The now defunct A1 GP series proved that racing drivers can race for their country and compete for medals. Getty Images
Formula 1 has gone on holiday for the next month, mainly because the world is now going to be focused on the Olympic Games, and in more practical terms because members of the F1 circus have been on the road for quite a long time now. People are tired and want to spend time with their families, during the school holidays.
Nonetheless, it was kind of apt that the Hungarian Grand Prix, held the day after the spectacular Olympic opening ceremony in London, was won by Britain's Lewis Hamilton, and it was no surprise that Lewis made reference to the fact in the post-race interviews.
Legend suggests that chariot racing was part of the ancient Olympics, and although some argue that car racing should not be included because the machines are not powered by humans, as in the case of bobsleighs, canoes and rowing, I do not think that this argument stands up when applied to the Olympic equestrian events, which feature very obvious horsepower. If you allow medals for these events, you should -logically - allow them for motor racing as well.
Blast from the past
Actually, there has been such an event in the past, although officially the race was known as Australian Grand Prix, it was called the Olympic GP by all concerned. It happened in Melbourne back in 1956, when the Games lasted for three weeks and there was no athletic competition on the Sunday, it being a Day of Rest for the Australians at that time. The motor racers did not care about that. They wanted to get involved in the Olympic excitements and so plans were laid for race meetings in Albert Park, during the period of the Games. It was a significant event for the Australians as it was the first time since 1938 that top international racing drivers would compete in Australia, so race fans from all over the country travelled to Melbourne specially to see Stirling Moss and Jean Behra in factory Maseratis, sent to Australia for the occasion.
They also went to watch the games and the Olympic spectators went to see the races, so it worked out well for everyone. There were reckoned to be somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people present for the race, on a track that was not hugely different to today's circuit, apart from the fact that it ran around the lake in the opposite direction. Moss and Behra dominated against a field of local heroes, but it was still a great spectacle.
Since then Bernie Ecclestone and more recently Jean Todt have been snuggling up to the Olympic movement and at Silverstone IOC President Jacques Rogge was a guest for the British Grand Prix. I hope that this leads to an Olympic Grand Prix and to the winner get a gold medal in addition to World Championship points. Formula 1 has a huge audience and that would do the Olympics no harm at all… and vice versa.
The writer has covered every grand prix for the last 25 years