From its very conception motor racing was designed for the participation of those who display a certain gentlemanly behaviour; from the pre-war charming personality of Tazio Nuvolari and his peers, through the post-war wealthy enthusiasts battling against such professionals as Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio to today’s media aware racers, there has always been an air of gentlemanly conduct among the rapidly advancing paddocks of the motor racing world. The noble sentiment that all those who participate should be expected to behave in a manner befitting a racing driver should without doubt extend to those who choose to follow the sport also.
It’s been noted that unlike the very public fallouts between football fans with opposing beliefs that often find their way on to news channels, motor racing fans tend to demonstrate their passion in a more respectful and positive way. But recently a new noise has emerged from the Grand Prix scene; away from the screaming engines and tortured tyres is the pantomime booing of one German.
It stems, of course, from Sebastian Vettel’s decision to ignore team-orders and attack team-mate Mark Webber for the lead of the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this year. It could also be partly due to Vettel’s frequent domination of Grand Prix racing, something that fans who remember the Schumacher-era find disturbing.
The boos and jeers are increasing as Vettel nears a potential and now likely fourth consecutive title, and at the Italian Grand Prix the only noise louder than the jeers aimed at Vettel, was the rapture received by Fernando Alonso from the ever passionate, Ferrari loving tifosi.
Vettel made it clear that he was not phased, putting it down to the extremes of the Italian fans’ passion for Ferrari; “It’s extreme here,” he said. “When you just walk around outside the track you see all the shops and all the Ferrari stuff for little boys and little girls, so straight after labour they get theirFerrari dress – it’s in their genes.”
“Obviously Fernando was up there and it’s clear most of the Tifosi support Ferrari. I said to the guys on the in-lap the more booing we get the better we have done today, so it’s obviously proof we have been very strong today.”
Vettel is no fool however, quite the contrary in fact, the triple-champion is highly intelligent and will be aware that much of the fans’ distaste stems from that Malaysian Grand Prix, and while it’s my belief that Vettel’s actions in Malaysia did not fit with the gentlemanly conduct mentioned before, neither does the fans’ reaction to his success.
Vettel may brush aside the jeering in public and while it doesn’t seem to affect his dominance behind the wheel it must make for uncomfortable celebrations. His team-mate Webber, who shared the podium with Vettel in Italy, said “The atmosphere I was not completely a fan of, to be honest, Sebastian won the race and the atmosphere is not completely correct but anyway… that’s their choice.”
Their choice it may be, but it makes for uncomfortable viewing; our passion for the sport should be voiced whenever possible, as should be the case for our passion for anything, as long as it’s voiced respectfully, and in the arena of motor racing, done so with the gentlemanly conduct displayed since the sport’s infancy.