Atlas F1

Rory's Rambling

An Occasional Column from the Antipodesby Rory Gordon, Australia

I feel like being pedantic again.

"Again?" I hear you ask. "Aren't you always pedantic? What's new?"

Well, to be honest, yes, I am a tad on the pedantic side.

What brought this on was an event which then tweaked a dim memory of a "debate" within the ranks of Atlas F1 a while ago. The debate was about the correct nomenclature for certain geographic features off the north-west coast of Europe, that is Britain and the British Isles.

"England" is a country just off the European mainland. "Britain" is England and Wales. "Great Britain" is England, Wales and Scotland - the big island of the two main islands. The "United Kingdom" (officially the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland") is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The "British Isles" are England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire - more simply, Great Britain plus the island of Ireland - both the two main islands.

In a way, it's a little like "America" and the "United States" - the two are synonymous with the United States of America. But, properly speaking, there isn't such a place as "America". There's North America, and South America, and there's the Americas. But "America"?

And the "United States"? The United States of where? Brazil?

Of course, we mostly associate both "America" and the "United States" with that country which is in the North American continent, between Canada and Mexico ... the United States of America.

So, why is it that in some sports there is Great Britain, and in other sports each nation represents itself? In the Olympics, it's always Great Britain; but in football (soccer), it's each of the countries, unless it's at the Olympics. Rugby union is an exception - not only does each country have its own national team, but there is also the British Lions (The USA has no problems in this regard.)

I don't know what the logic is behind all this, assuming that there is some.

Anyway, it interests me when I look at Formula One. Try these: British team, French engine, Japanese tyres, Italian and German drivers; Swiss team, Malaysian (ahem, ahem) engine, Japanese tyres, French and Brazilian drivers.

Williams and Sauber were the two most international teams that I could find (mind you, Benetton aren't bad - Italian team, based in Britain, French engine, Italian and Austrian drivers), but no team is without some blatant example of internationalism. Even the so-called French "national team" - Prost - has an Italian driver.

But you look through all that and look at where the GPs are actually held, and it's screamingly obvious that F1 has been a series very much based in and on Europe, with some South American involvement.

North American involvement has been fairly minor with the GP of the USA for many years but not many drivers, while Canadian drivers seem to have been few and far between.

Asia's involvement in F1 has generally been - to be polite - minimal. So, the Sauber engine is notionally a Malaysian "Petronas", but I think that most of us would agree that it is really very much a Ferrari with a different name on the covers (or is it a Sauber engine this year?)

Japanese involvement in F1 has been entirely the opposite. Honda have been around, on-and-off, for many years; there have been many Japanese GPs; and quite a few Japanese drivers ... although of variable quality and ability.

All that leaves is Africa. My initial reaction to Africa's involvement in F1 was that there hadn't been any. But Africa is a very similar case to Asia. African involvement in F1 has been minimal, except for South Africa, which has had GPs and quite a few drivers.

Let me follow that train of thought through just a little bit. Soon there will be 2 GPs in North America, we could have two in South America (Brazil and Argentina), 2 in Asia (Japan and Malaysia), 1 in Australia, leaving 9 in Europe.

Why not toss in 2 races in Africa as well? You'd think that one would have to be in South Africa and I'm sure that another circuit could be arranged.

[As for which two European GPs to drop, one presents itself as a prime candidate: the GP of Europe. As for the other, heretical this might sound but, why are there two GPs in Italy? Get rid of the boring drag race that is what Monza has become.]

Re-arrange the calendar so that each continent's trips come together, and make those GPs only a week apart - and F1 races will be hitting every major, inhabited continent. Sound good? Write to Bernie.

But this was all started by the debate within Atlas F1 on Britain.

And that was started off by Eddie Irvine. Not him personally, but when he got a spot on the podium, and the British flag was raised for him in the podium ceremony.

Apparently Irvine is an Ulsterman - from Northern Ireland. Because he was from Ireland, some people thought that the Irish flag should have been raised and, for example, I saw some quite heated arguments about this on the newsgroups.

David Coulthard and the Stewarts assert their Scottish-ness; Irvine doesn't so much assert his Irishness, as have it assert itself every time he says anything.

Coulthard and the Stewart team use the British flag and anthem on the podium, so why shouldn't Irvine be allowed to do so, as well?

And, you have to ask, what is the purpose of this nationalism? We've seen that all the teams have an on-going measure of internationalism. The races are held in many different countries. Why bother with the raising of flags and the playing of anthems at the podium ceremonies at all?

Let each driver and each team decide for themselves if they wish to be nationalistic and wave the flag, but keep it all in the garage.

Or perhaps we should do away with all the sponsors' colours and go back to national colours for the cars?

But that's just me.

Rory Gordon 1999 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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