Media, not teams, to blame for ‘boring drivers’

2015 F1 season

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Formula One drivers are cautious about volunteering their opinions because they fear being misrepresented by the media, according to Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi.

Two-times world champion Emerson Fittipaldi recently derided the current generation of drivers as “robots” who don’t show any personality outside of the car.

However Gastaldi denied Lotus does anything to prevent its drivers expressing themselves.

“I understand what Emerson’s saying but I know that we as a team don’t do anything proactive to stop our drivers from saying what they think,” he said.

“The drivers themselves are free to decide to say what they think, but they are talking in a very different world from when Emerson was a driver. Now if you say anything even slightly out of the normal it’s repeated, misreported, analysed and regurgitated across all forms of media and I think many drivers have taken a wise approach to this; the less controversial you say, the less time you have to spend answering questions about it.

“This is part of the reason why drivers have evolved into sounding like politicians when asked many questions. They want to drive, not spend hours discussing their opinions on whether Kim Kardashian should appear on the front of Rolling Stone magazine.”

Last month Lewis Hamilton said it is “difficult” for drivers to speak their minds because” we have sponsorship deals” and “we’ve got to represent the sport in a certain way”.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Media, not teams, to blame for ‘boring drivers’”

  1. Exactly a week ago, Will Buxton made the exact same point on his op-ed blog. I’m wondering what the disconnect is between these same sort of comments being made by an F1 team principal as opposed to a member of the media.

  2. If anyone has seen Valentino Rossi interviewed they’d find those statements hard to believe. His personality always comes out in interviews and he has often spoken his mind. If F1 drivers are holding back I doubt it has anything to do with their regularly being misrepresented in the media.

    1. @velocityboy but Valentino Rossi is a seven-time world champion and is known for his flamboyant personality, i.e.: the way he usually celebrates his victories, his hair color etc., so not only has he earned the “right” to say whatever he wants (not that anybody doesn’t have the right to say what they think), but the media and sponsors tend to give more him more leeway because it’s part of his style. Similarly, more successful, older drivers like Alonso and Raikkonen, who aren’t the most PC drivers on the grid, are given more latitude in there comments (“oh, it’s just Raikkonen being Raikkonen”)

      1. Tend to give him more leeway*

    2. It’s not the media only, many fans seem to hate when a driver speaks, dresses or dances differently from the “norm”.

  3. Two-times world champion Emerson Fittipaldi recently derided the current generation of drivers as “robots” who don’t show any personality outside of the car.

    Another case of ‘in the old days it was better’-itis. These drivers have certain logos on their chest and represent in a way those companies. Of course they can’t just say whatever they like.

    Next to that the entire robots is a big non-issue if you ask me. If you do some reading plenty of drivers have plenty of ways of expressing themselves in the way they choose be it Twitter, Facebook or even a simple interview with a newspaper. Next to that the Thursday driver press conference shows plenty insight.

    More than anything I just think the drivers don’t like to do these press conference and keep their answers as short as possible to get rid of it. Sure the media on purpose misquotes drivers for entertainment but that’s hardly a F1 thing.

    1. @xtwl, just because it makes sense and is financially more rewarding for drivers to be bland in what they say it does not mean that “the old days” when drivers had “devil may care” attitudes and lifestyles were not more interesting. Vive, la vie en rose.

    2. +1 and add to that, people’s short attention span and media’s tendency to misquote people and also flashy headlines to “Sell the news” is a dangerous combo.

  4. The range of permitted opinions is both small and in constant flux. Opinions which were well within the bounds of normality a few years ago will today get you branded a moral monster. Therefore the prudent will confine themselves to speaking innocuous banalities. This is a problem which goes beyond F1.

  5. The biggest problem is many media will try to spin the drivers word to create some sensation for their own benefit. And any consequences from any bad publicity that comes out with that will be shouldered by the drivers alone, not the journalist who spun their words. It’s perfectly logical to look “boring” and “not have a character” rather than having a sponsor/contract terminated or worse, facing a lawsuit. Not to mention having your words taken out of context and blown out of proportion will make it harder to concentrate to the race itself.

    1. Exactly. Honestly, you cannot blame the media for being what they’ve always been since inception. They will blow things out of proportion and put a spin on it for a better story. The media has always had this trait as it’s in the nature of their business.

      What Lewis said is correct. It’s the sponsors and the team that are affected by the media spin on stories, which is why they have to be pr robots.

      Blaming the media for the lack of driver personality is liking blaming water for getting things wet.

  6. Whoever can create the most sensationalised titles from driver quotes gets the page clicks. The British tabloids in particular are very good at this. So why would a driver fully speak their mind when there’s an army of bottom-tier “journalists” (not referring to this site by the way) ready to twist their words against their teammate, team or sponsors? Naturally these same gutter journalists will just moan about “robot PR drivers” if they have nothing else to complain about… either way, F1 loses.

  7. Ask different questions, you’ll get different answers.

    In another hand, some journos like to answer themselves the questions, like ‘What is good for F1?’ and then they give their questions answers.

    Anyway, accredited websites like Autosport and Motorsport are looking us down more and more like they and only them have the proper analysis to motorsports problems.

    This very website, F1 Fanatic, is one if not the bedt about Formula 1 because it is not looking us down, it has a comment section on every article and it rewards our enthousiasm with original articles every given day; plus it is a community.

  8. In the space of a few weeks F1 has managed to go from ‘media to blame for negativity’ to include ‘former champion blames teams for boring drivers’, ‘track designed blames rules for boring F1’ and now ‘team blames media for boring drivers’.

    It’s amazing how well everyone in F1 has become so ace at pointing the finger at anyone but themselves we’ve gotten to a point people are simply talking about why F1 is boring and are no longer contending that the very sport they’re supposed to have a job in isn’t boring.

    I’m finding myself more and more sold to the idea of just watching the races and ignoring most of the media on F1..

    1. I feel a good dose of sympathy with your feeling in this regards @npf1. Although on the other hand I have also seen quite a few sites that show how F1 is still very good but should just finally do something with where the money goes, let the Promoter start to promote and the ruling body start to make rules.

  9. Absolutely correct. Somebody makes a general comment and it gets jumped all over by the media as though they’ve just declared war.

    There is too much sensationalism, where stories are made out of nothing.

  10. Make them race every week for 26 weeks and no one will have time to talk about anything other than racing.
    There will be so little time to prepare for the next race it is bound to provoke mistakes and unpredictability, and no one will have time to dwell on the past races.

    1. @mtlracer What an idea! People complaining that the cars aren’t physically demanding enough – this should quieten those rumours. Let them keep racing.

  11. 90% of F1’s problems are media induced. Even standard reporting on race results has to be spun. Something you would think is black and white gets reved.

    Another website titled their story on Tilke as: “Tilke hits back…” The next time Tilke shows up in public no matter what the occasion might be, he has to answer twisted questions about track designs. And trust me, they won’t be questions about anything interesting related to the design and creation of a race track, they’ll questions geared towards fishing out quotes to create another “conflict” headline. Tell me, who wants to deal with that nonsense???

    Why must everything be presented as a conflict??? Again, the media always tries to make themselves a player instead of just reporting.

    This website is perhaps one of the best F1 media sources. Yet look at the majority of the news headlines? They are all handpicked to generate the most decent, conflict. Basically anything that generates a negative reaction will get the headlines.

    Leading up to the Silverstone GP, there was already evidence to the contrary of the doom and gloom narrative that surrounds F1 nowadays. No outlet, not even this one tried to big up the forecast records crowds. Instead they were trying to find ways to bring it down.

    As far as drivers go, its not just F1. It’s all professional sports. No athlete these days is going to speak freely because they will get destroyed by the media. The reporters are constantly looking for dirt. Looking for the scoop that will drive the talking points until the next GP. And if they don’t find any, they will conjure up one. There is no such thing as bad publicity with these guys. They have zero regard for what their actions will do to the sport.

    1. it gets spun because that’s what generates revenue. If people practiced better ‘consumer’ behaviors and truly voted with their money in a moral way, the world would be a much better place, media outlets included.

    2. Hm, well, on the other hand 90% of the information/coverage we get, including TV broadcast, is from the media @sudd.

      Just look at what an interview nowadays constitutes to: agreed days if not weeks up front, the teams normally ask to be given the subject or even precise questions up front. During the interview there is a team PR guy/woman in the room to take care that the driver does not say anything the team does not like and then most interviews are being signed off by team PR before being published.
      Let me ask you, where is there room for misinterpretation then? I think the media are struggling to get more than the standard bla, bla, everything fine, we have to look at some issues, but we are improving, bla bla, everyone happy from a driver and naturally jump on everything that is slightly more interesting.

      1. @bascb, I think you’re just looking to be adversarial here. The media’s ulterior motives are plainly obvious.

        1. The incessant need to create conflict between Hamilton and Rosberg. It’s quiet obvious the two don’t like each other. And its obvious the media is pissed off they aren’t getting more firework explosions because even though Ham and Ros don’t like each other, it appears to they(with Mercedes) have agreed not to make it public.

        2. Recently Maldonado made a comment about Verstapens driving. Immediately the media latched on and started to try and start a feud between the two. Maldo tried to brush it under but Vers kind of fell for the media’s trick and kept making comments to keep the tension going.

        3. Do you get the sense that the media wants public mud slinging between McL and Honda? Alonso’s comment about “looking like amateur getting blown out of proportion.

        4. Constantly writing negative stories about F1. Bigging up other series like WEC, Indycar, NASCAR etc…just for the sole purpose of making F1 look bad.

        I could go on…but I think you can see why no one likes the press. Its always amazing to see how quickly the drivers clear the room on Thursday press conferences. It’s like the school bell. Soon as it goes off, they are out the door ASAP!

        1. Yeah, sure if the media write anything but happy sunshine stories they are sharks, blowing things out of proportion etc right?

          The media are the one who give us the only means to even notice F1 apart from the rare occasion when we manage to visit a race. Their job is to look for interesting things to report. Often those are negatives and often the people who are figuring in those stories are not happy they are reported (and often they leak those stories themselves to get some attention too).

          But the negative stories in F1 were kicked off by Bernie talking to his chosen news outlets and then to the official broadcasters. Then they were picked up by Montezemelo and Red Bull and we saw a rise in of that same negative in the sanctioned TV shows too. I just see an agenda there, and part of the media letting themselves be used to bring a specific message. Not good, and not a wholly positive view of those media, but its not as if the messanger is the issue. Its the ones giving out the signals.

          As for everyone hoping for some fireworks between Hamilton and Rosberg, or between Alonso and McLaren and Honda. Or even the by now well trodden Renault vs. RBR war of words (as well as crashes etc, and War, conflicts and disasters in the world in general), as long as people are going to watch, read and listen to this kind of news more than positive stories, they will be broadcast as they happen, be made more “appetizing” or even made up if needed.

          Your statement that “no one likes the press” is quite clearly not true. And drivers clear the room fast because only seldom do they feel strong enough to say something the team has not sanctioned.

          1. @bascb, you sure have an interesting way of seeing things. Some people just can’t help but be adversarial.

          2. You think its ME being “adversarial” here when you accuse “the media” of having “ulterior motives [that] are plainly obvious@sudd

  12. i had no idea the drivers were boring? guess it’s news to me. Do they need to do somersaults after they win and get a bunch of smurfs or a Porto-john for a victory celebration? who cares …

    this just in F1 is boring, not the drivers who get paid to act like ambassadors for a whole bunch of corporations.

  13. I never understood all this “they have no personality” thing.
    Raikkonen became “a meme driver” for fans exactly because of his straight “robotic” answers (“lol, classic Kimi, lmao”). Does he have no personality now?
    Then we have (oversimplification, of course): [overly] confident and “explosive” Maldonado; nice and “gentlemanry” Button; always cheerful Ricciardo; “aristocratic poster boy” Rosberg; “overly sensitive” Massa; “wannabe rapper/pop-rock-star” Hamilton; playful “I’m still a teenage golden boy” Vettel; narcissist “I’m faster and I know it” Alonso etc.
    Only drivers “with no personality” to me are those I don’t watch closely. But that’s only because I know very little about them. Newcomers to F1, for example, in general didn’t have enough time yet to show their personalities. People who’ve been watching them since their time in lower formulas know them better than me.

    1. *”know them better than I do”, of course

      1. “than do I ” ?????

  14. Drivers are mediatrained slaves. Whos to blame, the media or the trainer?

    1. The egg or the hen?

  15. There are two motorcycle racers, Valentino Rossi and – for the most part – Guy Martin, who understand how to deal with the media. Both of them are successful enough, and smart enough, to stay above the fray by not allowing mere words spoken or written by others to carry too much importance. In short, they both seem to know what “consider the source” truly means.

    Many, if not most, F1 drivers simply don’t possess this social skill. If they say something that’s misinterpreted or misunderstood by the media, they allow themselves to be dragged into a battle of words, rather than just refusing to fight and simply saying “that’s not what I meant” with a smile and moving on and staying above it all. It can, and has been done.

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