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Non Sequitur Fridays

The Greatest Sport on Earth

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Maddie Simens is a student at Northeastern University doing her co-op at Wistia. This is her first Non Sequitur.

Every Sunday, I watch the greatest sport on earth.

It isn't football.

It's Formula 1 racing.

Since I was just a wee sprout, I've woken up on this sacred day to perch on the arm of my father's favorite chair, steal bits of bacon from his breakfast, and, most importantly, watch "the race." In our household, that word only means one thing. I spent three years on a competitive track team, yet if I asked my parents during that time if they were "watching the race this weekend," I certainly wasn't referring to the one I'd be running on Saturday.

No, "the race" means Sunday. 305 kilometers of wide eyes. 120 minutes of shallow, tight-chested breaths. 66 laps of adrenaline. One winner.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The fact is, despite my devotion, Formula 1 is not a widely followed sport in the U.S. Approximately half of the season's events take place in Europe, the sport's birthplace, while the rest are scattered across the globe. The status of the American Grand Prix is particularly fickle—some years we host a race, some years we don't. In my experience, American fans are tragically few and far between. You, dear reader, are most likely squinting your eyes and straining to recall any real knowledge of the sport. Maybe you saw it advertised briefly alongside Nascar in a TV spot. Maybe you just now did a quick Google search. Maybe you don't care. But you should.

In other parts of the world, Formula 1 has a fan base as crazed as any other. I'm told its international reach and loyalty are on par with those of soccer. This makes perfect sense because, in my eyes, Formula 1 is the greatest sport on earth. Allow me to fill you in on a few of the reasons why:

The rivalries are threefold.

In most sports, such as football, you'll likely find your loyalty pledged to one team and your competitive energy directed at another, rival team. Once a season, you'll sit on the edge of your seat as these fated foes battle each other on the field. Then, it will be over. Once a year: that's probably all you will get.

In Formula 1, every race is against your rival. Every driver from every team races their hardest every time. What's more, the sport's unique model has created three separate levels of competition.

Here's a quick overview of that model: The F1 circuit is comprised of approximately eleven teams, and each team has two drivers and two cars. The teams are owned by huge brands such as Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull. Each race, drivers are awarded points according to their finishing position and teams aggregate points based on the composite of both their drivers' performances. At the end of the season, the driver with the most points is declared World Driver's Champion and the team with the most points is declared World Constructor's Champion.

My team's driver at the Canadian Grand Prix this summer.

In essence, rivalries develop not only between teams, but between drivers as well. Feuds are passionate and publicized. Some teams even pit their drivers against one another. Because competitors come from all over the world, rivalries between nationalities inevitably exist, too. For example, my team is Scuderia Ferrari, my driver is Fernando Alonso, and I also have an inclination to support German drivers because that is my heritage. Put simply, it's a competitive trifecta, and it's in full force at every single race.

It's an international affair.

This year's season alone consisted of 19 races spread across 19 different countries on 5 continents. Race locations change annually, meaning that this span is only a sample of a far greater reach. As a fan, it's amazing to me that I am part of a global community. Last summer I traveled to Europe and was able to bond with an Italian over our favorite driver one night and banter with an Austrian rooting for a rival the next. Somehow I don't think I would have made many friends abroad by opening with "So how about those Patriots?"

As a spectator, whether you're in the stands or in your living room, the race venues are breathtaking in themselves. While some races are held on impressive tracks built specifically for the sport, the best courses are held in city streets. That's right, some of the most beautiful cities in the world shut down for a weekend so that a fleet of Formula 1 drivers can race through their streets at speeds up to 220 mph. Monaco, Singapore, and Montreal are just a few of my favorite Grand Prix for this reason.

A strip of the Monaco Grand Prix. Yes, those are yachts.

It runs on adrenaline.

I don't mean to be rude, but, well, watching 22 football players run into each other on a grass field just isn’t the same as watching 22 technological marvels hurtle around corners of a city built centuries ago. The raw danger and mental fortitude required to race Formula 1 is astounding.

The crowd storms the track as soon as the last car crosses the finish line (and sometimes before).

I mentioned that the cars reach speeds of up to 220 mph, but that's really just a number. To give some scope, crews of workers are sent out before street races to weld shut the hosting city's manholes. Why? Because a moving Formula 1 car creates enough suction to rip a manhole out of the ground and shoot it straight into the sky. Yeah. That's pretty dang cool.

Driving one of these powerhouses is a daunting opportunity given to only the most elite drivers in the world. While the mental strain is obvious, many don’t recognize the physical sacrifice involved. Over the course of a 2-hour race, a driver will lose an average of 4 kg in bodyweight. A unfortunate muscle spasm in his wrist could cause him to nick another driver's wheel and literally catapult himself into the sky. The toll and risk involved mean that every driver trains to peak physical condition. I do believe that qualifies as totally badass.

F1 cars are engineering masterpieces.

Taking a photo during the race that isn't blurry is nearly impossible.

Despite the risks, the last driver to die while competing for the championship was Ayrton Senna in 1994. These 19 years without tragedy are owed entirely to the extraordinary engineering that goes into the sport. Some of the most well-respected brands in the world pour R&D money not only into constructing cars that win, but cars that are safe. The average Formula 1 car is comprised of about 80,000 components. Even 0.1% error would leave a driver with 80 components capable of ending his race or worse. I won't let the nerd in me go into details, but suffice it to say that F1's fierce competition has forced it to push the envelope and reach the pinnacle of engineering technology.

Getting a closer look at those sweet, sweet cars after attending my first race.

So there you have it! If I haven't convinced you to stop whatever you're doing and binge-watch videos of Formula 1 highlights, then I have failed the both of us. I'll leave you with one last reason to give the sport a shot: it can be enjoyed by anyone from the most novice viewer to the most devoted. Just pick a team with a name you like and root for them to come in first place. Once you're hooked, there's a whole world of strategy, rivalry, and technology that will grow with your newfound obsession.

Good luck and godspeed.

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