F1 in The New Yorker


The New York media are renowned for their lack of interest, if not outright disdain for motor sport. NASCAR is covered sporadically at best by New York’s newspapers and a Formula 1 race is lucky to get anything more than a few lines of coverage. Sebastien Vettel’s successful World Championship defence was reported in exactly that manner by The New York Times last November. It seemed that F1’s successful debut in Austin the week before had done little to wake up New York’s media barons to F1’s rebirth in America.

So it was a breakthrough for the sport last week when The New Yorker published a first-rate, 12 page story about F1. Titled ‘The Art of Speed – Bringing Formula 1 to America’, the story does a good job of portraying the money-saturated world of modern F1, but its focus is on Adrian Newey’s genius for racing car design.

Written by Ben McGrath, a New Yorker staff writer, it’s a story any racing fan will enjoy reading – and may learn something too – but it’s also a perfect primer on F1 today and the driving forces behind the sport. The odd, occasional references to NASCAR that appear in The New Yorker invariably are in the pejorative but McGrath’s story casts F1 in a fascinating, complimentary light. It’s the most comprehensive story about motor racing I’ve read in many years in any New York media and should do the F1 team owners, marketing men and sponsor salesmen like Zak Brown a power of good as they hawk the sport in Manhattan.

More important to the likes of you and I, it’s refreshing to read an intelligent, well-written piece about motor racing in a renowned magazine without any connections to the sport. McGrath opens his story with the well-known tale of Newey’s way of working. ‘The most accomplished man in the world’s most glamorous sport stands at a drafting table all day,’ McGrath writes. ‘Using a No. 2B pencil and right-angle ruler, he produces as many as three hundred drawings each week.’

He goes on to tell the story of Newey’s education and rise through the sport with warmth and erudition. At the same time, he educates the reader about F1’s modern technical complexity. McGrath even does an excellent job of explaining DRS and goes on to talk to our own editor in chief Nigel Roebuck who subsequently was asked to do some fact-checking for McGrath’s faultless story.

McGrath also visits Bernie Ecclestone, sharply portraying Ecclestone, his family and his role in Formula 1. It’s a no-holds-barred piece filled with facts and a little irreverance too. McGrath ends up in Austin for the return of F1 to America last November but the meat of his story is with Newey and the title of the piece, ‘The Art of Speed’.

McGrath’s story is in the February 4 issue of The New Yorker. Give it a read.

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