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The F1 Drivers’ Press Conference

I was thinking today about the bland press releases and statements made by F1 teams and their drivers prior to a GP, when it occurred to me that there might be a principle at work here. Is it possible that teams perform in direct inverse proportion to the excitement value of their public pronouncements?

Looking at the press releases, this theory falls down immediately – they are all uniformly berefit of entertainment value and shattering surprises – but there is reason to believe it might hold good for the drivers. Think of all those post-race press conferences (what my young son used to call “the glasses of water”) and the delivery style of the successful three. By my theory, Kimi Raikkonen would be the clear winner, both for flatness of speech and for driving speed (admittedly, he has a huge advantage in being Finnish). Fernando Alonso would be next up and then we could let Michael Schumacher have a look in. It sounds strangely similar to how we rate their driving ability.

Press Conference

Raikkonen and Fisichella in conference

Ralf is considerably more animated and probably more truthful than his brother, yet is rated below him on the track. Jacques Villeneuve is outspoken and good for a scandal or two but seems past his best when it comes to driving. And good old David Coulthard can provide us with the control part of our experiment – he is mid-range in everything, solid and dependable in both press conference and race.

Looking back, probably the most entertaining driver in recent years was Johnny Herbert. He was always ready to crack a joke and make light of disasters. Perhaps this happened to him after he mangled his ankles in a pre-F1 accident, thereby forever preventing him from joining the top rank of boring interviewees and fast drivers.

Of course, we must make allowance for the fact that most drivers are not answering in their native tongues; it must be quite difficult to relax and joke when speaking a foreign language. Yet Michael Schumacher manages to be smooth enough in English to convince us that he has a complete grasp of it. And most of the others are fluent enough to have a style.

The native English speakers seem to give the lie to my theory at first glance. Jenson Button can be quite amusing and has even been known to smile for the cameras. But are we seeing a secret unveiled here? Is Jenson really as good a driver as we wish he was? Perhaps Barrichello could give us some answers on that one.

So the theory looks as if it holds true in general. I propose it in jest only but don’t be surprised if you see Frank Williams and Ron Dennis taking more than the usual interest in their drivers’ press conferences in future…

2 Responses to “The F1 Drivers’ Press Conference”

  1. I am so underqualified to offer you a proper comment here. But then, when has that ever stopped me before? (I have a committee who works overtime to answer that, so don’t bother waiting up)

    Look. Cassius Clay was the consummate front man for any sporting event ever to be held on the face of this entire planet, as far as I know. I never paid any attention to any other heros in any other sport, so call me silly. But I tell you what. I hated Clay right off for his arrogance, until I noticed that the man did exactly what he claimed he would do, and when. People back during those days went nuts. It put me over the edge, too, and I remain happy to be here.

  2. I was on Clay’s side from the beginning – I read an article about him before he fought Liston and became world heavyweight champion – it convinced me that he was something special. Then I saw him fight and realized he did not exaggerate in his press conferences. He really was the greatest and still is.

    In F1 the intention is slightly different from Clay’s assertion of his superiority. The drivers are instructed never to give anything away that might be of assistance to the competition, rather than make wild claims and rubbish the other drivers. So they end up saying nothing at all and are probably just as bored by the whole thing as we are. ;)

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