Behind F1’s Velvet Curtain

Kate Wagner wrote, for Road & Track, a exploration of Formula 1 from the perspective of a cycling journalist who does not have a driving license, and it is wonderful:

One thing that strikes me about Formula 1 is its unexpected resemblance to fencing — it is an absolutely poised and disciplined affair. Recently, for my 30th birthday, I took up medieval sword fighting — historical European martial arts, they call it. For the first two weeks we worked on standing in a good medieval stance, always prepared to move. Sword fighting is learned through what are called set plays, specific motions of sword and body combined into one fluid action. But when you watch people who are really good at sword fighting, an ornate, flowing dance emerges from these seemingly disparate parts. Formula 1 is like that. When the cars line up on the grid, everything is totally neat and rehearsed, completely in its place. Tires, people, staff, even journalists. The teams are meted out in perfect sections — they don’t call it the grid for nothing. But when time comes for the sprint to begin, team members move in perfect coordination, synchronized. They have stances and footwork. This is most true of the pit crew and the astonishing speed at which they travel through space as one organism, totally practiced in set plays of their own. This was beautiful to watch in real life. The unfurling of the apparatus of the setup, groups peeling back one by one until there are only these alien cars, these technological marvels kissing the ground. Before the heartbeat, they respirated.

I have followed Formula 1 with varying levels of dedication for about twenty years, and this is one of the best things I have ever read on the subject. It is a fascinating contradiction to many of the values I hold dear: it is an environmentally devastating product of unimaginable wealth, positioned with a level of glamour I cannot see in myself. But it is, as perfectly captured by Wagner, a precise orchestra of mechanical, digital, and human control.

You may notice I am linking to the Internet Archive’s copy instead of Road & Track directly. That is because this article — published just three days ago — has been removed for unknown reasons.

Greg Storey:

Obviously, someone in a position of power didn’t like Kate’s perspective. That’s the only conclusion I can think of as to why the article was pulled within 48 hours of publication. Even Kate’s author profile page on Road & Track has gone missing. Somebody just wants all of this, Kate included, to go away.

I cannot understand why anyone at Road & Track would believe this would be a good idea. I only learned of this article because it was deleted and now I am mostly offended the magazine would dare remove such an exquisite piece of writing.

Update: Daniel Pund, editor-in-chief of Road & Track, told Patrick Redford of Defector the article was deleted because Pund “felt it was the wrong story for our publication”. It is hard to know what to make of that — given the widespread praise, it sure seems like something any magazine would be proud to publish.

Update: More commentary from Rusty Foster at Today in Tabs.