Syntagma Digital
21st-Century Phi
Stage Latest
  • Auto Insurance
  • Nascar Tickets

Formula 1 Bad Boys

Kimi Raikkonen is rumored to have been in trouble with police in Hungary over a matter of alcohol and sitting behind the wheel of a car. This follows other stories of the flying Finn’s night club and partying exploits.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen and friend

It has echoes of an F1 tradition that we all thought had died out with the advent of the super-professional driver epitomized by Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher: the “bad boy” syndrome. In the 1950s, many drivers were renowned for their wild behavior at parties, Mike Hawthorn especially gaining a reputation for being heavily into wine, women and song. It was as though the working class lads, who suddenly found the heights of motor sport available to them, intended to make the most of their brief moments of fame. They worked hard and they played hard.

This continued into the sixties, although there were already signs of a growing professionalism that had no time for drunken high jinks. Drivers like Jim Clark and John Surtees were serious about racing and saw it as a profession rather than a bit of fun. Some, such as Graham Hill, still knew how to relax and party between races, however.

By the 1970s, advertising had upped the stakes so high that it was clear that F1 was now more of a business than a sport; the sober attitude of most drivers reflected this too. So James Hunt stands out as the last of the playboy drivers, an isolated throwback to F1′s wilder days. With his retirement, we all thought that era was gone forever.

Through the eighties and nineties we became used to the dour professionals, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, pursuing their career objectives with unwavering intensity. Flashes of humor from such as Johnny Herbert gave relief but the overall atmosphere was that this was far too serious a business to have fun in (hmmm, I think I just identified the reason for Minardi’s huge popularity).

And now Kimi Raikkonen arrives to upset all our preconceived notions. It would have to be someone like him, of course – a driver so talented that all his off track adventures can be ignored by the team manager. Oh, there might be the occasional “talking-to” in the motorhome but, when you’re paying the guy millions to drive for you, it’s not easy to lay down the law about his private life.

What Kimi does for us all is demonstrate that it’s possible to be damn good at your job and still have a good time on your days off. For too long we have believed that only the dedicated monomaniac can get to the very top of any profession. Kimi shows that, with youth, talent and energy, that doesn’t have to be true. After all, what is the point in being paid so much if you can’t live a little as a result?

Do you have a view? 7 Comments

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…

Do you have a view? 2 Comments