I didn't mean to single out the Spa incident but it was just used to buttress my point and to explain how I viewed the wider political terrain ( The matter is dropped now as I agree its taking the thread OT)
I however agree that exploring what the term "political" means and its definition in and around Formula 1 is the crux of this thread. Only when we understand the definition properly and how each person applies it can we fully understand the whole picture.
I will fire off the opening salvo - I think with regards to drivers it means the use of unrelated driving skills or talent to court favors and decisions that might earn them a competitive advantage. The underlying favors could be based on a rapport built up through socializing and endearing themselves to members of the team, through sycophancy or through cronyism. I believe its a method employed irrespective of the underlying talent to further unlevel the playing field to their own advantage.
I however do agree that in the case of F1 (at least a lot of cases) the drivers who wield this political power actually do have the underlying talent in the first place hence why some team members could gravitate towards them.
I also believe its not limited to the intra team battle alone and could involve the wider organisation e.g Balestre supposed favor of Prost over Senna in 1989 because they are both french (allegedly)
I also think its not in all cases this political power is wielded or intended. I know this is a bad example, but some people e.g the news industry get the headline act due to being pretty/handsome, having a nice smile. They might not necessarily have the best underlying talent of being the most eloquent or able to read the news as good someone else who for lack of better choice if words is (less camera favorable) but yet because of their looks (which is no fault of theirs) endear themselves more to senior management and get the headline act. Sometimes it just so happens some are more favorable towards you for reasons best known to them without you actually doing anything out of the ordinary. In this instance I can say decisions based on such were political but not necessarily the "person being political"
If however they go out of their way to use their good looks as a way of endearing themselves to senior management and to gain that competitive advantage then that person is being political.
I really would like to know how others define the term political and how one can be coined a "being political" maybe that will shed more light on our individual interpretations
Very good post, thanks.
I think your definition of "political" is workable and fits what I would understand the term to mean, while the way you wrote it nicely underlines its ambiguity: without changing a word it can be read both in a derogatory way or as a description of important, even necessary skills of a competitive racer which augment his or her driving talent.
Maybe a decisive factor for judging one way or the other is what a person includes, or wants to see, in the racer's skill set. Certainly everyone will agree that driving talent is required, but is it enough? Probably enough to be a great driver, but maybe not enough to be a successful pro racer on the highest level - or at least it helps to have both. One related thing to keep in mind is that one can be a great sportsperson without necessarily being competitive. Sure there are sports which hardly make sense without competition, other sports less so.
I'll also try an analogy from another sport. For example there are fantastic surfers who could/would be competitive world class as far as their wave skills are concerned if they were interested in competition. But some prefer to make just enough money to live near their favorite beach and ride their favorite waves, over the constant travel hassle and competitive pressure on the world pro circuit just to have to ride crappy waves for the only reason that a competition was scheduled. Some have an interest in one particular wave and their life goal is to ride this one perfectly, damn the other great waves in the world. Others judge their rides by how well they tuned into the wave, the closeness to its energy during the ride, and seek their fulfillment there. Etc. I think this mindset would be called unpolitical.
But then, there is an argument to be made that the additional demands of competition are also valuable aspects of sport. Maybe not essential for and defining the whole sport of surfing (as you can be a great surfer without caring for them), but valuable aspects none the less: to deliver under pressure when it counts even when not everything is perfect, to be the best on average on many different waves, and so on. There are strong and important mental powers at work here, and testing them in sporting competition is interesting to many, participants and spectators alike. And what about the guy who is wonderful when alone in great surf and having all the time in the world to wait for the perfect wave, but gets beaten in direct competition not because the maximum level of his abilities is lower, but because he does not thrive in the competitive situation like the opponent, because the time limits mean that at some point he has to take a not so perfect wave and make the best of it to maximize points, because he cannot be bothered to continuously work on his quiver of boards which enables him to have good equipment for a wide range of conditions (instead of the one perfect board for his favorite wave), and so on?
Some factions of surf culture already feel that all this shit detracts from what real surfing is about. There's a truth in this, but in the end the sensible position probably is that both approaches are valid, each focuses on different aspects, they complement each other and it's fortunate that they both exist. Even the most hardcore soul surfers would not call the competition aspect to be a "political" approach.
One step farther though, once you agree to competition it becomes all-consuming: suddenly the quality of your equipment contracts becomes important. More support means better gear, better quivers, better training, more options generally. And with economics and companies involved there comes different pressure, different skills become important: how well do you sell on photos, how good are you at negotiating your contracts and start fees, and ultimately how well are you judged by the judges - and do they really purely judge the ride, or do other aspects get involved, if unconsciously, which can be manipulated to gain an advantage? In any case, probably a competition surfer may find that another of similar or even worse pure surfing skills beats him because of the support they have around them. What then? Probably the path to success is to maximize not only the riding talent but to improve and excel in any important area. And sure enough there will be some who thrive in this particular situation, who have a huge competitive streak maybe to the point of being unhealthy, who will do anything. And who will truly be political where needed.
Does the purity of the ride and the surf life get diminished by this? Probably yes. Does it invalidate the whole endeavor? I don't think so necessarily, it depends on what you define the sport to be.
Back to motor racing, there certainly is a mind set that sees the sport as encompassing more than the driving. Motor racing textbooks often have chapters on the commercial aspects just like they have chapters on braking technique. From Ross Bentley's Speed Secrets series, volume 5, The Complete Driver: Define and Refine Your Skills On and Off the Track:
To succeed in any form of racing, a driver must be more than fast. In today's ultra-competitive motorsports scene, where there's competition for financial support as well as for checkered flags, a racer must have a full complement of on- and off-track skills. To become a champion, a driver must augment his or her racing, testing, and physical skills with traits and skills such as mental toughness, marketing savvy, and career-building abilities. "Speed Secrets 5: The Complete Driver" is the first handbook for the aspiring professional or ambitious amateur racer. It provides insights that will help aspiring racers reach their full potential in their quest to become well-rounded racers.
And why not, as without commercial skills you probably will get less far in the development of your driving skills than somebody with more track time, better access to different cars, more help from experienced mentors, etc.
In a way this is similar to your news media example. How you judge this depends in part on whether you include good looks in the advantages of a particular person for this particular job. And in some media good looks are important, whether we like it or not - surely not for the quality of the news, but if you are the CEO of a mainstream TV channel the quality of the news simply is not the only thing you are concerned about, and somebody who thinks otherwise probably never reaches this role in the first place. So while I still think your definition of "political" is helpful, and while I appreciate quality news, someone using their looks advantage in such an environment is inevitable and not underhanded.
And if I don't like it, I should not watch the program and should be at the beach training for the perfect wave.
Edited by KnucklesAgain, 24 January 2015 - 21:32.