When I was a kid, there was nothing - NOTHING - better than Sunday nights. As an Australian, everyone else in the house was either fast asleep, or the clock was counting down their impending unconsciousness. Channel 9's abysmal coverage of Formula 1 - which pretended that practice and qualifying don't even exist in the physical world - would start with an unmistakable 'Wide World of Sports' intro jingle. Adrenaline rising. It's finally Formula 1 time!
At the time (the 90s), the coverage nevertheless drove me absolutely NUTS. I was a Formula 1 fanatic, and yet the only way I could get any news was to wait for an expensive glossy magazine to arrive in the mail once per month. It was always, always late. I would scour the Sunday morning newspaper for a square inch of ink that might list the grid order, but it was almost never there. There was no internet, and even the races weren't live on television. So often, I would be seething at the TV as the climax to Die Hard or Ghostbusters was playing in the square box in the lounge exactly where the grid should be lining up live. Half an hour later, still seething because what I was watching was now woefully NOT live, hosts Darryl Eastlake and Alan Jones would introduce the race by mispronouncing every name on the grid and relaying all the information they knew about what had happened in Europe in the preceding couple of weeks. Which was ab-so-lutely nothing.
But here's the thing: even that crap was somehow more enjoyable than what we have now.
How on earth is that possible, you wonder, in our gloriously advanced year of 2019? Because, my friends, less is sometimes a helluva lot more.
Firstly, hour upon hour upon hour of endless F1-related TV coverage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday isn't inherently bad. But hour upon hour upon hour of endless F1-related coverage almost EVERY SINGLE Friday, Saturday and Sunday of your entire life is like eating 7 Big Macs a day.
Now, I really like Big Macs. But after 7, I never want to see another Big Mac. In fact, evacuating the contents of my stomach into the bottom of the toilet seems like a lot more fun than contemplating another.
Is the problem the number of races per year? Undoubtedly yes. Liberty Media is making a big mistake by exploring the expansion of the F1 calendar to 25 races per year. Forget tired race teams and consider two crucially important words: saturated fans.
Another issue is today's F1 coverage in general. Back in the day, it would be announced way ahead of time that an interesting TV interview with Schumacher or somebody was coming up. Great! He's been running people off the track left, right and centre for the last two months and finally he will have to answer for it to someone like the excellent and recently-retired Martin Brundle.
Today, it is announced that another Lewis Hamilton feature is coming up, and I'm sure many of you join me in thinking "Woo. Hoo."
It's not just my personal taste when it comes to Schumacher vs Hamilton - not at all. Both were and are incredible athletes at the top of their games and I want to explore what makes them so good. It's just that I see and hear so much about Lewis these days that I sometimes feel like the tattoo on his left pectoral. I mean, I love my wife a lot more than I love Hamilton, but I don't necessarily want to know that she almost bought the black handbag instead of the white one this afternoon. And yet, as I watch him plonking woefully at a piano or piling a fourth gold chain around his neck or observing one of his servants pick up the crap that his slightly-bigger-than-the-other-one bulldog just did on a fashion runway, I feel that I am being forced to know him in a way that seems inhumane.
So the problem is social media, then?
No: I'm sticking to my guns that it's the modern coverage of Formula 1 in general that sometimes really grates. Yes, there's Instagram and Twitter oversaturation, but also never-ending internet news, a barrage of YouTube, stupid television featurettes fronted by a portly and lost-for-words Johnny Herbert, etcetera etcetera and ad infinitum. Am I getting old and miserable, or are there other people who don't give a damn what Natalie Pinkham is about to say? I have taken to turning on the TV exactly 40 minutes prior to the start of a race and muting the sound, because I know I've just spared myself hours of shouting at the TV and exposing my ears to a chainsaw-like assault from the unconvincingly overexcited David Croft.
Somehow, a late-in-the-post glossy magazine and a race delayed by two hours and presented by a couple of Australian morons somehow seems like the good old days. Do I have a point?
Check out more about: