Formula One racing – American as apple pie

10 06 2012

Formula One racing has never seen the type of domestic success enjoyed by, say, NASCAR.

F1’s image is undoubtedly part of it – there’s just something foreign about the series that extends beyond the marques represented on the track or the far-flung locations of the races themselves. I watched both the Monaco Grand Prix and a decent chunk of the Indianapolis 500 this past Memorial Day weekend. I’ll let you guess which race kicked off with a P-51 Mustang flyover.

Then there are the drivers. In the stock car racing satire Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Sacha Baron Cohen’s effete, macchiato-sipping Jean Girard lampooned America’s perception of the typical F1 driver. His fictional sponsor was Perrier. Compare that to Ricky Bobby’s all-American Wonderbread backers.

Of course, real F1 drivers are not sniffy elitists but highly skilled athletes – and a quick glance at off-track politics reveals that that, ideologically speaking at least, the racing series and its participants may not be so foreign after all.

Take the events surrounding the Grand Prix of Canada. The race has been threatened by college students – let’s call them “Occupy Montreal” – protesting insignificant tuition increases and (of course) capitalism in general. F1 racing, a pursuit of the global One Percent, is an easy target.

Misguided protests spearheaded by the economically illiterate are hardly news, but we might not have expected retired F1 racer Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve to be one of the most coherent, outspoken critics of the young malcontents. Don’t let the Gallic name confuse you. Within the chest of the Quebec-born, Monaco-raised Formula One champion beats the heart of a Tea Party organizer.

As Autoweek reports, the ex-driver had some choice words for the protestors:

Villeneuve said he was raised to believe in hard work and not to imagine money would fall from the sky.

He also compared the students to the London rioters last year and said they were “rebels without a cause.”

In the end, he said, the students are hurting themselves because they’re pushing for things that aren’t fiscally sustainable—and they’ll end up paying one day. Unfortunately, he said, if they keep it up there will be fewer taxpayers around to help foot the bill.

“And where does the government get the money? From taxes, from selling stuff. The next thing they will say is, ‘Well, take it from the rich,’ ” he said. “And that’s when you have the rich moving to another country.”

There are plenty of reasons to watch Formula One that have nothing to do with politics. It’s damn entertaining, for one.

Still, it’s refreshing to hear such a principled defense of economic liberty coming from such an unexpected – and distinctly non-American – source.

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