Last year’s COP26 carnival in Glasgow told the world two things: people and countries will do what they feel they need to do to survive, while others will do what they need to prosper.
In a world governed by the cloudy nausea of perception and positioning, how long before the very existence of international motorsport becomes a challenge to be answered?
There is a moment in David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, where Tafas – T.E. Lawrence’s guide across the desert to Prince Faisal – asks if Britain is a desert country, to which Lawrence replies, “No: a fat country. Fat people.”
It is certainly a quote pertinent for modern times, particularly morally egregious Westernised societies, and their alliances, whatever that means.
We are fat, in a sense. Not a strict or specific reference to culinary gluttony by any means, but we are fat in thought and obese in desires. If “wanting” is a skill, we have mastered it.
Formula One is obese – that is no surprise. In rich and developed nations, we consume and horde furiously and sniff aggressively at those who covet our bounty – but it is not just food that we keep to ourselves. We consume energy endlessly; absorb consciousness; drain fashion and materials as well, and if we could own happiness, we would probably claim that too.
Our sport’s continued expansion plays into that. There is money to be made and we will make it: the how’s, why’s and wherefores are for others to discuss over nibbles that become meals, while reason loses its balance to drunkenness. For and to the world, the right words are spoken, and the correct allusions are made and yet, the growing calendar does not sit easily alongside promises of sustainability.
Such consumption and the desire for more has brought us to the precipice of human destruction, but the roots and foundations for these wants do not end at our borders, particularly when the materials for our product wealth are mined at a pittance from poorer lands around the world.
For all our impressions of growth and humane maturity, the roots of our old colonial thinking still very much exist and is practiced at our behest. We conquer not for land, but for market share: wealth and prosperity – as long as we are the ones who are prosperous – and as we do that, illusions of betterment are made.
The illusions are so important. A Grand Prix is many things: an event that excites, drives, and inspires; a national painting that captures beauty, essence, and wonder; an experience that incites, provokes and assaults the senses.
But they are illusions, portraits that disguise the dirt, the blemishes and, also, the hurt. Irrespective of where the sport goes, it ignores corruption, harm, and brutality and – on few occasions – attempts to lay claim that Formula One’s mere presence will help solve deep seated problems. Alas, such issues are rarely so easily uprooted.
And thus, we eat and consume and eat and consume and when we eventually pull our faces away from the trough, we sniffle noisily at the iceberg to which we are drawing toward.
Such has been the slow burning nature of spinning politics, volatile economics, and burning climates, we have spent years moving slowly to that iceberg, but not appreciating the evolving danger. However, the current has picked up pace and when we next look up, so close are we to jeopardy that we could easily identify the rivets on the iceberg wall.
There are so many questions as to how the future will be shaped. We enjoy a pretence of futuristic ambition dressed in technology that will shift the global picture; however, it is an indulgence that we are allowed, for questions as to whether there is enough scope in what we do to be truly game changing are pressing.
In a way, Formula One is a monarchy. Our way is undisputed: it rules from afar, touring the world, gently and gingerly waving to its subjects from a balcony. There are cheers, there is adoration, there is the unseen sweat and muscle that built this land, but the soil is tainted, and half-measures will not cure it.
If that sounds defeatist, it isn’t really. This is merely an acknowledgement of where we truly are in the world, and it is only when we grasp that, can we begin to envision wider dreams. And right now, the dream is not to get banned, for when the winds begin to burn, even something as frivolous as Formula One and its perceived royalty may not survive that.
The sport has great aims, but when push comes to shove, there may be a need to be truly radical and right now, I don’t know what that is.