Opinion: Should F1 have set an example over Vettel’s X-rated outburst?

The FIA decided against taking any action over Sebastian Vettel’s curse-laden radio rant in Mexico, but does that send out a bad message of its own? Charles Bradley dusts off his moral compass…

Swearing. As my mother always said, it’s neither big nor clever. However, recent research suggests that people who curse more often are likely to have higher intelligence. So work that one out, mum!

Manchester United football team manager Jose Mourinho was this week charged with misconduct for alleged ‘abusive or insulting words towards a match official’ during their home game against Burnley on Saturday.

It wasn’t broadcast to a global audience, but it clearly happened nonetheless. As a result, he was also barred from his bench area on the touchline, and forced to watch the second half from the stands.

Twenty-four hours later, we had Sebastian Vettel saying likely the same kind of words aimed at race director Charlie Whiting and Max Verstappen. Only this time we heard them out loud, as they were broadcast on the international feed by the FOM TV director.

Vettel sought out Whiting to apologise after the post-race press conference, and subsequently sent letters of apology to Whiting and the FIA. Without knowing what he said, one can only speculate that his excuse was he was ‘in the heat of the moment’ – and we all say things we probably shouldn’t from time to time, don’t we?

Of course, there was a huge outcry from many fans, chastising Vettel for his insolence and insubordination. It’s certainly an unseemly side of professional sport that its exponents revert to foul or abusive language to get their point across to officials – you certainly see it in soccer on a regular basis.

Then again, you get a sport like rugby, where the referees command respect and are often called ‘Sir’ by the players (who call each other every rude word under the sun) – and this is one of the more violent of ball sports.

In motor racing, we’ve come to expect and accept the bleeped-out radio message swearing about tyres/rivals/engines etc. Recall too Will Power’s infamous ‘double bird’ insult to the IndyCar race director?

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari on the grid
Sebastian Vettel on the grid in Mexico

Photo by: XPB Images

Here’s the message for Vettel…

When someone shows instant remorse for something they’ve done wrong, that certainly should be taken into account. Vettel is certainly one of the more vocal of drivers, and his racing persona has its dark side – remember the fuss around ‘Multi-21’?

It’s the polar opposite of his usually happy-go-lucky self, although I noticed he was in a foul mood already with TV pen interviewers after qualifying in Mexico. I think the root cause of this was that he genuinely felt that this race gave Ferrari a shot at victory, but its inability to switch on its supersofts in qualifying meant a lowly starting position.

Then getting stuck behind Felipe Massa in the opening stint only compounded his anger levels. And it escalated into the sweary explosion when he became embroiled with the Red Bulls.

It reminded of me when he’d screwed up a vital race in the F3 Euro Series at Le Mans, and I grabbed him for some quotes in the queue for the weighing scales. His helmet might have just been removed, but his ‘race-head’ was most certainly still in full effect.

He growled his short answers to my questions, it honestly didn’t sound like his normal voice – a bit like when he said “Mark is too slow, get him out of the way” before it all kicked off in Malaysia.

It was actually a fascinating glance into the single-mindedness of a top racer when the adrenaline is still flowing freely. And you wouldn’t want to blunt that, would you?

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel

Photo by: Ferrari

Conclusion

I can’t help thinking that if it was Kimi Raikkonen who’d said this, the majority of F1 fans would be saying what a great bloke Kimi was and having “Here is the message for Charlie: **** off!” printed on their tee-shirts…

I’m not condoning swearing at race stewards, but surely we want our F1 stars to show personality, wear their hearts on their racesuit sleeves and not be corporate robots who never speak out of turn, and therefore hide their true feelings?

There’s clearly a line that Vettel has crossed, and I’d certainly rather hear racing drivers be more ‘rugby-like’ when it comes to dealing with officials. That said, when they disagree with calls, I’d still like to hear some passion from the cockpit as it shows how much it matters to them, albeit expressed within some boundaries.

And, speaking of extremities, once again it was track design that allowed Verstappen to keep his position by running across the grass. Although he would later get a time penalty, it would’ve been ironic if this ‘get out of jail free’ card had led to Vettel being put inside one.

I don’t think that making an example of him for that would have been fair at all.

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
(L to R): Sebastian Vettel with Max Verstappen

Photo by: XPB Images

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Mexican GP
Track Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Drivers Sebastian Vettel , Max Verstappen
Article type Commentary
Tags charlie whiting