Brought to you by Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
Now four races on from the eruption of boos that resonated from fans at Spa-Francorchamps on 24th August. The first lap collision was a shift in the tectonic plates between the pair, with the resulting tsunami drenching the media around Europe and further afield. The subsequent waves that followed, as with a seismic wave, were smaller and less potent but still posed a threat to harmony.
Nico Rosberg, a racing driver programmed as all others are – to race without sentiment to others – firmly believed he had done nothing wrong. As Lewis had clearly forced him to brake to avoid collision earlier in the season in Bahrain and had pushed him wide in Hungary, he believed enough was enough. Rightly or wrongly by Nico, the onlooking spectators, who had shelled out their hard earned cash to watch the Grand Prix, vented their displeasure by booing the German.
They had been denied what could have been an epic battle between the title contenders, at a circuit where the Mercedes car was in a class of its own. Furthermore, the higher proportion of British fans there naturally aligned their support towards British driver meaning Nico was made out to be the bad guy in the very British film that Formula One is.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no problem with people showing their unhappiness at a scenario like this, providing it is not pre-meditated. Be it a rugby, football or cricket match, the fans have a right to voice their opinion in just the same way as the accredited media do – although, one group does not have a publication behind them, as they are limited to that moment in time or on social media later.
Personally, I would not have booed as the Rosberg-Hamilton collision was a racing incident and nothing more. Of course, I was disappointed that the show was cut-short, but that is just the luck of the draw.
The part that I could not excuse was that of Rosberg as he felt the need to group those deep tones ringing from below that podium. Defining those who made noise as “British fans” frustrated and disappointed me.
I came, I booed, I conquered
Two weeks later it was the turn of Monza to host the next scene of the ‘film’. I was fortunate to experience this first hand, watching from a grandstand on the pit straight for the race day. As is customary with many races, Monza not excepted, fans flood down onto the tarmac when the race has finished to view what is a very unique podium.
I watched as the drivers emerged onto the post above. Of course, Massa was greeted by a chorus of cheers at what was in effect his former home, however, the same cannot be said for Rosberg. It’s important at this point to mention that what you saw on TV was not representative of what those present witnessed. The boos echoed much louder live than the FOM sound mix fed to the world.
When Nico emerged above I booed.
To group all fans together in such way was ridiculous and most importantly, unjust. With one utterance of “They are British fans, so I do understand”, I was thrown in with those who showed their dismay in Spa. For this reason, and this reason alone, I booed him.
Jean Alesi, as others have in the past, tried to silence the crowd, but to little avail – and to what good reason did he have for doing so? I wanted to show my frustration at those comments and did so at the only opportunity I had.
It was only at the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix that Rosberg talked publicly about how it had affected him. If there was any vindication needed for fans booing this was it. It was a sign that the fans did make a difference to the drivers who circulate the various tracks around the world.
Had I been in Singapore as well and had Rosberg been on the podium I would not have booed, as ‘boo punishment’ had been served as far as I saw it. Not for a moment am I condoning those who accused Rosberg of cheating or brought up some outdated nationalistic stereotype to support this argument, but when Rosberg grouped those booing with others who were not, I was too included.
It is a great shame that we did not get to see the reception for Rosberg on the podium in Singapore. A nation with a stronghold of expat support, Vettel had heard the boos to receive him just 12 months previously. He famously made the joke saying “They’re on a tour, they go around on a bus”, mocking them to the point of ridicule.
He said away from the heat of the moment that he was “hurt” by the reaction of the crowd, as one would expect. However, he held his tongue from retaliating at the time.
“The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein
As a fan of the sport, I hold no grudge towards Rosberg as everyone says and does things they regret after. He is only human. It’s important to remember that this is the first time in his career that he has been presented with the opportunity to win a World Championship – something that Hamilton did not take at the first time of asking, even though he had been both literally and metaphorically in the driving seat. It was Lewis who beached that car in China and nobody else.
I’m pleased that Nico has not been booed since. He has been a protagonist in an incredible year of racing that has provided me with hour upon hour of excitement. Formula One crowds have shown themselves to be forgiving as is the case for Vettel, who has recovered his reputation somewhat, ironically by not winning.
Should Rosberg ever find himself in this situation again he will hopefully have learned that it does you no favours to tongue lash those beneath you. Take the boo punishment with humility and give the fans something to cheer about next time instead.
In the same vein of making ridiculous statements, Hamilton’s “I’m the hungriest” punchline from prior to the Monaco weekend brought a wry smile to many in the F1 world. Rosberg scoffed at the claims that Hamilton could break him down mentally, although it appears from Rosberg’s recent demeanour that the fans have – at least to some extent.
So while the claim of being hungriest due to their respective upbringings carries little weight, I would go as far to say that in the heat of the moment transmitting on the world feed it prepares Hamilton better for not saying something that may alienate himself to a large cohort of F1 fans.
Rosberg will be richer for these experiences next season, so providing the two are still teammates, I am relishing the battle between the two in what will most likely still be the strongest car and powertrain package. There may still be three races to go this year, but those aside, roll on 2015!