“Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose” – Ayrton Senna

Formula 1 – the king of motorsport. Car racing has always been an avid interest in Pakistan with events like the Cholistan jeep rally taking place annually. The world of F1 however, has not really received much attention from Pakistani audiences. The lack of exposure mostly comes down to the fact that the sport is not even broadcasted on Pakistani sports channels. In 2019, the release of the Netflix documentary “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” directed the interest of many Pakistanis towards the sport. Finally, after over 70 years of the sports existence, it is beginning to be appreciated across Pakistan.

Consisting of two annual world championships: one for the teams – the constructors – and one for the individual drivers, F1 is the pinnacle of racing sports. The drivers in F1 are the most competitive in the world. Each driver is equipped with an almost fighter pilot mentality and battles each race with the hope that someday they are able to win the drivers’ championship.

The constructor’s championship consists of ten teams, and around twenty races (known as Grand Prix) a year, with big names such as Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, and Red Bull competing as well. Each team has two drivers. Unlike most team sports, in F1, the norm is such that each driver considers his greatest competition to come from his own teammate. Teammates are directly compared to one another as they drive the exact same cars as each other. This fuels rivalries both on and off the track which adds to the drama and thrill factor of the sport.

The thrill factor in F1 is unique. When drivers are racing for tenths of a second in the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world, it’s almost inevitable viewers will spend most of the race on the edge of their seats. With the cars being able to reach top speeds of up to 375km/h, each race the drivers face the risk of losing control of their cars which on many occurrences has led to life threatening crashes. That being said, when you watch an F1 race and observe the drivers navigating their way through high-speed turns and risky overtakes, you are reminded of the fact that the drivers are all kings of their craft. Adding to the drama, viewers get to hear the radio conversations drivers have with their teams mid-race which also allows us to delve into the psyche of F1 drivers and understand the various tactics involved in the sport.

The beauty of Formula 1, perhaps can be seen in the fact that no other sport is won or lost based on such a tiny margin of error. Drivers battle for milliseconds, and the races can be won or lost in the pits. The pit crews for each team are extremely well trained and often bear the weight of the race on their shoulders. The average pit stop is about two seconds long. A bad pit-stop, even a second slower than your opponent is more than enough to do lasting damage.

The races are usually scheduled two and sometimes three weeks apart. Every race will give its viewers the thrill they seek from F1: drivers taking risks, losing control of their cars, going off-track, trouble in the pits, raging rivalries and more. If you’re looking to get into the sport I would highly recommend starting with the Netflix documentary which can serve as a beginners’ guide. It’s not a shock that the audience is rapidly growing in Pakistan since its release, so we can hope that in the near future, locals can watch the sport on channels available to them rather than having to stream it online. Who knows, maybe someday Pakistan will have its very own Grand Prix!

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