Interpol's song "" has become a new part of my Formula 1 experience. It boots up, without warning, once the stars of the sport begin to speak.
If a team principal isn't yelling at the FIA over its rules or financial inequities—or at another team principal for some underhanded act—drivers are complaining about teammates who refuse to pull over and give way, whimpering about being screwed by a slower car in qualifying, barking at the team for being pitted one lap to soon—or too late—or for choosing the wrong tire compound.
Pirelli's stuck in a perennial state of blame for tires that are too hard and soft, track surfaces are always too hot or cold, race engineers are forever guilty of setting their drivers on the wrong (1, 2, 3, or 4)-stop strategy when a (2/3/4)-stopper should have been selected. Drivers are blameless victims whenever they're been penalized…and tirades follow when their guiltier rivals aren't penalized.
"Everything is wrong, oh, everything is wrong…I guess we hope in time what is now is overcome…"
For those who are new to F1, I can only assume the wealthiest racing series in the universe—blessed with the kind of popularity that dwarfs every other form of motorsport combined—comes across as a collection of the world's most miserable people.
I'm not sure how we arrived at a place where Grand Prix racing has devolved into one unending social media rant after another, but I have my suspicions. And I'm not suggesting the pissing and moaning has been reserved for Twitter and Instagram; the actual manner drivers and teams have come to complain in print, TV, radio, the web…and to anyone who'll listen has managed to take on the tone of finely crafted 140-character bitch-fests.
This social media pantomime, practiced by some of the planet's richest athletes and sports franchise owners, is worryingly similar to the inane posts that litter our timelines. The constant need to preach dissatisfaction for so many within F1 has a tinge of compulsion.
Yes, you were robbed, wronged, and deserved better than a fifth-place finish at Monaco. Yes, the Starbucks barista should be shot for failing to produce an orgasmic macchiato. Yes, the free WiFi at the dentist's office is too slow. The saturation of complain-y entitlement flowing from many F1 stars is producing the same sound I try to drown out elsewhere in life.
I'm left with fond, archaic memories of when real anger and frustration was vented to the F1 media. Having followed closely in the 1980s and early 1990s when genuine loathing between Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, and Alain Prost meant the trio kept sharpened knives within reach, those pre-Internet champions were artful in the timing and volume chosen to cut their opponents in print or on air.
And to be fair, they also complained. And it grew tiresome at some points—hell, Nigel Mansell was the physical manifestation of a frown—but I don't recall the same degree of dead-eyed monotone that's sucked the life out of today's F1 exchanges. Thrown into an empty room with boxing gloves to settle their differences, F1's keyboard warriors would tap away at their phones until being rescued. We're left with feckless micro aggressions that explode and dissipate in hours—maybe days--if one F1 personality is really upset with another.
At the expense of sounding nostalgic, Grand Prix racing is at its best when it is enveloped by charm and allure. But it's only elite—unlike any other form of the sport—when its practitioners are easily discernable from apathetic teens.
I COULDN'T HELP BUT…
…laugh at the post-race freakout and subsequent inaction that stemmed from Ferrari man Sebastian Vettel's infantile yammering and cursing at F1 chief steward Charlie Whiting during the conclusion of the Mexican Grand Prix. Vettel, chasing Red Bull's Max Verstappen with the checkered flag approaching, watched the Dutch teenager drive off the road while under pressure, charge across the grass, and maintain his position ahead of Vettel instead of following the accepted practice of forfeiting the position. Whiting, who did not correct the problem as quickly as Vettel expected, soon received a charming outburst from the four-time world champion.
F1's equivalent of a "made man," Whiting was given two consecutive invitations by Vettel to "f*ck off" over the radio and, subsequently, on the international broadcast which was aired and re-aired for millions of viewers across the globe. It was the kind of sporting transgression that seemed worthy of a fine or penalty to send a message to the rest of the field.
Taken outside the confines of F1, star NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown was fined $9115 for twerking after scoring a touchdown in September. Another $6076 fine was added to his punishable offenses for wearing custom blue shoes during the game (such alterations are illegal in the NFL). In that one game, Brown surrendered $15,191 to the NFL for dancing with himself and using colorful footwear in competition.
Vettel, who was heard worldwide telling F1's top cop to f*ck off not once, but twice, escaped a fine and any form of sanctions because, according to the series' official site, he "spontaneously sought out Charlie Whiting to express his regrets for his behavior in person."
Seb also wrote a letter to the FIA's boss of bosses and Whiting, which safeguarded his wallet.
"He then, again on his own initiative, sent letters to each of the FIA President Jean Todt and Charlie Whiting, in which he apologized profusely for his actions," the statement read. "In the light of this sincere apology and strong commitment, the FIA President has decided, on an exceptional basis, not to take disciplinary action against Mr. Vettel by bringing this matter before the FIA International Tribunal."
And there you go. F1 can be such a weird sport to reconcile. Need to perform an unscheduled gearbox change on Vettel's Ferrari? That will cost five grid positions. Curse out the person tasked with keeping order during the race? That costs two pieces of paper, two envelopes, and a pair of first-class stamps.
Maybe Antonio Brown should have written a letter to the NFL.