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F1: Vettel tells TV viewers to turn off as he arrives in Austin for US Grand Prix

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

Speaking at the first press conference for the first US Grand Prix yesterday, Sebastian Vettel told the global F1 audience to not to watch F1 if they are "sensitive." Bryan Edwards, our motor sport editor, writes him an open letter.

Dear Mr Vettel

Like it or not, you are not Billy Connolly and your audience neither expects nor finds it funny when you swear.

You are an ambassador for your sport, you are an ambassador for your team, you are an ambassador for the companies that keep you in work by paying for advertising space on your car and on your clothing in "sponsorship" contracts, you are an ambassador for the companies that pay you to advertise their brands in "endorsement" contracts. You are a role model for the young, demonstrating that with hard work and the proper application of skills and talents, it is possible to make great achievements.

You have let down your sport, your team, your sponsors, the companies whose products you represent and all of those who look up to you as an inspiration.

Worse, the whole of F1 depends on a global TV audience. And yet, knowing the entire industry - both for the benefit of the large numbers it employs and the massive number of fans - you told those fans, the fans with the eyeballs and (hopefully) spending power that justifies the sponsorship and endorsements, to turn off.

And that's before the question of TV advertising is considered, a question that is most important in the USA where broadcast media advertisers in both TV and Radio are fickle and pull advertising at the hint of scandal.

The F1 website's coverage of yesterday's official press conference at the launch of the most anticipated F1 track for decades, in the market that F1 is desperate to succeed in, again shows you acting against the interests of the sport, your team, its sponsors and your personal endorsement companies and proving yourself unworthy of being regarded as a role model.

A journalist from the Associated Press - one of the two or three most syndicated news services in the world and therefore very important to the sport - asked you a delicate question: "Sebastian and any other driver, what do you make of the request for drivers to clean up their language a little bit post-race and do you see that as an attempt to appease an American audience that might be a little sensitive to that sort of thing?"

Your response was disgraceful. You said "I think if you're sensitive you should watch - I don't know - some kids' programme. You have the remote control in your hand, so you can choose. Surely it wasn't intentional at the last race. I think it's a bit unnecessary to create such a big fuss but anyway, if I said some things that weren't appropriate then I apologise but I think there's not a lot I have to do differently to succeed in that regard."

In fact, you have failed, on a series of occasions recently, to follow, when speaking, one of the most basic rules of making a car go. You can't make a car go until it's in gear. You need to remember this: engage brain before opening mouth.

As Billy Connolly says of old ladies that complain about bad language on TV "They've not only said it, they've done it as well." But that's fine in the privacy of their own home, among people they know. They expect it when they watch certain types of TV programme. When they invite you into their living room, they do not want to hear the word "Fuck" in a "gentleman's" sport - even soccer, the sport of the streets, penalises players who use that word audibly or - even - visibly for a TV audience.

If F1 had any courage, it should have fined you and put you on a form of probation. Your team should have fined you. As it is, if they have any courage and integrity, your endorsement companies should apply the provisions of their penalty clauses.

Instead, the FIA simply wrote to all teams saying that bad language "has no place" in media events.

But now, the FIA should suspend you for two races, your team should issue a substantial fine and your sponsorship and endorsement contracts should be ended. Not because you swore but because you told a global television audience that you will do as you like, in their living rooms on a Sunday afternoon and if they don't like it they can simply not watch.

This Sunday afternoon, assuming you are on the podium, you will be speaking to the most important audience F1 has had for many years: that of the USA. Your words will have great coverage, internationally, nationally and - pay careful attention - locally. Locally in the USA's bible belt where a large chunk of the nation's policyholders have their power bases - and just down the road from the USA's oil capital, a place of extreme importance to F1.

Clearly you have no respect for the sport, for those who pay the bills or for the fans.

And that, so far as I am concerned, means you have no place in it.

Yours in F1

Bryan Edwards