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Why Formula One Is a Sport

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The desire to pit oneself in competitive activity against one another is one of the most primordial of urges. Humans are competitive beats on the whole, striving to be the fastest, strongest, smartest in order to win a race, an argument, or even a partner. Truth be told it's probably those urges that have tempted me in to this article.

Competitive physical activity has defined humanity throughout history, bringing us moments of both tragedy and inspiration. At the Sydney Olympics Eric Moussambani captured our imagination with his solo swim for Equitorial Guinea. It was a hopeless effort, one never destined to achieve greatness, and yet we stood to applaud the triumph of Eric's spirit.

Swimming in a competitive physical activity. Swimming is a sport. It's a point Scott Thompson and I can agree on. There are others on which we can't.

Recently he suggested that Formula One motor racing was not a sport. His argument centred on the fact that the car itself does much of the work, and the athlete inside is more or less ballast. It was compared to equestrian on the basis that no matter how talented the rider it can never surpass the mule. As such, and despite the fact that both are competitive physical activities, neither is a sport.

I would challenge anyone with that mentality to take part in a competitive motor race or equestrian event and say in all honesty they are not sore the following morning.

Mr Thompson's argument is flawed, not only on the simple definition of sport but also the facts used to support his claims.

While I cannot claim to know the slightest thing about horse riding I can claim to know a thing or two about motor racing given I write about it for a living. Specifically, I write about Formula One.

In his article Mr Thompson suggests that the car is more important than the driver in Formula One. There is perhaps a grain of truth in this, in that a competitive car is important, however there are countless examples of drivers who have not had the best car succeeding. One need look only at the winner list so far in the 2012 for evidence of that. Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix for Williams. Neither Maldonado nor the Williams are the best of breed in Formula One.

Furthermore the implication that Fernando Alonso currently enjoys a performance advantage over Sebastian Vettel shows a lack of understanding of the sport. Indeed the assertion directly contradicts the argument presented when one considers the facts.

Alonso currently leads the Formula One drivers championship. He has won the Malaysian, European and German Grands Prix this season in what is widely regarded as one of the lesser competitive cars in the sport. Proof of that can be taken from the performance of Alonso's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who trails his team leader by 129 points. Drivers receive 25 points for a race win.

The two Ferrari's are equal. The simple fact of the matter is Fernando Alonso is a better driver than Felipe Massa, and has two world championships to his name to support that claim.

For that matter so does Sebastian Vettel, who currently lies second in the championship, 24 points behind Alonso. While Vettel dominated the 2011 season he has not had things his own way despite having arguably the most competitive car in Formula One. It is a statement which can be backed by the fact that Vettel's teammate Mark Webber is third in the championship, just 8 points adrift of Vettel. Furthermore Red Bull is dominating the constructors' title.

Red Bull has the best car in Formula One and yet one of its drivers does not lead the championship. Ferrari has, at best, the fourth best car in Formula One and yet its star driver does lead the championship. Such bare facts fly in the face of suggestions that driver talent is irrelevant in Formula One, and that the sport is decided based solely on the driver with the best car.

The cycling debate is one I will not enter, though it is another of my passions, beyond pointing out much of the equipment used by athletes is off-the-shelf; BT frames, Mavic wheels, SpeedPlay pedals, aero helmets... All are available to the weekend warrior and the elite athlete alike.

Incidentally Alonso is a talented cyclist, as are many of the leading Formula One drivers who use it as training for their sport. Motor racing is an endurance event which places stress on most every muscle of the body as they corner under extreme loads.

Mr Thompson's suggestion that Formula One is not a sport can be safety dismissed as either uneducated or misinformed. While entitled to his opinion one would do worse than investing some time to understand the subject matter before committing such a rant to print, but I'm sure despite this little faux pas he's a good sport.