apparently lost the plot. Or lost the ability to influence the plot. The man who created the modern sport of F1 can find nothing better to do than to slag off on it publicly. Can anyone remember the last constructive idea he has had, the last time we actually said “Thank God he’s around”? I sure can’t.

His business model, with floats and bonds and all manner of other financial manoeuvring too complicated for someone like me to understand, has created a monster. A monster whose driving force is profit . . . to the detriment of the fans. I’m not one to bemoan the role of money in global sport. Tennis, golf, football, etc are all multibillion dollar enterprises. BUT THEY CONSISTENTLY ACT IN THE INTEREST OF THEIR FANS BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT KEEPS THE DOLLARS COMING IN. Not F1. Soooo not F1. And I for one am sick of yacht-owning, Gulfstream-flying, Maybach-riding preadolescents bickering and yapping while the sport that made them rich burns. And while the fans who made them rich cry.

There you go. I’m out. Maybe if enough of us do the same they’ll realise where the true power is. But I have no intention of trying to start a movement. I just can’t keep investing emotionally in a sport that has no concern, demonstrably none at all, for us.

I’ll continue to follow all my F1 related twitter feeds.I’ll continue to love Lewis and Jenson and Fernando and Max and all of them. Continue to respect and admire their skill and courage. Continue to pray for them to be safe. But I won’t watch. I can’t. Not unless things change.

 

94 thoughts on “It’s not you, it’s me . . .

  1. Thank you for your words Doc.

    And I have no more than giving it to you Dr Hartstein….do you remember me? When talking about “I want to be a F1 Doc topic”…..I blamed all of you of being in the confort zone of motorsport medicine. I deeply regret. How fool I was…

    First, I have to explain myself. After a couple of races back then, I decided to quit Motorsport Medicine. At least for the moment. Reason? Mostly MEDICO LEGAL concerns. Sickened of travelling around in medical cars fitted with an AED for monitoring, sickened of going around massive multiple victims incidents without any specific material (rally/hillclimb can always take Multiple Casualties as the spectator are next to the competition)….sickened to see as my airway devices only a couple of cuffed ETT. No Fastrach, no Airtraq, no king vision AT ALL?? As you must surely agree extrahospital airway tends to be considered Dificult Per Se….Nobody cared.

    In “regular life” I work in the streets, in a creeky ambulance😉 and I have all kind of “luxuries”, brand new LP 15 with all extras, all kind of IT devices and state of the art Portable Mechanical Ventilator. If you really mean what you said in your post, all medical cars should be fitted with this kind of equipment. After several years of racing coverage, I have to say the reality doesnt fit this definition…..As I previously said many of the local motorsport authorities have their regulations online. You can check them and see for yourself. As a requeriment, an AED for cardiac monitoring. In Trauma patient…AED?? Seems like a joke. Is that state of the art??

    I have to say I deeply miss all my weekends travelling around and serving the poor drivers for ridiculous compensation, but in the end of the day its my way of living. I have to feed my family.

    Sad thing, as much as I love this sport, If my son asks me to buy him a kart i will probably refuse…

    Best Regards my Dear Colleague

    Peace and Love for All!

    • It is indeed a tough fight, and one not likely to be won properly, especially in difficult economic times. As usual, it will take avoidable poor outcomes to change things. It will certainly take motorsport doctors starting events with signed statements given to the stewards/clerks of the course stating that the organisers have not allowed the medical cover to follow current best practice, and that they while the medical workers will do the best they can under the circumstances, they cannot be held responsible for the shortcomings created by the organiser/promoter/ASN.

      This is starting to be the case even at the highest level as concerns extrication practice, with some CMOs going on record before F1 events as stating that current FIA recommendations do not allow current best practice . . . etc etc etc.

      • I have a suggestion. If JT aka Napoleon Jr was such the hero of motorsport and driving safety, why doesn’t he make his FIA MANDATE that 0.5% of all team, track and series sponsorship IS SPENT on event (circuit) medical facilities on a continual basis and to be considered as a cost of doing business and as a gift to the circuits worldwide where FIA affiliated/regulated events occur. Would that make a difference? Someone is getting rich with all of this money going around and around after all, and they won’t pay flag marshals etc… which consequently ends up with a Mclaren M23 dropped on its guts from 5m in Monaco but that another story altogether.

  2. 100% on you on this one. I stopped watching F1 a few years ago. Right now the only thing more boring than an F1 race is looking at a rock waiting for it to move. Passing is a thing of the past unless a car breaks down, crashes or there’s some huge mistake in the pits. There’s more drama outside the track than in the race and the steering wheels on the cars look more complicated than a fighter jet’s cockpit. What the hell happened to a steering wheel, three pedals a shift lever and a tachometer plus a couple of extra gauges? That’s a combination that makes for fun racing. Are they trying to race or break some sort of land speed record?

    I’m not saying to go back to the stone age but it has reached a point where the cars are more closely related to a game console than a motor vehicle. They need to seriously reexamine the basics of what makes for an entertaining race, which is close, wheel to wheel driving with lots of passing and closely matched cars.

    I hope to read more from you in the future, specially about the medical side of motorsports, which I find very interesting.

    Regards from the Dominican Republic!

  3. I visited the Michael Schumacher exhibition at Marburg yesterday.
    A little small but nevertheless well done. The passion of the man, his pleasant personality and his unique achievements came through loud and clear.
    Miss him a lot and so sad we are not to have the benefit of his views and opinions at Grand Prix.

    • It sounds like a tribute to the man he once was and a nice touch to provide this for the fans. I continually wonder if he has any memory of his previous life. Was thinking about this at the weekend as Lu Spinney has just written a book ‘beyond the high blue air’ about her son Miles Kemp who was in a minimally conscious state for 5 years after a snowboarding accident in 2006 which is being serialised in Mail online.
      Since Schumacher’s accident I’ve also read about others like Polly Kitzinger who is now profoundly handicapped after a car accident. Her sisters are academics in the UK who have set up a disorders of consciousness research centre at Cardiff/York universities. It’s such a difficult area but worth shining a light on for all concerned.

  4. Completely agree with you on F1. I actually stopped watching when Sky got half the races.
    But I would like to see a few more articles from you. I enjoyed reading your words and learned a huge amount.
    How about something on the boxer who has just come out of a coma?
    Are repeated relatively small impacts as serious as a single big crash?

    I understand your views on F1…. But that’s maybe only 5% of the reason I read this blog.

  5. I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be writing your articles anymore but I understand and agree with your frustration. F1 lost it’s way long ago and continues to dazzle us fans with fits of brilliance like the latest qualifying format. Your candid and informative articles will be sorely missed.

  6. ‘there will soon be published, in an international peer-reviewed journal, a scientific paper demolishing the current system of extrication that has not been changed in over 20 years’

    Can you post a link to that here? I would find it interesting to read.

  7. Greetings Doc, I am so with you on this. Actually, I gave it up early last season, and this from someone fanatical from the 60’s. Working the next corner beyond Cevert in ’73 at Watkins Glen, to Mansel passing out in Dallas, to jumping up and down in front of the teevee in the middle of the night watching MSC put on mind-blowing performances in unbelievable conditions and never once being remotely bored by his domination from Beneton to Ferrari. I’ve been in the room with Graham Hill, Chapman, Gurney,
    Tyrrell, Jackie Stewart, Pedro, Siffert, Ickx, Hulme, Brabham, Peterson, Regazzoni, Mario and more, gods one and all. It brings many a tear to my eye to think of the history and greatness I’ve been priveliged to witness and now to see what it has come to. Yes I’ll miss Alonso, Grosjean and others and I’ll follow on Twitter, but basically I’m done. F—you Bernie, Todt and the “technical working group”, thanks a lot, thanks for NOTHING!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Mark!You’ve been active in the sport a bit longer than I have, but much like you I’ve had coffee with about 2/3s of the World Champions. Meeting one’s heroes is a pleasure and privilege accorded to all too few, and I will forever be grateful for that. That said, it makes the current debacle all the more difficult to accept. Great to see your words. Hopefully we’ll be back – the sport has too much to NOT get back on the path!

  8. Bravo Gary

    You have summed up (and more) what every true F1 is feeling. What the hell is going on with F1.

    They are doing everything they can to turn this beautiful sportbetween man and machine into an artificial, boring spectacle. Things like:

    – Kers
    – New Qualifying Format
    – Quiet engines
    – Race Fuel limits
    – Bernies stupid ideas such as sprinklers on the circuit, he must of played too much mario karts.
    – Selling TV rights to SKY, do they not realise your average young F1 fan may not be able to afford this. Whos going to replace the current generation of F1 fans?
    – Lack of on-line availability

    i could go on………

  9. Living in the UK it is not in the least difficult to boycott F1 which has been lost by BBC now. I enjoyed reading your blog Gary long after any of my family stopped watching races. I wonder if the death of Bianchi will have the effect of reducing viewing numbers even more. My son, born in 1995 with no memory of Senna’s death was far more shocked by this death than I was. He felt that being alive in a vegetative state was better than being killed outright for F1 as they could claim safety standards were higher than ever. It seems to me that the focus is now on making the cars so safe that the medical role has been devalued, which could be one reason why Todt et al have been able to get away with bringing in cronies with no trackside medical experience. I don’t think that the Bianchis intend to take legal action but hope that eventually there will be so few spectators that things will have to change.

    • As usual,thanks Jane. You are likely right about advances in safety contributing to an erroneous impression of medical backup being less necessary. And I do agree that the Bianchis do not intend legal action, a decision easily understandable by all.

  10. Might I suggest that we all use our new found F1-free Sunday afternoons – and the money that British fans, amongst others, will have to pay to watch F1 on television – to get out and support our local tracks and club championships? The racing is better, the participants – and those watching them – are there for the love of the sport, they certainly need our support to survive, and, best of all, F1’s powers that be, ie: Bernie and CVC, don’t get to pad their bank accounts at our expense anymore.

    I think sports in general need a reset back to their grassroots where passion is the raison-d’etre rather than profit and marketing. There is too much money, too much ego, and too much greed for the pure love of the game to breath anymore. Get out to the racetrack and watch drivers who work on their own cars before jumping in and scrabbling around a wet track in hopes of taking home a dinky trophy and enough prize money to buy some tyres and get them to the next race. I can’t tell you how much it means to those guys – and I was one of them – to look up on the spectator banks and stands and see people cheering you on after a good race. It still means a lot to me to think that, occasionally, I gave them a good show.

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