Villeneuve Was Lucky, But Heidfeld Should Be Worried

Villeneuve Was Lucky, But Heidfeld Should Be Worried

I’ve just read something quite absurd. In fact, it is so ridiculous, I absolutely must share. The news centres not on a Formula One driver, but on four-times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, who incidentally did have a go in an F1 car recently. It would appear that the FIA aren’t too happy with Loeb’s appearance, and an email conversation between two FIA members has been published. It really is quite hilarious…

…Oh by the way, that’s not a photograph of Loeb, it’s Formula One’s Nick Heidfeld, but you’ll see why it’s relevant in a minute.

Surinder Thatthi, chairman of CACMS, and Morrie Chandler, president of the WRC have spoken to one another about the scruffy appearance of Loeb, particularly when the television cameras focus on him, which I’m sure you can imagine, is quite a lot.

I watched the WRC Mexico highlights last night and I have to voice my opinion on the poor appearance of Sebastien Loeb on WRC-TV. He was unshaven, scruffy looking and with unkempt hair!!

It is wrong…..when the FIA gives him global TV coverage to millions of viewers and to many children worldwide he is a hero and role model […] I know there is a level of personal freedom one is allowed but I feel he is taking this too far and someone should talk to him or his team about this. Surinder Thatthi.

Chandler responded with the following.

Yes I watched the same as you did […] Unfortunately it is not a problem that is unique to our sport as the same happens in football and other “male” sports.

Of course these persons are an insult to real males. My only solution is that we suggest to [rallying rights holders] ISC that the camera does not cover them close up. Morrie Chandler.

Chandler’s response was also sent to Simon Long, the ISC managing director, who took a lighter view of the situation.

I do feel that it is precisely Sebastien’s “ruggedly good-looking” appearance which has helped endear him to so many new and young fans both in France and around the world. Simon Long.

Autosport are reporting that it was news agency Reuters that saw the emails and have since published them. But isn’t this just a load of utter nonsense? I remember Jacques Villeneuve turning up to racing circuits looking like a teenager, baggy t-shirts and jeans to boot. The 1997 world champion would often dye his hair, and in fact it was bleached the very day he won his title. Johnny Herbert would also occasionally forget to stand close to his razor on the morning of a race, and I don’t think Nick Heidfeld even bothers anymore. Oh, and please let us not forget Fernando Alonso’s facial hair in 2006. While his little beard was neat and trim, it was also quite funny.

So what next? Are the FIA going to ban close-ups of Nick Heidfeld. Maybe they could photoshop images of Villeneuve so history will show a more smart appearance of previous racers? Maybe they could buy David Coulthard a multi-pack of Gillette blades and wag their finger at him until it fell off? The finger, that is.

Honestly, do me a favour FIA, shut up. I honestly didn’t think the actions of the governing body of the WRC or Formula One could get any more ridiculous. I’m afraid to say they just have. Shouldn’t the FIA be focusing on other things right now…?


  • as ever autosport report the story but fail to do any analysis whatsoever. have a better take:

    The suspicion is that [the email exchange] has been leaked in order to paint Chandler and Thatti in a poor light. This is interesting as both are important figures in Max Mosley’s FIA.

  • You’re right, this is a bit stupid. Chandlers’ response about not putting the camera on him is something more fitting for the morning ‘funnies’.

    Weather an athlete is clean cut or not, it shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, often it enhances the appeal of that athlete. He get talked about, put on the covers of magazines etc.

    Everyone has their own opinion about facial hair on a public figure, but those are personal and should be left personal.

  • Remember all those pictures of Stirling Moss after a race? Face blackened by dirt thrown up by the car in front, racoon-like clean circles around his eyes where the goggles had been. Clearly he was an encouragement to small boys to avoid soap and water at all costs.

    The emails just show how the outdated old farts appointed to the FIA must scratch around for anything in their attempts to increase their own importance. Max has collared all the big stuff long ago, obviously.

  • Everyone has their own opinion about facial hair on a public figure, but those are personal and should be left personal.

    I quite agree. In some sports it helps to be clean-shaven (swimming, for example), but I don’t see how it would affect Loeb. And being smartly dressed may help with sponsors, but really all they care about is their logo being visible.

    Clearly he [Moss] was an encouragement to small boys to avoid soap and water at all costs.

    He still is, Clive, he still is! 😀

  • @Keith: Yes, you said you were interviewing the ‘grubby man’. Look forward to reading it. Is it going up on F1F or your day-job’s site? If it’s the latter, be sure to link to it from F1F.

    Oh, and interesting point. The way Autosport wrote their piece raised a lot of questions in my mind as to how Reuters got the emails and why they were privvy to them. And allowed to publish them. But as the post was more of a funny haha, the FIA are stupid I chose to not get into the whys and hows. It will be interesting to see if anything further is made of this, either with Loeb or your point about discrediting those involved.

    As a quick aside, I’ve suggested on Twitter that all the F1 drivers who are old enough to grow a beard should do just that in protest.

  • It isn’t a coincidence my favourite drivers in Formula 1 and WRC are Nick Heidfeld and Sébastien Loeb respectively… Something about them being the most aesthetically associatable pilots to my young scenester-esque tendencies and floppy-haired nonchalant attitude; an appearance that is substantially more fashionable than a generically clean-cut retraction of ones design enforced by an exterior figurehead.

    Introducting a ruling to halt these personalised visuals would harm certain audience’s impressions of the character of such sports and the pilots behind them.

  • Mr Chandler, “real men” come in all sorts of different appearances. They’re not clones of each other. When I commented about this on my site, I remember wondering if Sebastien Loeb’s co-driver was supposed to give him a haircut along the WRC stages…

    Limiting individuality in sport is bad PR, not good PR.

  • Terrible. Terrible. I can’t believe a role model would set such a poor example. It is good the upstanding role models of the FIA are around to remind us of the standards high profile members of the motorsports world must live up to. I guess because it is on his face it doesn’t qualify as “a private matter”

  • It does seem extremely odd that people who are so upset about a bit of facial hair bringing the sport into disrepute are happ to associate with Max. No doubt their extreme conservatism will win out and they will denounce Max’s behaviour or at least encourage TV directors not to point cameras at him.

  • If I don’t shave I look well dodgy and my girlfriend refuses to have anything to do with me so I’ll just have to leave you guys to this one I’m afraid!

  • Well, if the blokes are being subjected to this level of scrutiny on their appearrance, imagine what it would be like if Daniuca Patrick did get an F1 seat?

    Would we have her given warnings that she has to have a full face of makeup and perfect hair when she removes her helmet after a race?


    BTW I think Loeb’s dishevelled looks are HOT ! I’d be veeerrrryyyyy disappointed if he shaved !

    Button on the other hand……..

  • @ Pink Peril – FIA would not care about her make up, but they would send someone to confirm she is shaving 🙂

  • How long have you got, Alianora? That’s a really long discussion.

    As regards growing a beard, you’re too late, I’m afraid. Grew one over the winter just to remind myself of what it looks like – turns out it’s somehow become white in the years since it last made an appearance. Weird things happen to me…

  • as ever autosport report the story but fail to do any analysis whatsoever.

    @Sidey: Sorry man, your comment went straight to spam. I blame Akismet but I managed to recover it before taking out the trash. And I completely agree with your statement. They seem to post lots of stories, all essentially the same and with little background to them. And then hide them behind annoying adverts which makes them unreadable.

  • This is why I don’t use the Autosport site very often, and only buy the magazine if there’s something specific in their that’s likely to still interest me in a year’s time…

  • “They seem to post lots of stories, all essentially the same and with little background to them.”

    i should add that i saw the post on almost two days before autosport made any effort. in fact i’d suggest they maybe tried to hide from it, until it became to big to hide from.

  • Did you know that Surinder Thatthi belongs to an Asian religious sects of Sikhs? Practicing Sikhs do not cut their hair or beard. That is why they wear turbans.

    Since it is their belief, and since everyone is entitled to his/her beliefs, we respect it and accept it.

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