Remember the days when Gerhard Berger swapped Ayrton Senna’s passport photo with an explicit image? We’re told it caused quite a stir at the airport. Or perhaps you remember the days when Eddie Irvine would saunter through the paddock with a girl on each arm, a smug grin joining his ears? If you don’t you needn’t worry, these times have passed and there’s little point in being concerned about something you cannot control. But having been thinking about Formula One, it’s popularity and portrayed image through the media, I’m starting to change my mind when it comes to these antics. Allow me to explain…
I’ve never really liked Eddie Irvine. He blew his chance at the world championship and seemed content to just earn money from his job rather than pursue his ambitions like someone possessed. He would often speak up when I felt he should keep quiet and focus on racing. He was a jack-the-lad, and these folk don’t really attract me.
Similarly, I was relieved when Jacques Villeneuve finally bowed out of Formula One. I stand by my statement that I’ve made many times over; he only won the 1997 crown because Mercedes placed woefully unreliable engines in the back of Hakkinen’s and Coulthard’s McLarens. And Villeneuve too came across as arrogant and egotistical. A trait I don’t enjoy in a person unless they have really earned it. In my opinion, Villeneuve hadn’t earned it and when BMW finally decided to replace him with Kubica, I smiled.
Today though, I thought about how F1 might be seen to a new fan, perhaps someone who is getting ready to watch the sport for the very first time next weekend. And I’ve come a startling conclusion. Well, it was startling to me given my distaste for Irvine and Villeneuve-esque types. The conclusion? Formula One doesn’t have much of a personality anymore.
Maybe I’m just missing the roar of engines and the colour of the weekend, but I cannot help but feel I’ve judged too strongly. Irvine and Villeneuve did add to the sport; they added a bit of vibrancy, spice, maybe even controversy. Now, I am well aware that F1 doesn’t need anymore controversy at the moment and I’m actually hoping for a boring year of good ol’ racing. Perhaps though, it could be coloured a little more with, say, a water fight in the post race press conference? Or a food fight centered around a drivers birthday cake?
It is possible that these things still happen, after all, the teams and drivers have to let off steam every now and then. But if these antics do take place, I don’t see them as often as I used to. The blame, if indeed there is any, could arguably be placed at the feet of McLaren and Ferrari following the tense dramas of 2007. But that shouldn’t stop Adrian Sutil replying to a journalist’s “how are you?” with a “I’m alright, I got laid last night”.
Another person who needs to accept responsibility for the perceived lack of personality in the sport is Max Mosley. Not allowing drivers to perform donuts after races. Not allowing drivers to stop on the parade lap to pick up a flag. I’m actually surprised he allowed Michael Schumacher to wear a red wig and for Villeneuve to dye his hair. What next, ordering Alonso to get a short-back-and-sides every other weekend?
Am I going a bit mad here? I am well aware I’ve just typed a post that basically says there aren’t enough food fights in Formula One, but I hope that doesn’t constitute being locked away. I am curious though, am I alone in my thinking? Are there enough food fights in Formula One?