One of the most soul crushing aspects of motor sports is that a driver can be knocked out of the race before they’ve even completed the first turn. Or, as was the case for Valtteri Bottas in Azerbaijan, going from first to DNF on the final lap because of a blowout due to debris on the track. Of course it’s part of the sport, but that can be little consolation, even without championships on the line.
In a backwards kind of way this is actually one of the things that attracts me to motorsports like F1 and Le Mans. Not so much the soul crushing aspect, but that because the cars change from race to race, so much emphasis is put on the engineering of the car. You could have the greatest driver to ever drive, but if his engineers aren’t up to the task then all is for naught. Even the greatest driver ever can’t win a race in a car that can’t last a lap.
The drivers and teams, though, are not the only ones whose souls get pressed into a fine wine when another driver loses control and slews across the track into your man. Prior to my first experience at a Grand Prix I always wondered how the supports must feel when their driver has to retire. With the international aspects of F1 there are a lot of people traveling all over the world to cheer on their favorite drivers and teams. And anyone who has ever priced a plane ticket, let alone an F1 ticket, will know that this isn’t cheap.
It was always an abstract thought though, until I looked up at the monitor on lap 21 of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and saw Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull stopped in the grass. And then it hit me, that feeling right there is what thousands of fans around the world feel every weekend.
Though even getting to see your favorite driver go for 21 laps is an experience I’ll never forget.
And even though your hero might go out before the first turn, it’s not always a loss.