Is It Unpatriotic Not to Support Your Nation’s Formula One Drivers?

Lewis Hamilton gave his home fans a good show in Silverstone this weekend with a dominating victory in the British Grand Prix—but other than geographical proximity, what draws a person to support a certain driver or team?

byBen Wildeboer|
Is It Unpatriotic Not to Support Your Nation’s Formula One Drivers?

Lewis Hamilton claimed dominion over the British Grand Prix this weekend by annihilating the competition throughout qualifying and the race alike, and just as you would expect, the home fans went mental. A by-product of these quieter hybrid turbo cars is that you hear much more ambient noise during the TV broadcast, and the noise from the Silverstone crowd was borderline deafening. It’s clear to see Hamilton is the favorite at his home event—just as Perez is in Mexico, Ricciardo is in Australia, and Alonso is in Spain.

Ricciardo in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, Mark Thompson

Although this may seem obvious, I’ve often wondered why this is the case. I’m British and do not support Lewis Hamilton, just as I didn’t support Damon Hill in the 90s. And although I've taken to him a lot more over the last few years, I wasn’t particularly keen on Jenson Button for much of his career either.

I’m not unpatriotic. I support my country’s official teams in the Olympics and the World Cup, but I don’t see Formula 1 in the same light. The drivers are representing themselves, their teams and their sponsors, and that’s about it. I have a particular fondness of Ferrari, so in this campaign I’m backing Sebastien Vettel (even after his questionable antics in Baku). I love watching both Ricciardo and Verstappen’s electric driving styles so love seeing them winning as well, and I still see Fernando Alonso as the best all-around driver on the grid, as well as generally seeming like a cool dude. I see it as an issue of personality—both on and off the track—rather than nationality.

So what causes so many people to latch onto the driver they have the closest geographical relationship with? Is it overwhelming national pride? Is it a social default that’s been programmed into us?

Overall, the British media’s F1 coverage has a pretty heavy pro-Hamilton bias, even when it tries to be impartial. Now, that’s fine—you don't really need a completely unbiased media on an issue as trivial as grown-up go karts—but it can become quite tiresome for people like me who don’t necessarily worship the ground Hamilton walks on. I wonder if it’s the same for people in Germany who aren’t keen on Vettel, or Spaniards who don’t like Alonso.

Fernando Alonso's fans at the Spanish Grand Prix, Mark Thompson

I also wonder what happens to those countries who have a grand prix but no home-grown driving talent? The U.S. is a great and obvious example, but even Brazil currently has no driver on the grid, and neither does Italy—and these are two of the most passionate crowds on the F1 calendar. Does this make people from those countries more impartial, and give them more rein to support who they want? (Probably not the case in Italy, as they go for whoever is in the red car). In a similar vein, what happens to those drivers who don't have a home grand prix?