Friday, March 23, 2007

F1 snooze and the racial minority issue

I just want to mention that there was more excitement on the final lap of the Sebring 12 Hours than there was in the entire Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. Another Ferrari walkover, and it looks like Kimi Raikonnen is ready to take over where Michael Schumacher left off. So much for his inability to unite and motivate the team.

Nice to see a driver with African heritage on a Formula 1 podium (actually on any podium, really). Quick, name ten successful black racers....? Bill Lester, Willy T. Ribbs, Lewis Hamilton, err, uhm... Why is that? Why is there so little racial diversity in motorsport? Is it down to cold hard economics e.g. racial minorities in western countries where motorsport is at its most popular tend to have less access to the level of funding needed for success? I'm sure this has something to do with it, but how come in the world of motorcycle racing, which requires a smaller budget for success and where talent tends to carry more weight than funding, do we see a similar situation?

5 comments:

patrick said...

I don't know - perhaps there's an element of people of african origin being less likely to follow the sport because there are no people of african origin competing....resulting in fewer taking it up and less chance of one who's any good emerging. Something of a vicious circle effect.

Plus, even in bikes, I suspect it helps to have a lot of cash - though I vaguely recall that none of Alonso, Schumacher, Raikkonen, Hamilton come from especially wealthy backgrounds.

Kropotkin said...

It's an interesting and strange phenomenon, and it's not limited to either car or motorcycle racing. In Motocross there's Jimmy Stewart, who is going to dominate MX now that Ricky Carmichael has gone. But in road racing, I can't think of a single rider of African descent.

It's the same in cycling, no black racers in the professional peloton that I know of. The same was true of speed skating until very recently, but now one of the top US skaters is an African American.

I think it's mostly cultural. There are sports which our cultures guide us to, and if small numbers of a particular ethnicity follow a sport, they are unlikely to make it to the top. In Britain, there's the fact that there are virtually no great Asian soccer players, despite millions of people of Asian descent living in the UK. Cricket, of course, is a different matter altogether.

Clive said...

I agree that it's cultural but it also has a lot to do with economics and perceived chances of success. How many people of African origin were involved in gold before Tiger Woods came along? I'm prepared to bet that there are many more on the way up, now that they've seen what is possible. Same for tennis and the Williams sisters. Expect plenty of Afro Caribbean entries in the lower reaches of motor sport with Hamilton's success.

Clive said...

Bugger! Edit, Clive, edit. That's "golf" of course, not "gold". Although that's appropriate in a way too...

Christopher said...

I remember seeing a documentary on a kind of "black racing circuit" from the 20's that was squeezed into bankruptcy during the Great Depression, but I forget its name. It was treated much like Negro League baseball in the USA, for what it's worth.

Tragic, really...