Weekend debate: what would F1 look like as an Olympic sport?
Could Formula 1 be an Olympic sport? As the Rio 2016 draws to a close, JAonF1 takes a look at how that idea, which is incredibly unlikely, might wo...
Could Formula 1 be an Olympic sport? As the Rio 2016 draws to a close, JAonF1 takes a look at how that idea, which is incredibly unlikely, might work.
Already we can hear murmuring: “The Olympic motto is ‘faster, higher, stronger’. F1, a contest as much about engineering proficiency as it is about sporting competition has no place in the Games. Anyway, it’s all about the car!”
But you don’t see the riders in the Olympic equestrian events jumping over barriers or doing the dressage themselves – it’s the horses. Plus, many of the Winter Olympic sports involve sliding down a mountain or ice track as fast as possible, so why doesn’t gravity get a medal?
So, let’s assume that the International Olympic Committee has somehow decided to incorporate F1 into the line-up of sports for Tokyo 2020. Now, what would the competition look like?
Well, the first thing to do would be to create a new single-spec car for the contest and take F1 teams and their various performance variables out the equation. A stand-alone F1 Olympic race sounds nice, but we’ve got rather grander plans than that.
We’re also going to impose a cost-cap before anyone mentions marginal gains and how much each medal costs based on the funding each country applies to its hypothetical Olympic motorsport programme.
Who drives the cars?
Now here’s where it could get interesting. Many Olympic sports involve qualifying rounds and some sports, such as road cycling, attach points to success that when collected mean a country gets to enter larger teams in the Olympic finals. So, with hypothetical help from the FIA, why not attached these points to race wins in categories across motorsport?
There were 13 different nations that had drivers winning races in FIA championships in 2015, so based on those results, they’d all get two entries, and France, Germany and Britain would be awarded an extra car for being the three most successful countries with 20, 14 and 12 wins across the five different motorsport categories sanctioned by the governing body. The host country also gets a guaranteed entry so that’s grid of 30 cars.
Even though drivers that have collected wins and points for their countries would be in prime position to be granted a slot on the Olympic grid its not a certainty their team selectors would pick them. Hopefully this would foster a collective team spirit and encourage countries to develop grassroots motorsport programmes in a bid to win medals and prestige through sporting success.
The topic of female drivers in F1 is not new, but how could this fit in with our theoretical Olympic plan for motorsport? Again, we should look to the existing equestrian events where men and women compete together as the model to follow.
We’ve used the FIA championships as qualifying series to try and keep what is already a wildly complicated idea as simple as possible, and because the organisation is recognised by the IOC, but our hypothetical Olympic motorsport contest would not stop nations from selecting drivers from outside the FIA sphere, so IndyCar, NASCAR and V8 Supercar drivers could all be picked.
What races take place?
Rather than have one standalone race, why not have multiple events like the Olympic track cycling programme. Yes, a two-hour, 200km Grand Prix style event would be the headline race, but why not hold a time trial day afterwards?
Another set of medals would be awarded for the fastest three drivers over a single, high pressure lap, and another for the quickest three over ten laps.
Where do the races take place?
If we pretend the Tokyo Olympic motorsport events are taking place, the logical place for them to be run is at Toyota’s Fuji speedway, which is just 60 miles away by road from the Japanese capital.
Budapest, Paris, Rome and Los Angeles are have all submitted bids to host the 2024 Olympics, so the Hungaroring, Magny-Cours, Monza and Laguna Seca all make sense as venues, but, as Formula E has proved, temporary street circuits are possible, so future host nations would not have to build costly permanent circuits if they didn’t want too.
The Paralympic Games take place just a few weeks after Olympics and the cars could be adapted for use by Paralympic athletes. Former-F1 driver Alessandro Zanardi, who lost his legs in an accident during a CART race in 2001, won two gold and one silver medal at London 2012, and he returned to competitive motorsport after his crash.
This year’s Garage 56 entry at the Le Mans 24 Hours event, which is reserved for innovative cars or teams, was filled by quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset and his squad who finished 38th in the legendary endurance race.
All of these ideas are of course, extremely unlikely to come to fruition, but there’s no harm in wondering what motorsport would look like at the Olympics and Paralympics. After all, medals were awarded for arts contests between 1912 and 1948 and chariot racing formed part of the original Games in Ancient Greece.
Plus, wouldn’t be it be great to finally have an answer to the endless debate on who is the fastest driver, from any series around the world, all things being equal?
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