The FIA has given the entire F1 grid a collective bollocking in the wake of Abu Dhabi podium finishers Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel both swearing during the live podium interviews following the Finn’s win at Yas Marina last weekend.
In conjunction with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the FIA made the decision to introduce live podium interviews after the race, in which a former driver – or, in the case of the Hungarian Grand Prix, opera singer Placido Domingo – will host the ceremony, and usually get ‘shampooed’ with champagne in the process.
The popularity of this initiative is rather mixed, but it does give racegoing fans the opportunity to hear the thoughts of the top-three drivers in a live world feed that Formula One Management provides to all F1 broadcasters.
However, last weekend’s podium interviews – conducted by Räikkönen and Vettel’s former team-mate David Coulthard, who today serves as a commentator with the BBC – took a turn for the worse, with both Räikkönen and Vettel dropping F- and S-bombs during the telecast.
Such antics won’t be tolerated in future, the FIA has since warned in a release issued to all teams.
“It is very much our collective responsibility to make sure drivers are aware such language has no place during media events,” wrote the FIA’s Director of Communications, Norman Howell.
“It shines an unwelcome beam of adverse publicity on their teams and sponsors, the sport and the FIA.
“I understand that in the ‘heat of battle’ that adrenaline, elation and disappointment make for a dangerous and heady mix, but F1 drivers are not the only ones being interviewed in such conditions: I think of boxers, rugby and football players who are routinely interviewed live on television after a gruelling sporting effort. They manage to avoid inappropriate language.
“Since it happened twice on the same weekend, I thought I’d send a friendly note,” Howell added. “We need to remind the drivers they are professionals. If you’re a racing driver at that level, you have to realise that part of your job description is to talk to the media, and to do so in a way that is acceptable.”
The FIA has the right to call such antics into a charge of bringing the sport into disrepute, which can carry substantial fines – or even race bans – with a guilty verdict.
Coulthard, who was conducting the podium interviews for the first time, was also shocked by their antics, and offered an apology during the telecast.
“I felt it was appropriate to apologise on [their] behalf because, of course, there were many people around the world listening to that and the use of profanity is not acceptable in the public podium interviews,” he said afterwards.
Coulthard himself isn’t averse to the use of colourful language, and was once criticised for threatening to kick “seven shades of shit” out of Felipe Massa during an on-air broadcast at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, in which the pair had collided.
Interestingly, the BBC received just 22 telephone complaints from viewers about the broadcasting of the language. However, the broadcaster received more complaints about the networks delays in uploading their race telecast on their online iPlayer application – the delay was due to the broadcaster editing out the expletives!
It would seem that swearing has also become a mainstay in the driver-to-pit radio broadcasts, according to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, which claims that teams are resorting to foul-mouthed transmissions to hide crucial race tactics from rival teams, who listen in on the world feed broadcasts.
Doing so will ensure that the radio transmission doesn’t get broadcast on-air, according to the report’s author, acclaimed motorsport journalist Richard Williams.
“Although the teams have no control over the selection of these snippets, they do have one weapon at their disposal: when passing information they are keen to conceal from others, they ensure that an obscenity forms a prominent part of the conversation,” he wrote.
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