With a famous little Italian hand gesture from Verstappen and a stern-dad index finger shake from Vettel, not a single person can refute the fact that the Mexican Grand Prix was a thriller. For some, it was a nightmare. Just when Asian F1 fans were trying to keep their eyes fixated to their TV’s mid-race at 2am, the last few laps put life back into sport by proving to be one of the most representative laps of what Formula One truly is. To sum it up in the most brief way: Sebastian Vettel, on 30+ lap old tires was chasing Max Verstappen rapidly in the final stint of the race. Due to the pressure, Verstappen made an error, running wide into the grass and gaining a huge advantage in the fight to Vettel. Despite being told to give the position back, Verstappen’s ignorance massively upset the Ferrari driver, who by then was chased down by Daniel Ricciardo who was on fresher tires. However, perhaps the most relevant and significant highlight of this grand prix was Sebastian Vettel’s candid radio transcripts to his team.
Ricciardo Adami: “Charlie said… Charlie said…”
Vettel: “You know what, here’s the message to Charlie: f–k off! Honestly f–k off.”
That very statement to the FIA Technical Director Charlie Whiting caused a mess in the way should have been interpreted.
So, just as everything in Formula One works, should there be a regulation that prohibits drivers from using harsh language on radio? As ever, there are two sides to a coin:
Post race, Vettel told the media “I had the right to be angry. I went to (Charlie Whiting) immediately. For sure it wasn’t the right thing to say”.
I have been a Formula One follower since the age of 5. At the end of all these years, I’ve come to realise that being in the cockpit is far more than sitting in a specially crafted seat and turning the wheel. I can furthermore add that in the heat that Vettel was at in that given moment, where Charlie Whiting had told Ferrari that Vettel had to race for the position, indirectly pointing that Max Verstappen had made no mistake, it is justified to express the way he did. Imagine having to drive at 365kmph while analysing another competitor’s mistake and fight for what you believe is correct. It is a lot of work to do in very little time.
I can only reflect back to the number of times we as fans ourselves have criticised the FIA and Charlie Whiting for their inconsistent stewarding – giving away penalties in cases where the driver needs;t have been penalised while letting the most preposterous moves get away with little scrutiny. I would say this is simply a case of media taking an important sports personality’s high emotions to front page headlines and making it an International sporting controversy.
On the flip side, is it appropriate for the director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to come out and make such comments? As a representative of the sport and it’s spectacle, I would have to agree that these comments could have been avoided. If not by the driver, by the FOM, after all they control broadcasting.
This is not the first time Vettel has come under fire for his choice of words. Abu Dhabi 2012, after a phenomenal recovery drive from the pitlane to podium, Vettel swore live on International TV, not only angering a few media personnel but also making the podium interviewer, David Coulthard, apologise quite uncomfortably for his mistake. However, he did later apologise for the incident.
The underlying fact remains that Formula 1 media and fans tend to be slightly hypocritical than not. On one occasion fans scream ‘We need more life in the sport. Drivers aren’t robots’, equally when drivers are being emotive and boldly responsive, it becomes offensive all of a sudden. F1 ‘pundits’ themselves have questioned the FIA’s moves in the past, but mute their comments when a driver openly criticises the governing body.
While I firmly stand by the case of Sebastian Vettel accidentally blurting out a few things that arguably shouldn’t have been said, we should keep in mind that by lap 60, these guys are simply tired and frustrated when things do not go their way. They are not-so-human, but still very much human after taking off the helmet.
Like a fellow internet companion right worded it: Racers are two people under the helmet. One is the racer person and the other is human. While the racer curses on radio and insults drivers, the human side of him apologises immediately. Word has just come out that Vettel has already spoken to Charlie, Verstappen and Ricciardo. We just need to wait till post race to view the whole picture.
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