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Lesson Learned

From here on out, there will be no more ranting about the way I think things should be done in Formula 1. After all, exactly what the hell is it I think I know? Who am I to criticize anyone? Am I some sort of perfect angel who’s never fixed a race? “Not much,” “Nobody,” and “No — but wait, I’ve never had the opportunity to fix a race!” would be the answers to those questions. Anyway, I’m here to tell you what I’ve finally realized: to be a fan of F1 is to be a fan of everything that F1 is about — not a fan of some idealized “sport” that F1 will never be. I think that’s been my problem all along: I came into this with a certain set of beliefs about sports and they way they work, and instead of adjusting them to reflect reality, I imagined that somehow reality might be adjusted in a way that would conform to my beliefs. Because how could anyone possibly want it to be otherwise?

I think I understand now, finally, more of what F1 is really about. As many have pointed out — some more politely than others — it’s much more a business than a sport. In the business of F1, those with a rare and lucrative skill are not going to be shunned simply on the basis of their unethical behavior.

Pat Symonds is a brilliant engineer. Flavio Briatore is . . . er, a brilliant something. (Personality? Rich guy? Maker of connections? Schmoozer of the right people?) Nelson Piquet, Jr., however, is not a brilliant driver, and therein lay his downfall. One could argue that, if he were a brilliant driver, he never would have let himself be used the way he was — but, purely for illustrative purposes, let’s say he was. Do you suppose for a second that he would not have been offered another race seat as soon as the dust of the controversy had settled, if not sooner? We can look at it a different way: say Fernando Alonso had been proven to be knowingly involved in the scandal. Do you think he’d be racing NASCAR trucks right now?

Symonds is already back. Briatore will be back. Piquet, Jr., will never be back. There is absolutely no point in exerting energy trying to argue that this is unfair. Within the system of F1 logic, it was entirely predictable, and getting upset about it is a bit like getting upset about the earth’s gravitational pull. Don’t waste energy cursing laws of nature. I’m not — well, not any longer.

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