Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Quitting the boos

You don't need me to tell you about Nico, Lewis, Mercedes, Spa, collisions, punctures, fallout, yada yada.

The resultant wrangling, sometimes invective, has since been plentiful and shown little signs of abating. But within the shrieking prose there was something of a footnote, that on the podium after having later finished second in the Spa race Nico Rosberg was booed by many of the assembled fans. And in case you managed to miss somehow what the motivation was, a few chanted Lewis Hamilton's name as Nico spoke during his podium interview.

Nico Rosberg reception on the Spa podium wasn't all positive
Photo: Octane Photography
You'll also likely recall that booing of drivers on the podium (or rather, booing of a driver - one Sebastian Vettel) was a lingering presence for much of last season too, and led to a bit of agonising about it all. My own view on the matter hasn't altered with the change of target. Booing of F1 drivers is not something that I care to hear.

Of course, the stock defence of booing is that it is one's right, and I suppose to an extent it is, in that to my knowledge it doesn't break any laws nor any terms and conditions on the back of the ticket (not explicitly anyway). And due to this I wouldn't support any sort of coercive measures against those partaking in it. But all rights must be counterbalanced with responsibilities, and it is in this that in my view booing of F1 drivers falls down, and why I'd prefer that people didn't do it.

Mainly I think it is bad manners, belligerent; not what I like to be associated with F1. But more specifically, while I love F1 for many reasons a major one among these is my view all F1 drivers, indeed many of those in F1 teams, are much better than the rest of us, capable of things that I for one would never even consider let alone begin to have the capabilities of putting into practice. And for that reason they are deserving of a lot of respect, or at the very least a plentiful reservoir goodwill to draw on before we decide to turn on them.

And in this particular case with Rosberg, while it's easy to forget now, we should consider that at the time of the podium it was before Lewis Hamilton's allegation that Nico has crashed deliberately as well as Toto Wolff's confirmation that Nico made a conscious choice not to yield in order to 'prove a point' (and I like a lot of people thought Rosberg was also rather unfair in his comments on the fans booing him made later). The clash was certainly Nico's fault but was also in itself the sort of clash seen fairly regularly, and comes with the mitigation of each car having a vast front wing that cannot be seen from the driver's viewpoint in the cockpit. Indeed Alonso did something not dissimilar to Vettel on the last lap of the same race.

It developed a whole new dimension later as outlined, but at that point we had little reason to think it was anything beyond a clumsy - but ultimately honest - error from Nico. With that the booing of him taking place when it did can only be considered a gross overreaction.

With all of this I absolutely concurred with Eddie Jordan's implore to the assembled fans that were booing Rosberg under the Spa podium: 'Steady, Nico drove an unbelievably good race...that's not fair you know it's not fair, he's driven his heart out like every one of these three guys and every one on the grid to put on a spectacular race for you, I think that he needs and deserves a round of applause'.

Such behaviour is far from new of course. It's been a feature with reasonable consistency of the crowds at Monza for decades while I'm also old enough to remember how Silverstone's massed ranks in the age of 'Mansell mania' used to fire dripping bile at Ayrton Senna on an annual basis. Seb last year we've mentioned. And we can contend ourselves too that such acts and indeed more unpleasant tribalism among F1 fans are much less common than among fans of many other sports (thinking about football in particular).

Sebastian Vettel was booed at several
 podium ceremonies last year
Photo: Octane Photography
But still even with all of this I'd much rather that it didn't happen at all. And following on from Seb and all that it worries me ever so slightly that it appears to have the characteristics of a creeping habit. We can debate all day as to the reasons for this - that's assuming it is a trend at all of course - though perhaps a main contributor would be that we we live in an age wherein expressing one's views as part of an interactive process, rather than being a quiet recipient of information and entertainment, is more and more thought a positive expectation, even an entitlement.

Of course, this shift in itself is on balance a good thing - if it has resulted in booing then it's more an unfortunate and unintended consequence of it - and Edd Straw of Autosport is absolutely right to say that F1 interaction and openness to fan feedback are things that the sport has not so much room to improve in but vast plains in which to do so. Also none of us are obliged to like everything an F1 driver does, or indeed to like each and every one of them more generally. But booing an F1 driver strikes as far from the best means of resolving the interaction issue, as well as far from the best way of expressing displeasure more generally.

Then there's the place, the fact that the booing was done during the podium ceremony, that is supposed to be the scene of rewarding a job well done. Even in football - where crowd booing is commonplace as mentioned - booing during a trophy presentation would likely cause some introspection.

All in, I'd much rather that the booing stopped.


  1. "all F1 drivers, indeed many of those in F1 teams, are much better than the rest of us" - these people may be better at what they are trained & paid to do, but they are not better people than the rest of us (which is how your statement comes across) They, especially the hungry, competitive ones (ie; all of them) are flawed human beings, especially ones like A. Senna, M. Schmacher, S Vettel, and N Rosberg

    1. Hi. My point is that we shouldn't forget that F1 drivers are amazing people; even those at the back of the grid will have done amazing things to get there. In that sense they *are* better than the rest of us. And this should be taken into account when we react to them. Of course, they're not above criticism (no one is) but I suspect sometimes these days that we treat F1 drivers a bit too much like they're our property and forget a bit too readily what they have achieved to have got where they have. And Spa's podium struck me as the latest evidence on this.

    2. What a load of rubbish, they are big enough to handle being booed.
      You seem in thrall of the drivers.
      My opinion, Rosberg deserved the boos and should get used to more of the same. If we seen no more wheel to wheel racing between him and his Hamilton does that make for a better or worse 'show'

    3. Hi Greygamer. Needless to say I don't agree with your view. If F1 becomes a sport wherein all it takes for fans to boo drivers is being responsible for slightly clumsy contact (which lest we forget is all we had on Rosberg at the time of the podium) then booing will become commonplace and in my view the sport will be much diminished. And, forgive me, I'm not sure I understand your wheel to wheel racing point, but what I will say is that *if* drivers are going to be abused for making contact when wheel to wheel then I'd say it'll if anything make drivers *less* likely to go for it on track and entertain us watching on.

  2. You disagree with what exactly? They aren't big enough to handle being booed? Or that you seem in thrall of the drivers?

    As regards 'slightly clumsy', if there weren't already some question marks hanging over Rosberg we might agree. However as I said there seem to have been a lot of lucky accidents for NR. This was one too many for some people, even before other information came to light.

    NR approach has prompted LH to say I will have to avoid going wheel to wheel with him in future, this was for context to the fans frustration with what is happening on track. We want to see exciting racing not cynical tactics

    1. Well, for what it's worth Jenson Button said he would have been 'devastated' had he been booed, and I didn't get the impression Rosberg was enjoying being booed either. So you may be rather underestimating the impact it has on drivers. And yes I stand by my view that drivers are worthy of a lot of respect and goodwill to draw on before we turn on them.

      I think you're also overestimating the question marks over Rosberg in advance. OK we had Monaco quali and all that, but whatever happened there it was isolated and I struggle to name many times in recent years before the last race that he's made contact with another car. Indeed Rosberg had a reputation for being pretty safe in wheel to wheel battle.

      As for Lewis, yes he said that but I'd be astonished if he actually does in practice change his approach to battling with Rosberg from now on.