Is F1 Losing It’s Respect?

You know there’s something wrong when the man quickly becoming F1’s most successful driver, is jeered, booed and put down. What was his crime? Doing his job and winning a race.

Sebastian Vettel stormed his way to a first ever Canadian Grand Prix victory, ending Red Bull’s North American drought where a win had escaped them for seven preceding years. Vettel, who currently tops the championship with three wins under his belt, made his way to the podium, only to be severely booed by fans in Canada, which apparently has become a Ferrari stronghold. Who knew.

An obviously surprised Eddie Jordan was conducting the post-race podium interviews and tried, in vain, to control the crowd who began chanting “A-LON-SO! A-LON-SO!” for second placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.

Personally, I was quite put out with the Canadian fans. It’s ironic, of course, that the Canadian stereotype presents the Canadian’s as a warm, welcoming folk – the majority, or at least the loudest, were far from that to Sebastian Vettel last Sunday. Apart from being a poor show of sportsmanship, the fans were booing the triple World Champion who, lets not forget, was in Canada as Formula One’s reigning World Champion.

Sure, one may not like Sebastian Vettel. A lot of people have been put off by the young German’s dominance in what looks likely to be a re-running of Michael Schumacher’s iron tight grip on the sport at the beginning of the century. However, not liking a driver is not the same thing as booing the driver for doing his job. The twenty-two drivers on the grid, be they front-runners or back-markers, all compete for the ultimate goal – to win the race. While it is highly improbable that Marussia or Caterham are going to win the upcoming British Grand Prix, it would be silly to say that a victory is not a team’s eventual goal. On a sidenote, lets not forget that eight years ago, Red Bull were a laughing-stock. Back to my point, even if you don’t like a driver, it’s incredibly ridiculous to complain that he’s done his job. Imagine a doctor saving a life, only to be booed because he does it too often. Admittedly, it’s an unusual example but it’s a reflection of what happened to Vettel in Canada.

On another note, I also believe the treatment of World Champions is poor. Love him or hate him, once a driver finishes a year with the most points, he’s a World Champion. For the next year, at least, he is known as Formula One’s best driver, in my view at least. In line with such, I think World Champions should be treated with respect. Okay, kissing the ground he walks on, or bowing down when he passes you is obviously extreme. All I mean is he shouldn’t be treated, again, like Vettel was in Canada. Or, with the absolute bashing that Michael Schumacher received for coming back to Formula One.

Presumably at this point I’m sounding like a Vettel fan-boy. I can assure you that’s not the case. In fact, having a soft-spot for Mark Webber, I was enraged when Vettel defied the infamous Multi-21 team order which ordered him to stay put behind his Australian team-mate. This had me thinking about the loss of respect and sportsmanship between drivers. Remember, for example, Stirling Moss giving up the World Championship when Mike Hawthorn was threatened with a penalty for dangerous driving. Hawthorn had reversed up the track to kick-start his car following a spin, on Moss’s instruction. Yet, the stewards took a dim view of the action and threatened to penalize Hawthorn, only for Stirling Moss to stand in and plead Hawthorn’s case. Hawthorn wasn’t penalised and he subsequently won the championship by one point.

It took me a while to decide if Vettel’s actions in Malaysia bordered on disrespect to the team and the weight that a team order should carry, but I eventually came to the conclusion that Vettel was well within his rights as a racer to go for gold, which he did.

I probably sound old-fashioned (for a 16-year-old!), but I do think F1 and some of it’s fans, need to take a look at themselves. Booing drivers and general disrespect towards the world’s greatest drivers, by those who call themselves ‘fans’, does no good but to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.

Image courtesy Getty Images. 


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