It is currently 12am as I start to write this opinion piece. Yep, it’s just ticked over to a new day. The new day is Monday, and yet here I am, killing some time whilst waiting for the covers to come off the new Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars instead of sleeping. This wait got me thinking, especially about what it’s like to be a fan of Formula 1 and live in Australia.
As has been the case since the humble beginnings of Formula 1, the best place to follow Formula 1 is either the United Kingdom or Western Europe. This was largely owing to the races being mainly in Europe, and that those which are not are suited to European audiences, either starting later or earlier to cater for those watching it on TV.
With that being said, this plays a part in creating a fair few problems for people in Australia who want to embrace the sport. With that being said, there is some other stuff which does impact my ability to follow the sport too. Here is a bunch of those things and why.
1. Staying up late or waking up early to watch 2/3 of races.
I’m not going to lie, this is probably the worst part of being a F1 fan in Australia. the constant 10pm (AEST) race start times for European races is challenging. Sometimes, especially for other people I watch F1 with (I won’t name names, but they know who they are), sleep is a pretty common thing during races if they get boring like a lot did last year. I’m always super excited when the Asian leg of the Formula 1 calendar comes around, seeing as it means I can get my body clock back to relative normality. Thankfully nowadays I’m not normally too busy on a Monday morning, having graduated school and (so far) not having a job which requires Monday morning work, or University commitments on a Monday morning. This makes it a lot easier for me to recover from the late nights which come from being a F1 fan.
2. Only half the races are shown free.
Okay, this is a pretty common one around the world now, but it really doesn’t help that the previous issue is exacerbated by the fact that only half of the races are on free-to-air television (the rest are all on pay TV, similar to the British situation with Sky Sports and iTV) and because of that, it creates problems for people such as myself, a late teen-aged fan with no money to spare on paying for TV. There are ways around this though; go to the nearest sports bar and convince the workers to change the channel to the one with F1 on, fork out AU$50+ per month on Foxtel (Australia’s sole Pay TV provider) and also receive sport channels you might never use, find a free stream of the race online, or find a mate who has the channel with F1 on and go to their place. With this being said, I personally hope Liberty Media manage to pioneer an official online stream for Formula 1, but that’s another discussion for another day.
If you’re one of those people who have Foxtel and can watch every session, I’m jealous of you. Hopefully I can afford to get it myself soon…
3. Not many people seem to care about F1 around here…
Again, just like every country, we have our fair share of F1 fans, but they seem to be few and far between. The only time you’ll ever hear of Formula 1 on the news is the morning sports bulletin on the day of and the day after the race, which unless the Championship is decided, or Ricciardo wins, is summed up within a sentence, often just saying something such as “Lewis Hamilton has won the Brazilian Grand Prix! Aussie Dan Ricciardo has finished eighth” and moving onto another topic, forgetting about F1 until the next race comes along.
It’s quite uncommon to see Formula 1 fans around as well, though when I do, a little part of me is happy inside knowing I’m not the only person around that watches the series and likes it enough to part with their money. Hell, sometimes I wonder if they like our F1 Facebook page or follow us on our F1-based Instagram too…
4. …and they barely know any of the drivers.
Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton. They’re the two names you’ll probably get if you ask a random person on the streets to name as many Formula 1 drivers as possible. Maybe they might say Sebastian Vettel instead of Hamilton, or you might get a reply of “does Mark Webber still race?”. With that being said though, every now and again, you get a legend who knows their stuff and is also a Formula 1 fan. Those people are the best people.
5. The commentators are way too pro-Ricciardo.
You know how Sky Sports F1 and the commentary team always seem to come under fire for being biast towards Lewis Hamilton as he’s British. It’s the same here, but instead with Daniel Ricciardo. On free-to-air coverage, the Australian commentary team always defers to the iTV crew for the race, but before/after the race and sometimes before/after the dreaded ad breaks, they’ll come on and commentate the race themselves. It’s good if you are a Ricciardo fan, but if you’re like me and he’s not your favourite driver of them all, it can get frustrating.
6. Every single Formula 1 race is so far away unless you live in Victoria.
Yep. The closest race to me, personally, is approximately 2000 kilometres away. Yep, that’s right, 2000 clicks, and yet I’m still in Australia and not even close to the other side of the country. Compared to other places in the Great Southern Land, however, I’m really not that far away from the track, with some other places within Australia being well over THREE THOUSAND kilometres away from the nearest active F1 circuit, which is either Albert Park or the Marina Bay Street Circuit (in Singapore) for some people.
Most Europeans are able to drive for two hours or less in order to get to the closest Grand Prix circuit. For most here, its a plane ticket or bust, and that’s going to cost you a fair bit still, especially to go to the Grand Prix. I’m a die hard F1 fan, but have only managed to go to the Grand Prix once, with my second trip coming this year. I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t a cheap thing to organise. However, it’s probably going to go to the top of the “best holiday ever” list pretty easily if it goes how I’m hoping it will.
And yeah, there’s some of the problems I have being a die hard F1 fan from Australia. Yes, Europeans reading this, I envy you big time. You have no idea just how much I do. With that being said, there is some great stuff that comes with being a F1 fan around here, but the bad stuff is quite frustrating.
Also, our friend and fellow Australian Tiametmarduk did a video on this topic too! He covers some points I missed, or those which are not relevant to me. Be sure to check it out by clicking below!
This opinion piece was written by head Motorsport Banter admin Cham.