Sitting watching qualifying for the Valencia Grand Prix, from sunny Trapani, Sicily, I was struck by two things. The first being that my ability to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in the crudest of Italian accents left me ill equipped to deal with the rigours of Italian F1 commentary. The second being that even without the benefit of any bilingual tendencies, it was impossible not to recognise the support for Ferrari’s driver pairing of Fernando Alonso and Filipe Massa.
The support was clear yet strangely unfamiliar after having become more than accustomed to commentary from a British Broadcasting Corporation, whose ode to impartiality seems to go amiss when the Formula One circus roles into town. While the Berlusconi brigade lend support to their chosen warriors, under the murky skies of White City, the walls are closing in fast. With the closing of BBC 606, the priority remains to get people to the website and to get them there often.
You may in fact be wandering how on earth you ended up here, but bar this little haven of webdom, the point remains that web traffic is king. To maintain that steady stream of hits on the beeb, it would appear that a pantomime villain is needed – enter Messer Hamilton. His name alone accounts for approximately 40-50 percent of the content and 100 percent of the criticisms.
Word count is king in this land, no-matter the level of repetitiveness. And just as how the 606 boards were dominated by Hamilton ‘discussion points’, so the main website is itself under pressure to retain the loyalty of those free spirited ranters: hence a leaning towards content of a similar vein. Similar in that beyond the headlines and repetitive articles lies a bitter loathing at the idea of inevitability; for it is indeed inevitable that even with set backs of late, Lewis Hamilton throughout his career will leave both opponents and doubters in his wake.
In this most modern of coliseums, Lewis Hamilton is the spectacle that puts food on an F1 journalists’ table, yet most would be loathe to invite him round for dinner. Indeed, Paul Weaver of the Observer points out that Lewis Hamilton remains the sports biggest draw whose actions have the greatest cause and effect.
Sebastian Vettel is by no means a bit part player mind. There was a sense of inevitability too about his seventh pole in eight races, as that finger keeps on waving. Vettel though is not short of plaudits, both in his homeland and in the UK. In fact his mistakes have been presented as mere signs of him being human rather than human error. While such assertions are perfectly reasonable they only highlight the spotlight can fall more harshly on some than it does others.
As the driver Gladiators go to war today in the Valencia Grand Prix, those baying for blood with only tiny Blackberry’s and even narrower outlooks at their disposal would do well to remember that for all the accusation, all the hyperbole and the barrage of criticism, they will never be ‘the show’. Such is the inability to effect the mind of an individual trained to win – born to win in fact – that the question of false grandeur must arise.
In a time where the threat of cuts to the BBC roster remain very real one, the current ‘cut and paste’ generation of journalist, it will only ever be their job to write about it all with ever diminishing degrees of talent and a misguided love of The Corporation.