Honesty to make us honestly unhappy?

By Adam Macdonald

It all started with a broken nose

There will be few who follow Formula One who don’t remember the famous words uttered by a chiselled Aussie after winning at Silverstone in 2010, “Not bad for a number 2 driver, yeah?” However, many won’t remember the line that followed from Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, “Think you can manage a smile now?”

This, of course, all followed the breaking of the front wing on Vettel’s car, to which they subsequently put the front wing on, from Webber’s car. There was no clearly defined hierarchy between the two drivers at the time, which made Webber feel like he had been victimised.

Mark Webber says he and Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel are united.

Will we ever be equals?

So is being totally honest such a good thing for firstly, a driver, and secondly, a team? Webber acted like a kid who had been told he wasn’t allowed his favourite toy to play with, at the time. It just so happened that that toy was a very expensive upgraded wing to his ride.

The Fallout

This led to all parties concerned with the incident unhappy. Mark Webber reasons stated, Sebastian Vettel for the controversy that now surrounded him, and Red Bull as a team, as they were effectively in a state of civil war. Acting in this manner, Webber didn’t help anyone concerned and certainly hasn’t helped his cause for being the number one driver.

Apparently they don’t give you wings

Perhaps a better thing for the disgruntled Aussie to have remarked upon would have been a pun about Red Bull not actually giving you wings, as their slogan claims to do. Laughing the situation off, and therefore diffusing it, would have helped a lot more than to have kept on stirring.

Keeping it all behind closed doors is also what the sponsors would have wanted. They are the ones that fund the sport after all, so it’s essential to keep them happy. Although, where would this leave the fans? They are the ones who the sponsors are trying to reach, and without them there would be no sport at all. So logically this makes them the most important of concerned. Thus, the way to engage them would be to show this raw and unadulterated emotion. Maybe instead Mark should have been congratulated for the way he acted, as he was the most honest of all in the situation.

He said he “never would have signed” if he’d known he would be the number 2 driver, whilst Christian Horner denied there was any favouritism in the situation. If we as fans are being told mistruths, we will turn away. So maybe a happy medium is needed to make sure there is the correct balance for all concerned.

Podium interviews

A controversial one, as they split opinion. For me, they are great as they really grab the emotion before the drivers can be given the lines and information to regurgitate to the worlds’ media. Such access is granted in football, rugby, and many other sports so why not F1. Malaysia this year was a great example of this, as the interviews later were far tamer. However, Abu Dhabi 2012 was a slightly unsavoury ceremony, with two drivers using expletives that were broadcast on the live world feed. For the moment at least, it seems as though they are here to stay.

Ferrari meddling with Massa

Two incidents in the 2010 and 2012 season stand out, and regard a favourite subject of mine, team orders. The Hockenheim 2010 incident of letting Fernando Alonso through to win the race was clear for all to see, so why were we fed the clear lie from Rob Smedley, Felipe’s engineer, about the incident?

Is this preferable to gloss over the situation, rather than be totally honest about what they were doing, like in Austin 2012? Deliberately breaking the seal on Massa’s gearbox was unethical, but if Fernando had gone on to win the WDC, worth it. In both cases, Fernando narrowly missed out on the prize, but those gained places and points could have made all the difference!

Meanwhile at McLaren

As was seen in 2011 in Canada, much of the communication is non-verbal. Seeing Lewis Hamilton saunter over to the Red Bull garage after colliding with Jenson Button made the situation within the team obvious for all to see. No comments were needed to see who they felt was in the wrong. This was another interesting image to display to the fans, but a poor one to demonstrate to the sponsors of why you should invest in Formula One. Perhaps this is slightly unfair on the team or on Hamilton, but following the news he was pushed and did not walk, it begs the question of how far back the rustlings of unhappiness can be traced.

If there were disagreements within the team dating even further back than this, then wouldn’t you as a F1 fan want to know about this? If so, then honesty would seem to be the best policy.

In Truth…

There is no correct answer to this polemic subject. Every team handles situations differently, with there not being a blanket answer on how to handle the media.

The complete U-turn by the Red Bull team following Malaysia was plain for all to see. Who did they really think they were fooling in the first place?

Where do you stand on this matter? Would you prefer to be kept guessing, with the mystery intact, or have all information out in the open for all to see Formula One’s dirty washing? Whatever your stance, it seems that with Mark Webber still at the wheel, Red Bull need to come up with a new slogan.

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10 responses to “Honesty to make us honestly unhappy?

  1. Thank you very much for a great article, it indeed raises an interesting question. I believe that ultimately it’s a matter of taste and the kind of entertainment that we as fans want. And let’s be honest politics in F1 might be as exiting as what happens between start and finish.

    I am a McLaren fan, and their approach to media and to the subject of team orders is what I fell for. It if my opinion, but I think that they generally put the team above a single driver gives the whole thing a nice touch. And it actually works both ways. I love how McLaren’s management, mr Whitmarsh in particular, defends his people no matter what. It was the case in 2009, when they mislead the stewards, it was the case with all the criticism Lewis faced in 2011 and in the most resent race he stood up in front of the cameras and defended his drivers’ behaviour. McLaren appear as a team in public. It costs them dearly most of the time, but they have unity in the face of controversy. They have probably learned in since 2007.

    On the other hand, Red Bull with their ongoing civil war, with everyone blaming everyone, with no consistency in their PR strategy.

    Important thing is though that sponsors attempt to choose a team which sells the same values. RedBull sells fun, McLaren attempts to sell perfection. The teams have different target groups in terms of sponsorships, too. So there is nothing surprising about the fact that they adopt different media strategies.

    Once again, thanks for a great article.

    • the problem with having a right hand mand (Helmut Marko) and team principal with differing interests. People forget Webber and Horner work together with Arden International.

      • The thing is, that we can discuss inconsistencies in RB’s management, but somehow it works. 3 WCCs and WDCs… and 4th WCC is on the way.

        • Mmm. Such management models have been theorised upon much. The illusion of we’re all in it together – it’s our teamwork that makes us great – we the bosses earning millions are nothing without you etc etc – usually break down unless there is a constant turnover of employees.

          When a core of the workers realise its all management spin, cynicism sets in.

          I can tell you for a fact, canteen jokes in MK about Horner have been rife since Sepang. Last week even the TJ13 pics from day 1 of Christian Aid week have been circulating covertly.

          Anyway, our fantastic PM is currently applying for FIA media accreditation so that we can get inside and ask the questions you want answered – so we may have to be a little more conservative for a week or so to prove we are ‘worthy’.

          This comment may self destruct in 10 seconds… Or next week 🙂

        • The saying if it’s not broken, don’t fix it comes to mind!
          ….or even if it is, ignore it until it becomes a huge problem.

  2. Interesting proposition to consider for the ‘tea leaf’ reader.

    The trade off between having to get exposure for the sponsors and wishing to keep certain matters behind closed doors is fantastic for the F1 viewing public and the media.

    English Premier League football – probably the most monetarised league in the world – doesn’t face anywhere near the same dilemma.

    It just goes to show how hard F1 is working to raise cash to fund it’s survival/development.

    The answer may be that people are people – and they will be what they are no matter how hard they are pushed into a corporate modus operandi.

    Great article Adam.

  3. Trying for PR that does not insult our intelligence might be a principal to start with.
    Asking for honesty in a sport run by Bernie Ecclestone is an amusing idea, though.

    • Indeed. Culture of an organisation is set at the top. People become indoctrinated by the culture which defines their boundaries and then act accordingly.

      Candidate for COTD? 😉

  4. Pingback: Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 19th September 2013 | thejudge13·

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