It's slightly strange to me that one of the top stories of 2019 was a pretty minor touch of wheels that as far as I can tell caused far more controversy outside the team involved than inside the actual team itself. In my view, it's a reflection of a media contingent salivating for content and controversy, even when there is only the merest whiff of smoke. And it's turning off the fans, who are increasingly treated like idiots who don't understand a single thing about the nature and nuance of the sport they love.

I'm talking, in this instance, about the little tap - a loving kiss of racing assertion, if you will - shared by Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in Brazil.

In an alternate universe, the moment would have passed by with little more than commentators ooh-ing and aah-ing about a close call that did no damage. But in our humble little world, where every single incident and story must be exploded like dynamite by a trouble-making media contingent desperate for something to talk about every hour and day deep into the weeks to come, it was a big deal because both cars ended up retiring.

Earth-shattering! Career-ending! Dynamic-shifting!


But let's put it into a bit of perspective:

Firstly, if Vettel and Leclerc had stayed at home rather than fly to Sao Paulo to play silly-buggers on that run down to Descida do Lago, it would have made not a single difference in the overall scheme of things in Formula 1. The title fight was over. Leclerc had already made his point in 2019. Vettel was already cruising awkwardly towards the end of a fifth-consecutive season in red with a fifth consecutive lump of failure in his throat.

Sure, the 'crash' - if you can even call it that - was a nice, headline-shaped metaphor for the tension and the generation-shifting that had been occurring at Ferrari throughout the season. Yes, it was a tangible sign that these boys needed their bottoms slapped in the headmaster's office before the *actual* battle gets started next year. True, it's the perfect opportunity for Ferrari to repeat for the 45,824th time that drivers are never as important as the Prancing Horse. Correct, it was a wake-up call for Messieurs Vettel and Leclerc that their radio-whining throughout 2019 can actually turn into a carbon fibre shower that could ruin their championship campaign and seriously piss off the very serious-looking Italians who sign their giant cheques.

But let's not kid ourselves. This is racing. We *like* to see racing - and arguably just as much when things go badly for the protagonists as when the superb wheel-to-wheel gladiator-duelling with millimetre precision leaves us aghast and impressed at our heroes' super-human talent.

It's therefore to the credit of the calm, analytical, pragmatic and nonetheless obviously peeved on this occasion Mattia Binotto that he tried his darndest to roll out a media strategy straight out of the Manila folder marked 'Calm down, everybody'. Ferrari, especially when run by the hand-waving, "Mamma Mia"-exclaiming Italians rather than the Napoleon-like Jean Todt, has been all too prone to succumbing to hysterical media narratives about yet another scarlet-coloured "crisis", and headless chicken-like "emergency meetings". Instead, Binotto played a role just like your mildly-irritated mother, insisting it's better if these racy but very naughty boys let off some steam now, when it doesn't really matter, than in the heat of a proper battle in 2020.

Essentially, the rant you've just read is not at all about Ferrari and its fascinating driver lineup that is sure to keep exciting us all in 2020 with its appealing narrative. It's more an appeal to the media to sometimes - just sometimes! - treat the F1 fans a little less like children being hysterically revved up in a sideshow ally, and more like adults who understand with more nuance than they are given credit for exactly what they're looking at when racing has its natural consequences.

Do you think that, when it comes to media hype, things haven't really changed that much? Then recall the heyday of the great and brilliant Murray Walker, whose commentary style was described by the equally brilliant (and now sorely missed) Clive James as sounding like a man with his pants on fire. Yes, Murray's voice would rise to a banshee-like soprano when he was really excited. But he would reserve his most panic-stricken "Oh my gosh! This is fantastic!" moments for when things really *were* fantastic and oh-my-gosh-worthy. At all other times, while his pants may have occasionally let off a puff of smoke or a spark or two, this was actually a cool media professional who knew how to add colour to our beautiful sport, but shied away from sensationalising it.

Vettel vs Leclerc in Brazil? A minor bingle, a bookmark for 2020, and an example of what's wrong with the media today. Nothing more, nothing less.


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9 F1 Fan comments on “Vettel VS Leclerc crash: A hyped-up Nothing Burger

  1. Criti

    Who is this guy! Judging an incident simply on the basis of the magnitude of the impact clearly demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the sport. Other elements such as teammates taking each other out and in particular the chemistry and rivalry shown this year between a rookie, Leclerc and Vettel is certainly worthy of news coverage.

    Reply
    • ReallyOldRacer

      "This guy" is Andrew Maitland, one of the most experienced, and arguably the best, journalists in our sport. Reread the article. He did not denigrate the rivalry or the chemistry between LEC and VET. He simply suggested that the half-baked press often sensationalize what are minor events. If you read the drivers' comments you will see that they agree. You rock, Andrew.

      Reply
  2. MichaelM

    Brilliant! Spot on!! It's all an English media hype. Any opportunity to show their bias against Ferrari and their drivers is blown up out of proportion. They ZERO credibility!

    Reply
  3. Trento

    It cost Leclerc 3rd in the WDC. It spared him a trip to the FIA gala dinner though. Seriously, what matters here is team leadership. I suppose Ferrari absolutely didn't care about 3rd. Hopefully, they'll do things differently if one red guy is fighting for the title next time.

    Reply
  4. ok then

    Problem is as there's a serious of clashes between team mates, funny team 'Nr1 driver' orders from 'the off' so to speak, plus, Italian press being on Vettel's back then of course you've a great F1 story every time they hit each other though bad driving.
    When it's unexpected you can get away with it but when papers predict these things there's a great story, regardless of whether it's the Italian or British press

    Reply
  5. Simon Saivil

    The media, and some fans' anti-Ferrari bias, have made too much of the incident. The article writer's assessment is correct. Hamilton and Rosberg took each other out as did Ricciardo and Verstappen. Contact between Grosjean and Magnusen is all but expect these days.

    Reply

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