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F1 'Off Season'? Nothing 'Off' About It

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In the past week alone I have been asked twice whether I am missing F1, have seen countless tweets about people hating there being no F1 on TV and nearly every F1 related website has some form of countdown to the opening practice session in Australia. Personally I love this time of the year (known as that Off Season) - because I am an F1 fan.

The pure petrolhead in me though is downbeat at the end of a season - no more on-track action for three and a half months. Once getting over that thought, the acceptance and appreciation of the past season is rewarded through the remaining weeks of November and December and then the build up to the new season starts in January. Over the next two weeks we will see 11 car launches, drivers kitted out in new team wear and exciting plans from each team saying they will be the ones to watch this year.

Social media outlets have made this off-season more engaging already with drivers and teams teasing us with what they have been up to over the off-season and titbits of information on what they expect in 2013. I'm sure some people think F1 drivers spend the months away from F1 on tropical islands living it up in luxury spending their millions. But not a week goes by seeing McLaren report on the level of fitness on their new driver, Sergio Perez; Mark Webber on his annual cycling trek through Tasmania; Jenson Button doing a triathlon; Lewis Hamilton on a cross-country snow trek, and the whole of Ferrari at their annual Wroom skiing event. Fitness levels are key to success in an upcoming season - I sometimes wonder whether F1 drivers are relieved to get back on the track just to get away from their Personal Trainers shouting at them to do "just one more".

One of the things I admire about the sport is that there are only 19 or 20 races per year. To put into perspective there are as many Premiership football matches played in one fortnight. I strongly believe that if there were more races, it would devalue a race victory and in turn devalue the triumph of winning a championship. F1 has often been compared to the Olympics and the Football World Cup in terms of global audience reach, but I find similarities in other ways too - why is an Olympic medal so widely regarded? It happens only once every four years and the world's best are competing - less is definitely more.

The off-season is also widely regarded as the time of the year where rumour-mongering happens - the lack of F1 news from the more unreliable sources sometimes makes for amusing reading. Conversely it can be a time where the harsh realities of the sport come to fruition. Just on Monday 21st January, two weeks before the start of Winter testing we had Timo Glock part ways with his team, Marussia due to the "economic climate" (in other words they haven't got enough money to pay for a talented driver); Toto Wolff (amazing name!), an Executive Director at Williams and touted to have been a man to take the reins at Williams from the CEO, Frank Williams has now left to join Mercedes F1 and become Head of Motorsport replacing Norbert Haug who left the role last year, and we still have three drivers to fill (at Caterham, Marussia and Force India) on the grid.

I like the break though and I love that build up to a new season of undoubted drama. When round one is here it signals that Spring is on its way, the days are getting longer, the cold and dullness of Winter is passing, the promise of every team and driver saying, "this is my year" is done with. Nothing beats that overdue anticipation of the start of a new F1 season. So if anyone does ask me whether I am missing F1? The answer is no - because this "off" season is all part of the sport I love.

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