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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Formula 1 is arguably one of the fastest-growing sports currently in existence with various new individuals joining the craze every day. This is partly thanks to massive social media creators posting about the sport and the brand-new Netflix series, Drive to Survive, which has controversially expanded the sports reach in unimaginable ways. Along with this new audience comes new misconceptions about the 20 drivers who take part in, on average, 22 races in over 20 countries over a season. This article aims to shed new light on the sport and how it is more than just pretty faces and ridiculously fast cars. 

Formula 1 is the highest form of single-seat racing and has been around for over 70 years. This sport’s impact across the world has been massive over the years and its reach has created the awareness of beautiful destinations across the world such as Baku, Austria and Hungary and many more. Races held in these destinations bring in millions of viewers in person alongside the track action as well as through broadcasting platforms. Therefore, these races increase revenue for smaller cities and allow for increased tourism for these countries. Along with awareness of exotic destinations, the travelling circus that is F1 also extends to the awareness of global movements.

Such movements include but are not limited to the Black Lives Matter Movement, where drivers have used their platforms to raise awareness. One example of this includes 7-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (the only black driver on the grid and arguably one of the most successful divers of all time) who uses the platform that he has created during his successful time of being a driver to bring about meaningful change. By initiating new incentives such as Mission 44 (named appropriately after his racing number, 44) within the sport he was able to extend its reach and help its current aim: to be more inclusive of individuals of colour as well as women. In addition, the sport has also been actively involved in movements aimed at creating a greener world by combating global warming and climate change. Sebastian Vettel, a 4-time world champion, as well as sponsors amongst others, has been actively working within the sport to create more sustainable ways of racing as well as raising awareness for why this is important. F1 has put plans in places such as having a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 which will not only be monumental for the sport it will also roll over onto other motorsport categories such as MotoGP, the junior Formula series as well as IndyCar and Nascar. Such movements will also be able to be moved over into our everyday lives as many of our current day cars are developed with these categories of racing cars in mind and by companies involved in racing such as Honda, McLaren, Mercedes, and Ferrari to name a few. 

Over and above F1 drivers, members of the paddock have also been actively involved in promoting change within the sport and the world. One such example of this is Naomi Schiff a Rwandan-Belgium female racing driver raised in South Africa. Naomi in 2020 was announced to be the diversity and inclusion ambassador for W-Series (a form of free to enter racing aimed at allowing for a platform for women to join the motorsport world without the financial burden previously stopping women from doing so ) and has then on used her platform to create awareness and change. As a current F1 Skysports presenter along with other phenomenal women such as Natalie Pinkham. She is helping create a space and act as a role model for women of colour to see themselves represented both in the race car as well as on TV. 

However, with this all being said, it is also coated in the very real realization that more can and should be done from more than just a few drivers or members of the paddock. Therefore, with this growing audience, more diversity in all forms is created and continuous meaningful change should and could be an inevitable reality that we as fans need to actively fight for. 

Now it is clear, that F1 isn’t just about fast cars but what about those pretty faces? In the disappointing words of Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, “F1 is bringing in a young generation. It’s bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great-looking young drivers.” It is evident to many old and new fans that there is a clear misconception behind why many watch the sport and this is because of the gorgeous men on track, but this idea is far from the truth as this is not the only reason millions of fans are drawn to the men behind the wheel. All 20 drivers represent something more to each fan. This ranges from inspiration for those hoping to join the industry in the role of a driver or joining an occupation within the team backing the driver such as engineering, personal training, and communications. The list goes on and extends to see drivers as supplying lessons and examples many can live by. We see this through Lewis Hamilton’s saying, “Still I Rise” and the famous words of 7- time world champion Michael Schumacher who stated, “you should always keep fighting even when there’s only the slightest chance.” In addition, each driver is involved in more than just racing making them multi-dimensional individuals who are easy to keep up with whether this is in the form of Lando Norris and his E-sports team Quadrant or Lewis Hamilton and his fashion. Each driver on the grid is more than just that, they are individuals who are multi-talented and use their platforms for greater things that go beyond their looks and racing abilities. 

Therefore, it is clear the sport itself embodies so much for all that watch it as it unifies us all through its incredible adrenaline rushes and intense battles and I hope after reading this you’ve been drawn to the sport in the same way I was many years ago. F1 is and will always be a sport that is so much more than fast cars and pretty faces. 

Hey! My name is Lekia Collene Thaver (lct) and I am a 3rd year BA student majoring in Psychology, English and Sociology a combination that continually challenges my thought processes about the world and the people in it. My free time is spent writing about anything and everything and when I am not lost in my imagination, I am watching fast cars go around in oddly shaped circles or I'm exploring new places in and around Cape Town with my friends and family.