Archive for the ‘ F1 Media ’ Category

The Daily Fail strikes again

Are we in the middle of a news vacuum, or something? I ask because that paragon of journalistic virtue, the Daily Mail, has taken a brief detour from its usual obsessions – you know, burning all immigrants, dole scroungers and single mums at the stake and whatnot – to commit to print what is possibly the stupidest story of the year.

Under the headline The Italian’s job: Abu Dhabi steward’s link to Ferrari… and Fernando Alonso it engages in a thoroughly muddleheaded attempt at a syllogism. I’ll save you reading the Daily Mail’s guff by summing up the proposition here:

- Emmanuele Pirro, the third steward at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, is Italian

- Italians all love Ferraris and are therefore, as well as being institutionally corrupt, all instinctively biased towards the cause of the Ferrari F1 team

- The FIA appointed Pirro even though they’re not supposed to have driver stewards who are linked by nationality to the cause of a championship contender

- Pirro is therefore biased in favour of Fernando Alonso and the FIA smell of elderberries

- Is he a dole scrounger and a single mum as well? Probably – pass the matches, Tristan…

You don’t even have to know much about F1, or motorsport in general, to see this for the codswallop it is. Emmanuele Pirro was a test driver for McLaren and a multiple Le Mans winner (and touring car winner) for Audi. I know him well from my days in sportscar racing and can testify that not only is he a true gent, he doesn’t take orders from anybody.

During his time at Benetton in Formula 1 he was royally shafted by Flavio Briatore. About nine years ago, when Benetton became Renault, I was helping to write an ensemble feature for a magazine in which we contacted all the team’s ex-drivers and invited them to sum up their memories of their time there. When I rang Emmanuele he simply wasn’t interested in doing an on-the-record denouncement of someone who had harmed his career. “It’s a long time ago now,” he said. “In many ways it was a good opportunity for me. I have only good memories.”

Unfortunately the next person I phoned was Roberto Moreno, who spent the next 75 minutes heating my ear up with a full and frank expression of his feelings on the subject. Shame I only had space for 50 words…

Anyway, needless to say, the Daily Mail’s story has been taken up and promulgated by another F1 ‘news’ source with little connection to the real world: GMM. What a surprise!

Jenson Button: Inspired or desperate?

M’learned colleague James Allen set off quite a kerfuffle yesterday on his blog with what I considered to be a nicely balanced and thought-provoking piece about McLaren’s fortunes at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix. Unfortunately the thoughts it provoked among James’s readers weren’t uniformly positive…

F1 fans are a passionate bunch, and as a journalist it’s very hard to write anything about anyone without being accused of bias; especially when we indulge our penchant for hyperbole, as we do. I found during my time on customer magazines that sometimes a client will focus on something that catches their attention – something they don’t like – and it plays merry hell with their ability to judge the rest of the product. In this case, it’s James’s second line that has caused many readers to chafe:

Jenson Button won the race with a performance of measured perfection and instinctive tactical brilliance, while Lewis Hamilton lit up Albert Park with his audacious passing, but ended up looking diminished in comparison with Button, less in control of his destiny, less mature.

It’s part of the folly of sportswriters that we occasionally overcook our opening paragraphs. While we’re in confessional mode, I’ll admit to describing Jenson’s early pit call as “inspired” in my post-race wrap on Formula Santander. But was it inspired or merely an act of desperation?

When analysing any tactical move, many people fall into the trap of judging it in the context of data that has subsequently come to light. But you have to come to it as if it’s a fresh page: on that particular lap Jenson didn’t have access to the split times of his car and those surrounding him, or to video images or still pictures showing how much he was losing or gaining. He was merely a man with a decade of Formula 1 experience, sitting in an F1 car – a harsh, stressful and vibratory environment – feeling a lack of balance in his tyres, seeing his team-mate pass him and pull away, and probably feeling rather than seeing the car behind him closing up. What, then, to do?

The choice was to KBO (“Keep Buggering On,” as Winston Churchill put it) in the hope that the tyres would improve, or roll the dice there and then by fitting a new set. It was a snap decision made in the heat of the moment, not a considered analysis based on all the facts. Don’t forget that when he announced over the radio that he was coming in, his pit crew were still sitting around picking their noses.

Had the decision not paid off we would now be describing it as foolish and inept. But Jenson’s call worked out, so in the flowery phraseology of sports writers it becomes “inspired” rather than “potty”. That’s how history is written. We remember Alexander Fleming, who lucked into the discovery of penicillin because he couldn’t be bothered to do the washing up, but we forget what’s-his-name* who spent years slaving over a means of mass-producing it.

What was the exact proportion of luck involved in Jenson’s win? Impossible to say. People on F1 forums like everything to be neat, clearly defined, black and white; sorry, ladies and gents, but sometimes inspiration and desperation run into one another down a dark alley and end up doing something their mothers wouldn’t want to see. Journalistic bias doesn’t come into it…

*Howard Florey

Where there’s a Will…

What with the increasingly hateful costs of intercontinental air travel, any journalist hoping to cover Formula 1 ‘from the ground’ has to wear many hats. So it’s very pleasing to learn that Will Buxton is fresh from the milliner, so to speak, and will be taking over from Peter Windsor as SPEED TV’s pitlane reporter.
Will is an entertaining broadcaster – check out his GP2 work on YouTube – as well as a tenacious reporter. He broke in to F1 the hard way, slumming it around Europe in a camper van before spending a couple of years as a press officer for GP2. He’s also no slouch at Karaoke. Viewers in the US are in for a treat.

Good lordy Lord…

It’s been confirmed today that my old colleague Bradley Lord is heading back to Renault to take up the cudgels as head of communications. I have fond memories of working with Bradley, and of (occasionally) beating him in the F1 Racing quiz.

 No doubt, though, there’ll be some forum noise to the tune of “another journo sells out…” Hardly!

 As well as being a positive move for him this is also good news for Renault. Bradley knows the value of reaching out to the fans and public, as evinced by his work on the team’s website during his previous sojourn at Renault. Now that the comms team is free from the need to carry Flavio Briatore’s luggage, things will only get better…