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Opinion: Sebastian Vettel’s swearing may be pardoned, but F1's radio moaning has got to stop

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Opinion: Sebastian Vettel’s swearing may be pardoned, but F1's radio moaning has got to stop
Nov 1, 2016, 6:33 PM

[Updated] Sebastian Vettel has been let off by the FIA after profusely apologising for his tirade of swearing over the radio during the Mexican Gra...

[Updated] Sebastian Vettel has been let off by the FIA after profusely apologising for his tirade of swearing over the radio during the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.

The four times world champion wrote to the FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, whom he had abused and to its President Jean Todt and in light of this, he escaped with a warning.

Vettel’s battle with Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo livened up a Mexican Grand Prix that had long since been decided in favour of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.

But the four times world champion’s expletive-filled radio rant towards Whiting has generated lots of headlines and controversy after he said: “here is the message for Charlie: F*** off! Honestly, F*** off”.

This was said in frustration at Verstappen’s not ceding third place after running off the track at Turn 1 towards the end of the race and no penalty coming his way that stage (he was subsequently handed a five-second penalty, with Vettel also getting penalised for a later clash with Ricciardo).

Red Bull initially told Verstappen he would have to move aside, but then did not insist as the FIA Race Control had indicated that the incident would be investigated after the race. Vettel was told that Red Bull had instructed its driver to give the place back, but in Vettel's eyes Verstappen was failing to do so, while at the same time backing Vettel up into Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo on fresh soft tyres.

It incensed Vettel to the point that he lost his head in the heat of the moment, went over-board with his messages and ended up in embarrassing situation for both himself and the Ferrari team.

It was a psychological one-nil to Red Bull in its best-of-the-rest battle with the Scuderia.

Sebastian Vettel

Several comments left on this website in recent days have suggested Vettel should be fined and banned by the FIA for his outburst, and one even called for him to be fired by Ferrari.

Even though it was a (heated) conversation with his race engineer, Vettel should definitely have been aware that tasty sound bites get picked up for broadcast on the world feed (just ask McLaren’s Fernando Alonso), but this idea that “if he said that to a referee in another sport he’d be sent off” doesn’t apply here. Vettel was effectively telling his manager to tell the referee where to go – an aspect unique to F1.

Charlie Whiting

He should certainly have also been wary of breaching Article 12.1.1.f of the FIA’s International Sporting Code that warns of sanctions if drivers commit “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers”.

Had Vettel made such an outburst in a TV interview he’d certainly have a case to answer for, but speaking his mind at 200mph off the back of frustrating race and season and all the emotion that came with it was great TV and should not be discouraged. It probably even contributed to his clash with Ricciardo that was certainly thrilling if you leave aside the (necessary) debate on moving in braking zones that followed it. But Vettel should probably hold back on the expletives in the future though as the role-model aspect of being a sporting star is important too.

But what should definitely be stamped out – and Vettel is as guilty of this as any other driver – is the immediate moaning via the team radio about any infraction committed by another competitor, no matter how small.

Consider the start of Q2 in Mexico when Vettel dawdled through the stadium section preparing to start a flying lap and inadvertently forced Hamilton to take a tighter, less-than-optimum line into the final corner after Ferrari failed to warn its driver of the world champion’s on-coming presence.

Sebastian Vettel

Hamilton immediately reported that he’d been blocked just as Vettel was loudly blaming his team for the mistake in an attempt to ward off the stewards starting an investigation into the incident.

For his part, Vettel did say after qualifying that if he was given a penalty then he would accept it without further protest, and that scenario did not indeed come to pass.

Both Hamilton and Vettel were easily going to make it into Q3, so why was there any need for cases to be instantly made for the prosecution and the defence over the team radio?

That example is purely illustrative, let’s not have complaints about perceived bias for or against certain drivers when there is none, but there have been plenty more examples of this moaning culture that has emanated from many drivers’ cockpits in recent years.

Sebastian Vettel Fernando Alonso British GP 2014

The worst was arguably Vettel and Alonso’s duel at the 2014 British Grand Prix during their prolonged battle over fifth place. Both drivers produced stunning displays of driving, but by effectively grassing each other up when they ran wide or didn't leave space at certain parts of the track via the team radio they immediately undermined this.

So, in a roundabout way, lets not lose the drivers speaking their minds in the cockpit. It’s entertaining, insightful and adds an extra dimension to an already multi-faceted sport. Indeed the lack of radio messages during this year's early-season ban on the teams helping their drivers with car problems showed how valuable it is to Grand Prix broadcasts.

But lets get rid of the instant moaning over minor indiscretions. Yes, F1 has a win-at-all costs mentality, but hearing the constant complaining is tiresome and at odds with the gladiatorial image the sport likes to portray of its heroes.

Ross Brawn

Perhaps Ross Brawn’s new role as the boss of the sporting side of F1 could be to install a ‘I-think-I’ve-been-hard-done-by-please-investigate’ button on the steering wheels (which I’m aware would be open to blatant abuse by those pesky drivers) and we might get an end to the “we’re talking to Charlie” messages that have become far too prevalent in recent years.

What did you make of Vettel’s radio outburst in Mexico? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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