What does it feel like to be a gay F1 fan?

I have often thought about the connection between my sexuality and the sport that has been my biggest passion since 1997. Interestingly, I started realising that I was “different” at about the same time when I discovered F1.

Thanks to the internet, I have met many gay and bisexual motorsport fans over the last years so now I know that I am not the only gay guy, who prefers F1 to figure skating and diving, which are much more often associated with homosexuality.

One of my American friends runs a website and a podcast for gay motorsport (mainly NASCAR) fans, queers4gears.com. He says that he wants to bring new fans to the sport. It certainly is an interesting concept. The barriers keep falling and just like (most) people have come to understand that God created women not only for the kitchen, people are starting to realize that gay men have very different interests.

I believe that your sexuality has impact on how you see the world, including F1. For instance, I can get quite emotional when watching F1 or talking about it. I have always been interested in the emotional side of the sport, more than in the technical stuff. To me, F1 serves also as an escape from the world, which is not always a nice place to be if you are gay and live in a former Soviet Republic. That said, all these things could be said about a lot of straight F1 fans, too.

For sure, F1 drivers are young, fit and good-looking men and I notice that. But I do not watch F1 because of hot drivers and I never choose my favourite F1 drivers based on their looks. Well, I follow F1_Hotties on Twitter and cute drivers will catch my eye but there are at least one hundred more important reasons why I love F1. When I see drivers standing on the podium or doing interviews, I do not think of them as hunks, I think of them as human. For the record, I also do not want grid girls to be replaced by grid boys.

It would be good to see a couple of openly gay drivers in F1, just like it would be nice to see Chinese F1 drivers, female F1 drivers and transgender F1 drivers. I think F1 would profit from more diversity but it is not an end in itself. Drivers should be in F1 on merit, period. However, it is important to send a clear message that everyone is welcome in F1, including the LGBT people.

I am not happy to read rather homophobic remarks from Bernie Ecclestone, Niki Lauda or Stirling Moss even though that does not mean that I do not appreciate the great things that these men have done in / for the sport. People will always have different opinions but I am missing contrary statements where an F1 driver, a team owner or Jean Todt would say: “I am with the LGBT community and I fully support equal rights for everyone”. I am sure that most people involved in F1 are not homophobic but it would be nice to see some open support.

I would like to see FIA, FOM and the teams taking a more proactive approach to supporting human rights. When you google “F1 gay”, you should find something better than news that Ecclestone supports Putin on gay rights issue or that Lotus fired their PR chief because of a gay kiss tweet.

I do care about lack of gay rights in some of the countries that host F1 races, such as Malaysia or Russia. What is more, if a country discriminates LGBT people, it always discriminates several other groups of society, too. F1 should not be afraid to talk about human rights just like it was not afraid to stand up against racism after Lewis Hamilton had been subjected to racist abuse. If you ignore a problem, it sooner or later comes back and bites you anyway.

Nevertheless, while I pay more attention to some aspects of F1 than the average spectator, I do not think that I am that much different from the other fanatics. Just like them, I love nothing more than being in the grandstands; I read F1 news every day, form my opinions and cannot wait for the next race to come.

I feel attracted to men. Still, if anyone asked me if I was gay, I would tell them: “No, I am a Formula 1 fan.”

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6 thoughts on “What does it feel like to be a gay F1 fan?

  1. As unlikely and preposterous as it may seem, I couldn’t help but think that an opportunity was missed on the Russian GP podium. Just as Putin was about to hand over the winners trophy, Hamilton should have whipped out the rainbow flag and displayed so that all the crowd could see. Either that or a statement of some sort with similar effect would have been amazing.

    • Agreed, I was also hoping that some driver would include a small rainbow flag in his helmet design but perhaps the lack of it can be explained by the “no controversies” policy that the corporate world of F1 follows these days. Anyway, I think that F1 will start paying more attention to human rights someday, it is just going to take a few more years.

      • It would have been illegal due to Russia LGBT propaganda law for them to say or do anything in support of LGBT rights – that’s a law Bernie agrees with so they would have had zero protection if they did decide to do anything. I saw lots of rainbows during the Winter Olympics though but F1 is very LGBT unfriendly.
        At this point I’d just settle with just one of the drivers saying even one thing pro LGBT, regardless if it is aimed at a president or country.

      • The comments of some (likely Russian) posters on several forums who questioned Buttons pink Helmet showed it could well have been dangerous. I privately do hope that keeping the pink for Sochi in Button’s own mind at least was there in part to support the idea 🙂

  2. This is one of my favourite F1 posts in a long time – very few bloggers and journalists cover anything except the race or silly season so it’s nice to have an article having a look at another aspect of the sport.

    Thanks for the link to the queers4gears site as I never knew that existed!

    If I could just refer to your 4th paragraph onwards though, I think you make some interesting points about the desire to see greater diversity in the sport vs the meritocracy system but I have a *slightly* different take on it. People always say things like “we should only have a woman in F1 if she will be a champion” but why? This is just setting the bar higher than it is for cis, white, middle class, straight men who compete. They’re ten a penny on the grid (and on other motorsport grids). There’s mediocre men everywhere and there always has been. The day we get as many slow pay driving women or gay guys or people of colour as we do white, cis, straight men then that will be true equality. When we can shut up saying “but [insert minority label] is only on the grid because they are a pay driver” is the day when we will have made progress. We don’t complain about male pay driver who can easily buy their way in – we complain about the pay driver bit but not their gender, whereas sexuality and gender is the talking point for anyone outside of the norm.

    There’s also an interesting point about how do we get diversity into F1? Most people start off in karts but many places don’t have that as an option, it’s only really accessible to rich kids and across the globe girls and LGBT people are regularly held back if they even find a way of competing which means their careers have little chance of progressing.

    I remember trying to come to terms with my sexuality in 2009 and one of the stories which was around was Briatore “accusing” Nelson Piquet (who later on made homophobic remarks and was fined iirc) of being gay. It was a really unpleasant episode and revealed the terrible problem F1 has with diversity. It’s still a really male dominated world where masculinity is the absolute centre of everything. There are gendered terms everywhere and being a good racer or overtaker is almost seen as being the manliest of men and being gay is still seen as quite feminine.

    Anyway, this was a really superb post and I hope more people read it!

    Also, could you link or explain what Lauda was meant to have said? I knew of Bernie’s and Stirling’s homophobia but I must have missed Niki’s!

    • Thank you very much for reading my post and for leaving such a thoughtful reply. Your kind words encourage me to write more about these things that I have often thought about.

      I agree that a slow female or LGBT driver would not be worse for F1 than slow male drivers, who buy their seats or test drives. If Sauber test Fong and Nissany, then Susie Wolff can certainly test for Williams as well and the same goes for race drivers. I still believe that meritocracy should be the long-term goal but, as you say, the current system is actually not meritocratic and favours cis, white, middle class, straight men and that should be changed.

      Niki Lauda was upset that “men no longer dance with women on TV”. So bad it is even kind of funny. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/26/niki-lauda-homophobia-row-austria

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