Television changed/ruined (ruined is a little too strong of a term actually) all sports and the business surrounding them. I hear it a lot from the younger enthusiasts, that (pick a sport) is a business first. I find this Idea fundamentally flawed. What it has come to is decisions that have a profound effect on sports have to be considered as the sport is currently presented.
But all sports were competitions first. I will always say that they are competitions first for the simple reason that when these sports were gaining popularity, whether you were a player or were only an observer, if the competition was not enough to promote huge interest, it would never become a popular sport/big business. It is that simple to me. As to F1 in particular, it is a sport if for no other reason than it takes tremendous coordination, and "feel" to succeed. I start drawing the line at some activities as being more of a test of aerobic conditioning, than actually being sports.
If Button simply participated in triathlons for the conditioning, and really sucked at it, than I would have very little regard for him as an athlete in the context of that discipline. But he is actually very good, which means he has had to apply good swimming technique, as well as handling a bicycle, and navigate groups of riders, and this is not all down to having the endurance to push one foot down, and lift another one up for a long duration. There are plenty of people that participate in triathlons that are not athletes.
A lot of old timers, me included have issues with the purity of sports being messed with. But I give F1 a wide berth. Plus it is an exercise in futillity to compare Auto racing with "stick and ball" sports.
Let me give you an example of a very American sport, Baseball (hardball) a sport I played until I was 44 years old. With the exception of the Designated Hitter, that was introduced into the American League (the junior circuit) to artificially add excitement to the game, which by the way has had a much more negative effect than most so called "Fans” even begin to understand, or realize.
I won’t go into it but those who really know the game understand all of the ramifications.
Before that there have only been two rules changed in the Big leagues, that have had a direct affect on the competition, and they were both for the better. In 1895 the "Infield Fly Rule" was introduced, and in 1920 the "Spitball" was disallowed. I can't think of any other substantive rule changes that has been made to all of Major league Baseball since 1920, although some have been rewritten, or clarified.
BTW “Plunking” was disallowed some time before the 20th century from professional baseball, although I’m not sure if it was actually allowed in the Big League.