How to feign interest in Formula 1 racing
March 5, 2014 5:42 PM   Subscribe

I will be going to an upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix but am not very interested in auto racing. Help me hide that fact from the people I'm going with.

I will be spending a couple days at the Melbourne Grand Prix as part of a work event. Some of my colleagues are avid fans of F1 (hence the event) and I don't want to seem to them like an arrogant or snotty coworker by saying "it's just cars going around in a circle, how hard can it be?" So I'd like to attend armed with some insight into an F1 fan's frame of mind. I'm looking for resources (video clips, blogs, etc.) that can allow me to masquerade as an insider to this group.

However, deep down I am not an auto racing fan, and I have no desire to change that about myself. I am not looking to actually generate interest in the sport within myself. As such, I am not looking for overly verbose or technical sources, as that will bore me further. I'm looking for quick clips or articles where I can internalise a couple talking points, bring them up when the conversation is at a lull to get the "motorheads" going, and hopefully duck out before people realise I'm full of hot air.
posted by Metro Gnome to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total)
If you are into art or design you could study the F1 "livery" and talk about that.
posted by Poldo at 5:53 PM on March 5, 2014

Why do you need to feign interest? Why not say something like "I've never really watched F1 before so this is my first real experience with it. Kind of exciting!" or ask them to tell you about it? Your co-workers would probably really love being able to give you an F1 primer while you are there, just ask them to.

I never really watched any F1 until I started dating my current boyfriend and he is really into it. Now I enjoy watching a race here and there and went to the US Grand Prix this year and had fun, there is a lot of engineering and strategy that goes into it.

Sorry I don't have any specific links to give you unless you want to watch the documentary, Senna, that was FASCINATING as a non-fan and gave me a good history (hell even Rush is pretty accurate). If I asked my boyfriend he would have a list a mile long of things you should look at and I don't have time to type all that.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

My cheat when participating in some event I have no real interest in is to just ask a lot of questions.

Nobody's going to think you're an insider, but a lot of people really love getting to explain their hobby to a curious newb.

Just avoid being dismissive and I think you're fine.
posted by Sara C. at 5:59 PM on March 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

You don't have to know anything to get the hardcore fans going. Just ask questions. I didn't know anything about roller derby the first time I went to see it live and I just asked people and they talked my ear off. I didn't have to feign anything. (I am now a fan!)
posted by rtha at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2014

Watch some episodes of Top Gear. It's a comedy show pretending to be a car show, and it often quicte easily sucks in people who have no interest in cars.

Season 17, episode 5, includes (IIRC) Clarkson explaining why in an F1 car breaks your mind (if you travel at what your brain thinks is the maximum speed at which you could make it around a corner and not crash, you'll actually crash, you need to double your speed (which your brain knows is suicide) at which point the car has the revs and aero downforce it needs to operate as designed and stay on the road.

Here's a Top Gear youtube clip of (extremely experienced driver) Hammond attempting to drive a F1 car.

But... any Top Gear episodes really - they'll all draw your attention to little things about cars and motorsport that you never really considered, and which you might find interesting, while being colossal idiots the whole time :-)
posted by anonymisc at 6:03 PM on March 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

Yes, questions! "So I don't know a lot about racing, what is the strategy here?" "Is it about the cars' technical advances or the drivers' skill?" "If they're driving in a circle on a standardized track, how do they get the advantage to pass and get ahead?" "So doesn't a pit stop take them out of the race for a lap and put them behind everyone? How does that work?" PEOPLE LOVE TO BE EXPERTS.

When that runs out, go with "How did you first get interested in racing? Are there other kinds of car racing you like? Do you think it's similar to bike racing in the focus and athleticism needed?" and things like that.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:05 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

IMO the advice so far points toward a much better course than trying to fake expertise. It allows you to go, relax, learn a few things, and be real. Cars going round a circle is no more boring than football -- but the spectacle of a game, the crisp fall air, and the real talent on the field are not entirely boring. Enjoy yourself!
posted by LonnieK at 6:07 PM on March 5, 2014

I think if you keep an open mind, you may find it to be a lot more interesting than you think you will. I had that negative attitude myself a while ago, but last Autumn I watched an entire race on webcast. I really thought I'd be bored to tears, but it was actually quite fun and absorbing.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:08 PM on March 5, 2014

In F1, as with most things, there are fans, and there are fans. With 60+ years of the sport to draw on, you're probably going to get out of your depth, and fast. No, definitely.

Building on what rtha says, get some questions tucked up your sleeve and you'll be fine.

I wouldn't ask technical questions though. I can't stand it when non-fans ask me stuff like that. You need to ask things like "do you think X is going to do better than last year?"

Start here for inspiration for questions. Then, this to get you a quick working knowledge on who the big hitters are these days.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:09 PM on March 5, 2014

I went to the Melbourne Grand Prix a few years ago, on a lark.

It's hella boring. I think being there is even worse than watching it on TV. It's hard to see what's going on and it's insanely loud, even with earplugs. A couple days? I'm sorry.

However, it's sort of cool seeing the cars whipping by really fast. Maybe it will be cooler if you have prime seats.

Honestly, I'd buy a new game for your iPhone or an eBook or something like that.

That said, the movie Senna is great. It might give you some ideas of things to talk about. At the very least you'd be able to say "everything I know about this is from the movie Senna."
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 6:17 PM on March 5, 2014

I'm looking for quick clips or articles where I can internalise a couple talking points, bring them up when the conversation is at a lull to get the "motorheads" going, and hopefully duck out before people realise I'm full of hot air.

Not going to happen. Honestly forget it. You'll look much worse if you try. F1 is insanely complicated and this season is a major (MAJOR) change of regulations that will completely shake the sport up. Red Bull (the utterly, crushingly dominant team of the last few years) has struggled to even complete a lap in testing some days (for reference, think Venus Williams unable to remember which end is the hitting end of a tennis racquet). No-one has any clue what will happen in Melbourne and so speculation and intense in-depth knowledge is going to be bandied about. You won't be able to compete with that so mindless "What? What does that even mean?" questions may actually be the best approach.

You will make more of a fool of yourself if you try and bluff than just asking questions. People don't mind questions, but they DO mind blowhards pretending they know something about a sport that they care about. Just define your own interest and ask questions about what's going in. The new engines may mean people will actually hear you for two hours, too.
posted by Brockles at 6:32 PM on March 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

A quick scan of gives:

- "last race double points! what do you think of that?"
- "which teams are running KERS? Would you run KERS?"
- "What do you think of the 'alien'?"
- "First time in Russia, in Sochi, in October... Interesting"
- "so, the Austrian GP is back! Guess Red Bull has some weight!

And not from that page, but Michael Schumacher's skiing accident was in the news recently.
Here's an F1 car sliced in 2:
1950s F1 driver Stirling Moss meets current F1 star Lewis Hamilton.

The pit stops are kinda fun:
posted by at at 6:38 PM on March 5, 2014

Easy conversational exit combined with the only thing I know about F1: "I heard these guys can sweat off up to three litres a race! Anyone want a beer?"
posted by variella at 6:40 PM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Or pick some other aspect of the event and get interested in that. People watching, celeb spotting, the catering, the logistics of the crew running the event, anything. Don't try and fake it, and have an open mind
posted by Rock Steady at 6:48 PM on March 5, 2014

You could feign interest by asking about F1's attempts to attend to international audiences (and money) by going outside its traditional venues. You could ask about the new circuits and whether any of them have the character and distinctiveness of the old ones.

But really, take interest in the promotional circus, the big brands' presence, the tech that shows up for the week, and especially the celebrities -- who'd be attracting screaming fans in other circumstances but become screaming fans when F1 is in town.
posted by holgate at 7:59 PM on March 5, 2014

It's not a circle! Go watch Rush or any of the docs on F1 and see exactly how hard it is. And then ask questions about the terms of the sport, how the tracks are designed, what the cars' engines are designed to do, and all that stuff.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:00 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depending on how much racing you're actually going to be present for and where you'll be sitting, conversation may be not be possible, what with the noise and all.

If your colleagues are mad for F1, then one of them will likely spring for the souvenir program. Ask to borrow it for a quick read, and if anything piques your interest, see if they can tell you more about it. Personally, I've always had a blast chatting up the folks sitting near/next to us, which is very easily facilitated by asking if they'd like a beer, and I've met some really interesting people that way.

Per your profile, you're in software development. A friend of mine wrote up a behind-the-scenes look at the gear hauled around from circuit to circuit by the Caterham F1 team. Another friend chatted with an engineer from Corvette Racing about the algorithms they use to crunch all of the data coming in via live telemetry.

Have fun at the race!
posted by evoque at 9:16 PM on March 5, 2014

Why not own up to the fact you know nothing about it and just ask questions?

Last summer I attended some kind of fishing thing. There were salmon and people trying to catch them. I found someone who appeared to know what he was doing and asked him sincere questions about the stick and the string and the shiny thing and the way he threw the shiny thing into the water and why this might make a fish bite it.

I have zero interest in fishing because I am a vegetarian but I did not tell him that.

Anything can be interesting, even just for an hour or two. Give it a shot.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:21 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the nuts-and-bolts side, as Brockles touched on, all the cars have new, never-raced (only tested) extremely complicated hybrid engines. Some people are just calling them power units because they're so far beyond what we think of as engines.

With that, all the testing problems, F1 fans are hugely intrigued about that race and this year.

There's some sense of who will be fast, Mercedes most notably, but it's unusually unclear beyond that and reliability is expected to be a massive, massive issue.

Oh, teams have pretty serious limitations in the amount of fuel they can use so that has to be balanced against how fast they try to go

There is an Aussie guy, Daniel Ricciardo, who's done well for himself and stepped up to what has been the top team, Red Bull, which has struggled a lot in pre-season testing, as Brockles noted.

Anyway, what should be on f1 fans' minds: who's fast, who will last, how will red bull and other Renault-powered teams fare and how will Ricciardo do.

Feel free to Memail me.
posted by ambient2 at 10:06 PM on March 5, 2014

Don't hide anything. Channel your inner Huell Hauser: you are an ignorant temporary tourist, and you have the pleasure of attending a spectacle with people who are very knowledgable and enthusiastic, so ask lots of questions and try to enjoy the spectacle, showing your guests respect for their interest. That will take a lot less work than faking it, and you might actually find some aspect of the whole affair that you like.

Also, once you see close-up how fast they go in person, you probably still won't be a fan...but you won't be asking "how hard could it be?" any more. It is surprisingly intense to be physically present, nothing like the TV coverage at all.
posted by davejay at 11:05 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

FWIW, there's a ton to do at an F1 event beyond just watching the race.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on March 6, 2014

I'm not particularly a race fan myself, but as davejay says, I think there's more going on than 'guys driving cars in a circle' (which in fact, is very difficult to do in F1) - there's only 22 current F1 drivers in the world, so it can't be as easy as all that!

Here's an interesting article that considers whether F1 drivers are athletes and discusses the physical impact on their body.

Regardless of one's interest, this is an amazing performance from Ferrari's pitcrew from last year's Melbourne GP - a 2 second pit stop.
posted by Bourbonesque at 8:34 AM on March 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is definitely the spectacle angle of the whole thing. It's like a big party with all kinds of stuff going on. F1 is a bit more difficult to take in, as the race course is generally laid out over a large piece of land, so you may only be able to see one corner or straightaway. But just take in the loudness, the excitement, and the energy when they're racing. I think you'll find it interesting. Not enough to make you go again, but if only to say you did it and how impressive it was.
posted by kuanes at 9:15 AM on March 6, 2014

My boyfriend is into F1. I get through conversations about it by having him talk about the personalities/ politics of different drivers and teams. If you’re trying to fake it, you might find it less painful to read up on that stuff than other things; if you go with above advice to ask questions, you might find those discussions more interesting than technical ones.
posted by metasarah at 10:27 AM on March 6, 2014

Listen a lot more than you speak. Ask questions. Good advice above and don't pretend to be an expert.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:30 PM on March 6, 2014

I am jealous! I'd also go with ask questions, but not too many, and only if you're actually interested in the answers. I'm a big F1 fan and once watched a race on TV with someone who spent the entire time asking questions about it "Who's that? How fast can they go? Who's winning? Is that a hill? Is that the same hill they went over a minute ago?" I wanted to do her harm.

The way I got hooked was I used to live with some people who watched it and I wasn't really interested, but then there was a driver from where I live who I followed for a season (you were so close to the championship Eddie! sniff) and I got sucked in to the whole spectacle. So my advice would be to pick a team or a driver to be interested in for the race weekend. Ask your colleagues what teams/drivers they like as this will lead to discussion but one you'll be able to follow. Choose someone they are also following, or stick a pin in a list of teams. It just means that it adds a bit of interest, in the same way that if you bet on a horse the horserace becomes interesting because you care if "yours" starts well/gets overtaken/retires early etc.

If you do want a resource to read up on some background stuff you can't go wrong with Also, though you have no interest in becoming a fan, my cousin was dragged kicking and screaming to the Barcelona Grand Prix a few years ago and now she is obsessed. YMMV.
posted by billiebee at 3:06 AM on March 8, 2014

How did you go?

Love to hear how you, as a first timer to the sport, found it ... and whether you found the tips here of use ...
posted by GeeEmm at 4:46 PM on March 17, 2014

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