Guess I can throw in my own $0.02 worth... I am an engineer by trade and I still don't get why soooo many people around the world LOVE F1. I appreciate and love the tech, but I have to think that 99% of the world does not.
I'll throw out some theories, most of which are probably wrong
Traction control, stability control, launch control, active suspension dampers, carbon brakes, anti-block brakes, sequential transmissions, electronic differentials, and drive-by-wire throttle (just to name a few) were all pioneered in Formula One 10 or more years before they ever saw the light of day in a passenger car. When you see an F1 car zoom by, you're literally looking at the future. Surely any engineer can appreciate that
For the 99% percent of the world you mention (probably more like 90% of the world, since F1's 600 million viewership represents almost 10% of the world population), I think a lot of it has to do with mystique. Here in America, cars are commodities more than they are luxuries. Plus, the average Joe can watch or participate in all kinds of motorsports ranging from drag racing to road racing to autocross to short-track racing to rallying to drifting to karting. If you live in a country where most people take public transportation, and very few people have the luxury of watching or participating in motor racing, watching F1 on TV is as good as it gets.
Once Vettel took pole position it might as well have been over. He easily led the race and even set fast lap right at the end, as if to say he could have won it by more.
Very true. Any time one team or one driver dominates like Red Bull and Vettel have this season, the racing can become very boring. That said, many seasons are dog fights right down to the very last race, and these are the memories F1 fans live for, whether it's Schumacher barely edging out Hakkinen for the championship in 2000 at Indy, or a 24-year-old Fernando Alonso beating the 7-time World Champion in Schumacher at the second to last race of the season in 2006. Going into the last race of 2007, no one expected Raikkonen to win the championship, but he did. The same goes for Vettel in 2010.
Sitting at one spot waiting for the long train of cars just got old. They all did the same thing and drove by. I think I got a better sense of the driving by watching how they setup for the different corners.
In the end the weekend itself was fun. Austin is a GREAT town to hang out in and check out the scene. The track is immense and offers a lot of visual activities. But the actual race? Maybe I just don't get it...
For an F1 nut, there's plenty to enjoy even in a not-so-interesting race in which Vettel dominated. As an amateur racer, I marveled at how late the cars hit the brakes approaching Turn 1. They're going nearly 200 mph at the end of the straight, and they don't hit the brakes until after the 100 meter marker. Incredible. I then marvel at the physical fitness required to endure 5 g's under braking for 1.5 hours without passing out. I race a 125cc shifter kart, which pulls 2.5 - 3 g's, and my neck muscles and ribs are sore after 30 minutes!
Despite the fact that Turn 1 has a blind entry, the drivers hit the apex of the corner perfectly- down to an inch or two - lap after lap. As an amateur who'd be lucky to hit the apex 1 out of 20 laps, I was awestruck to see that caliber of driving skill and precision.
I also witnessesed firsthand one of the reasons why the Red Bulls are so much faster than the rest of the field. I was very surprised how much earlier the Red Bulls were able to hit the gas and put the power down coming out of Turn 1 compared to every other car in the field. In fact, Webber seemed to get back on throttle even earlier than Vettel. Multiply that advantage over a dozen-plus corners, and it really adds up at the end of a lap and at the end of a race.
I'm hoping that the major rules changes in 2014 will help end the Red Bull domination, and make for some more interesting racing. The last big rules change was in 2009, and all that happened that season was an unknown, under-funded team (Brawn GP), with an underachieving driver (Jenson Button) went on to topple the Ferrari and McLaren empires. Great stuff
Plus, there's the fact that you're watching the world's greatest drivers racing on the world's greatest tracks in the world's fastest, most technologically advanced cars.
That's why I love F1