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Formula 1, Horse Racing, Cycling... Not Really Sports Are They?

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It was whilst watching Eddie Jordan rhapsodise about how Formula 1 was the greatest sport in the world that it struck me, no, not that I needed to go out and buy a hideous shirt, but that Formula 1 just isn't really a sport is it?

I found it difficult to put into words the reasoning behind this eureka moment until I tried to think of another sport that isn't a sport: show jumping. And there it was, in both of these 'sports' the determination of the result doesn't really depend on the performance of the 'sportsman'.

Take show jumping, for example; you can be the best person at sitting on a horse in the world but if your horse is scared of pompous-looking fences then you aren't going to win. Similar could be said of horse racing, but at least it's the horse's name that takes precedence on the card, everyone knows of Red Rum but no one under 40 could name one of his jockeys.

Formula 1 really is the worst for this though. At the end of the last season Sebastian Vettel was being hailed as one of the greatest drivers ever, if he won a race it was because he had had a fantastic drive. Well no, it wasn't was it. It was because he had a car that was faster than everyone else's car at getting around the track. Sure it helps if the driver is good, but it's not the deciding factor. Put Vettel in a HRT and he wouldn't stand a chance.

If you want proof of this then just look at the standings so far for this year. Has Fernando Alonso suddenly become that much better a driver than Vettel? No, it's just that his Ferrari has become that much better than Vettel's Red Bull.

Don't get me wrong I enjoy Formula 1, I think it's just the emphasis that is put on the drivers that's the issue. The real battles in Formula 1 take place in the research facilities, in the years of genius and dedication shown by the engineers that bring together the race car, it's a team technology contest. Why does Jenson Button get nominated for Sports Personality of the Year and not Martin Whitmarsh? Essentially F1 is no different to Robot Wars, if Damon Hill can win SPOTY then frankly it's a travesty that the man at the controls of Chaos 2 never received a nomination.

Formula 1 isn't alone in this though, I'll fearlessly tar all motorsport with the same brush, and Olympic sport doesn't escape either. I've already mentioned show jumping, in fact all medals in equestrian Olympic activities should go to the horse and not the Etonian atop the beast; but track cycling has to be one of the worst offenders.

It pains me to say it after the vast quantity of precious metal that the velodrome brought Great Britain at The Games but the amount of technology that goes into the performance not only decides the winner but actually rules out whole nations. So much money is now being spent on the development of the bikes that it's just impossible for poor nations to compete, which goes completely against the Olympic spirit.

Team GB are fortunate to be in a position where they can throw money at 'marginal gains', but imagine that you're an aspiring cyclist from a third world country: you can't just waltz up to McLaren and ask to use their wind tunnel for a few hours whilst you realign your brakes. As exciting a spectacle as it is, track cycling has become one of the most elitist of all Olympic sports.

Such reliance on technology is a danger in all sports, the key is recognising when the improvements in equipment work to the detriment of competition. Swimming is one sport that has recently responded well to this issue. The introduction of full-body polyurethane suits in 2008 saw pretty much all world records in the pool tumble instantly. Two years later and the suits had been outlawed. Not only does this mean that modern day swimmers can once again be compared to swimmers of old but that athletes who can't afford the latest hydro-technology can still be competitive.

So basically I've come to the conclusion that when the equipment matters more than the ability of the sportsman it's no longer a sport. I'm not for a moment saying that these activities can't still be exciting and engaging, especially to a geek like myself who enjoys being shown around the Williams manufacturing plant more than listening to Lewis Hamilton prattle on about how courageous he's being but the fact is they're contests, not sports.

Oh and diving and rhythmic gymnastics aren't sports either. Nothing to do with technology, they're just not sports are they?