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Putin puts down Malaysia in post F1 comments

Bryan Edwards

Russian President Putin, who it is generally accepted was at least instrumental in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 seems to think it's OK to bash the South East Asian country. His comments to a driver for team the name-sponsor of which is a Malaysian oil company, demonstrated an astonishing lack of sensitivity: is he simply callous or is he trying to inflame passions?

Some history: that thing where the drivers have to stand at the front of the grid before a Formula One Race while the national anthem is played and dignitaries lauded started at the Russian Grand Prix where Bernie Ecclestone cosied up to Putin and expected the Petronas sponsored team and drivers to play nice with the man who had, only days before, been - according to pretty much anyone who knows anything about Russia's involvement in its border states - at least a influential part inthe shooting down of a Malaysian airliner, MH17. Putin simply ignores such things but, for some reason that is not clear, in his comments to the Petronas Mercedes Driver Valteri Bottas after his win in Sochi, Putin decided to put the boot into Malaysia again.

It was at the same Russian event that started the pre-race ceremony that we first saw someone other than the drivers and senior team members plus race officials in the cool-down room. Putin needed a photo op, because so much of the world was so incensed by the actions of Russian backed rebels and, even, the Russian army outside Russia's borders. And even today, it rare for a politician to be admitted to the cool-down room where drivers are re-humanising themselves for a very few minutes before the podium ceremony. But Putin's egotistical attitude overrides all such concerns and, therefore, F1 people have to invade that quiet space, too.

But this time it has backfired because audio of Putin's comments to Valterri Bottas after his maiden F1 win, showed something even his minders did not want us to see.

Speaking in Russian, Putin said to Bottas, the Petronas logo prominent on his chest, that bringing F1 to Sochi had been a great success and said that he had told his staff that almost all the hotels were booked. Bottas is a Finn and many Finns understand and speak Russian. Bottas quickly replied "build more hotels." Then Putin said "we've only been here for three years [it's actually four] but already we are very successful, not like Malaysia, for example."

Putin's translator had to give pause before telling Bottas what Putin had said, then he edited it on the fly.

Putin was referring to the fact that Malaysia has negotiated an early exit from its F1 contract and that this year, 2017, will be the last Formula One race at what is actually one of the best circuits for both drivers and spectators on the calendar.

However, that was not what his translator told Bottas that Putin had said. The translator changed it to "we are more successful than some other countries."