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F1: shame and embarrassment for F1 as champions lose composure and swear

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

The future of the recent development of podium interviews must be in doubt as two Formula One champions disgrace themselves and the sport by the use of coarse - in one case foul - language live across the conservative Abu Dhabi landscape and the world's TV screens.

Abu Dhabi likes to show its progressive side but it remains a conservative society: no alcohol and when the much more liberal Dubai needed a bail-out, there were clear indications that Abu Dhabi's assistance came with conditions as to a return to a more "moral" position.

When David Coulthard asked Kimi Raikkonen about his emotions after winning a race in his comeback season, he said "last time you guys was giving me shit for because I didn't really smile enough." But it was Vettel who really blotted his copybook with a four letter sexual expletive plus a "bloody."

The interviews took place at a time of high emotion: although it's not actually a Lotus team, putting a black and gold car across the line in first place was a hugely evocative moment and, for Kimi, to win a race in his comeback season - when Schumacher has failed even to threaten to - was cause for celebration. Kimi, not known for being demonstrative, the momentous occasion made him run off at the mouth: he issued an implied criticism of the fizzy rose water that Abu Dhabi serves up instead of champagne in a nod to Muslim sensibilities. Dubai and Bahrain serve champagne. The word "shit" is "haram" (forbidden) for many conservative Muslims - indeed, it is censored by TV companies in a number of countries with large Muslim populations. But there was no chance for censorship in the live interview.

And Kimi had been irritated by his crew during the race: when they gave him instructions on two occasions he basically told them that he knew what he was doing and to shut up and leave him alone. He had gone from winning to the podium with only a few seconds break in the room where he puts on the correct cap and the requisite contract-obligation watch before the walk to the bedlam that is the podium.

For Vettel, the excitement was even greater. Aided by Hamilton's DNF due to mechanical failure, McLaren's failure to get the balance right on Button's car and two safety cars, Vettel made what will, when the fuss dies down, be seen as one of the drives of the season. Starting from the pit lane, he started mixing it with back markers almost immediately, got his nosecone knocked off, changed it, swapped tyres (from medium to soft resulting it a complete change of strategy) and stormed through the field, passing Button to take P3 only a couple of laps from the end after some serious racing.

On the podium, he could not contain himself. After his two indiscretions, and after Coulthard made a public apology on behalf of the drivers, Vettel was still bouncing like an ADD child after a bag full of coloured sweets. He upended his bottle over Coulthard's head. Usually, it would have been funny: coming moments after Coulthard had apologised for Vettel's behaviour, many will (wrongly) interpret it as a rebuff of that apology. it was just childish (and he is, in so many ways, still a child) behaviour by a very excited (emotionally and chemically) person.

It is actually difficult to blame either driver. The fault, it has to be argued, is with the failure to give them time to settle down, to swap from balls-out racing driver to PR man. It is unreasonable to expect anyone to go from such levels of excitement and adrenalin to respond in any way other than that which most immediately comes to mind.

The podium interviews are fun. But not if they bring the sport into disrepute and undermine the image of the drivers as heroes.

It's time for a rethink.

But it's also time for Vettel to be subject to a warning. While everyone swears, the definition of swearing is flexible. But the F word is out of bounds. Yet Vettel does not seem to have the necessary filter - even when not excited. In a sit down post-race interview, saying of knocking his front wing off hitting a marker, he said "I thought, well, now the front (wing) is f*****." Clearly the lesson of the podium had not got through.

Moreover, interviewed in June this year by motor racing fan and US team owner David Letterman, said of Americans when discussing the DRS rear wing tech, "The people here have no f***ing idea what you're talking about." The programme's in-house censors got to that one in time.

 

 

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