Endurance racing

At this time of year, it is often best to leave petrolheads alone. They may be tetchy. Perhaps they are a bit zombie-like.

This section of the Formula 1 season, in mid-autumn, is the part that contains a lot of the “flyaway” races that take place in Asia. This means getting up at ridiculous hours, all for our fix of watching cars go round in circles for a couple of hours. This section of flyaway races, and the one that comes at the start of the season, truly is a feat of endurance.

This year at work, I have ended up with lots of holidays to use up before Christmas. I have decided to use a lot of them around these flyaway races to help me cope with the unsociable hours. It is working out fairly well — I might plan my holidays around the concept next year!

But here is the thing. Is getting up ridiculously early to watch the grand prix taking our devotion to the sport too far? Lukeh has just published a post about his inability to explain this behaviour to his colleague.

This is just adding to the thoughts I have been having about whether it is time for me to relax my policy of trying to watch as much F1 action as possible live, rather than recorded. Is it such a big deal if I swap ridiculously early mornings for a nice long lie in and the comfort of watching the race whenever I want?

The appeal of watching it live

Since I originally got into F1 back in 1996, I can only have missed a tiny amount of races. There was the 2000 United States Grand Prix, which ITV neglected to broadcast live on a proper channel, leaving us with a late-night extended highlights show. There may have been one or two other races that I have failed to see, but I don’t think so. Naturally, if I can, I watch a race live — and qualifying too. And practice if I can get away with it!

It is easy to understand why watching the race live would be preferable. For one thing, nothing beats the thrill of seeing events unfold in front of your eyes as they happen. You just don’t get that feeling if you’re watching the highlights later in the day.

It’s also pretty cool to have Twitter open and to chat with fellow fans about the sport we love as the event itself is taking place. And for me, watching the race and qualifying with live timing open is an absolute must. The onboard channel is another nice bonus. Anyone who has seen the set-up I use to watch races knows about my need to have data as the race unfolds. These options wouldn’t be available if I had recorded the race.

I suspect that one of the reasons I became interested in F1 was that it gave me an excuse to stay up late and get up at exotic hours when I was young, when I otherwise wouldn’t have been allowed to. I became hooked to the sport during 1996, but I have very fond memories of staying up to watch the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, when ITV had a full night of special programming celebrating their first race since winning the rights.

I am sure there is a fair bit of chest-beating as well. Putting ourselves through this sleep deprivation is like earning a badge of honour. F1 fans can often be seen boasting about just how much of the action they have seen live and how little sleep they have had. It is easy to get sucked into this mindset. I tell my friends with pride, expecting them to be impressed — but they only react with shock and disgust.

This is before we have even gone into the traditional argument in favour of watching live. What if you accidentally find out the result? Can you spend the day without living in utter fear of somehow overhearing what happened?

Would it be all that bad to miss the race?

I am not yet contemplating missing a grand prix entirely. But I am beginning to wonder if recording a race and watching it later would actually be good for my soul. I have a reputation among some of my friends — none of whom are all that into F1 — of being a tad too dedicated to watching F1, even if it means getting up ridiculously early.

This weekend’s Korean Grand Prix could possibly be the first race in a couple of years that I haven’t seen live. Not since I had to work on Sundays, at the late, great Woolworths, have I failed to watch a race live.

Tonight, I am staying overnight at a friend’s home in Dundee, as we are celebrating her birthday. Of course, this sort of thing comes first — so I am sacrificing the grand prix that takes place early on Sunday morning.

But I would by lying my arse off if I didn’t confess that I have been thinking of ways to consume the race live. Setting the alarm and surreptitiously getting up to watch the race at 6am would probably be socially unacceptable in the extreme — even if I use headphones and turn the brightness down!

In this case, is it worth listening to it on the radio if I can’t access pictures? Perhaps even watching it on the Softpauer iPhone app could be a good substitute?

I somehow doubt it. The sensible option is therefore to chill out, remain calm, sleep through it and do my level best to avoid any spoilers until later in the day when I can watch the race by myself at home without disturbing anyone else.

I am not sure that my friends are all that impressed with the sacrifice I am making though!


  1. I have gotten up to watch a race when staying overnight with friends. I have no problem doing it at all, even when hungover. (Mind you the I did that a crow fell down the chimney and started flying around the room breaking things – everyone upstairs was wondering what the hell was going on.)

    I never watch practice live, either I’m in work, or heading to work, but qualifying and the race have to be watched live whenever possible. I watched most of the Belgian GP in a Curry’s branch…

  2. Brilliant!

    Incidentally, I have found watching a grand prix to be a perfect hangover cure in the past. It is just the right length, normally on at the right sort of time, and diverting enough to take your mind off being ill.

  3. Glad to see I’m not the only one who finds F1 a good cure for hangover. Speaking of… 😛

  4. My initial reaction to reading that you’d be missing tomorrow’s race was one of shock, then I started to think of ways you could watch it. So, erm, yes.

    A related badge of honour is the last race/qualifying session you were forced to miss, as if the longer ago it was, the more hardcore you are! Daft, really.

  5. I used to be in the same mindset – must watch every qualifying session and *especially* every race, no matter when it was on.

    Two weeks ago I planned to watch the Japanese GP live but after hitting my alarm went straight back to sleep. I was only a little annoyed, and even happy I’d got the extra sleep. I watched it on iPlayer. Must admit, I really did miss the live timing and the online community though. The data aspect has partly been solved through the improved use of graphics (AT LAST we have a position crawler/ticker that is useful, with timing gaps – now all they have to do is use it more often, i.e. constantly).

    I missed the Italian GP too but that was a conscious decision to go to the LMS race at Silverstone instead, they’ve clashed for a while and in recent years I’ve often considered it but always gone for Monza – because you can’t miss Monza. It was a good Italian GP yet I’m glad I went to the LMS.

    Yet there are other times when I think nothing of staying up to 3am on a Sunday morning to watch IndyCar or Petit Le Mans or what have you.