All teams should follow Merc’s lead

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

the pro­moter and the other stake­hold­ers to push this agenda for­wards – the com­peti­tors can, too. If the driv­ers were able to ex­press their per­sonal feel­ings more of­ten, it would help cre­ate emo­tional con­nec­tions with the au­di­ence – and all sports are about emo­tion. It’s pas­sion that con­nects us with a sport. Right now, the rules and rac­ing are great but the pub­lic is too far away.

Ob­vi­ously there are chal­lenges here. I won­der if the PR peo­ple are too con­trol­ling, be­cause they’re afraid that their driv­ers may say the wrong thing in the heat of the mo­ment. That’s true to an ex­tent, be­cause the news agenda tends to be so quote-driven, but I say bring it on – let the driv­ers say what they think! It beats those press re­leases you see pre-race where ev­ery driver on the grid is quoted as say­ing almost ex­actly the same thing. Some­times in life you do say the wrong thing – and you soon learn not to. It’s part of grow­ing up. And the pub­lic en­joys a bit of con­tro­versy.

Like ev­ery­one else, I’ve been very in­ter­ested in the mount­ing ten­sion be­tween Lewis Hamil­ton and Nico Ros­berg this sea­son. Some­times the soap opera off-track has been almost as good as the ac­tion dur­ing the races – those preg­nant si­lences in the green room be­fore the podium say more than words. Mercedes have been very in­tel­li­gent in the way they’ve dealt with the sit­u­a­tion. They’ve ac­cepted that they can’t si­lence or mi­cro­man­age their driv­ers, so they’ve been much more open. After that con­tro­ver­sial col­li­sion at Spa they put out two Tweets invit­ing the fans to have their say – do they want to see team or­ders im­posed, or should Lewis and Nico be free to race?

There were some abu­sive re­sponses, be­cause this was such a charged sub­ject, but Mercedes – and Lewis and Nico – came out of it bet­ter than if they had just pre­tended noth­ing had hap­pened. The im­pres­sion was not of a big cor­po­rate en­tity shut­ting its doors, but of a condent brand happy to en­gage with the fans.

Other teams are en­gag­ing more, too. There are a lot of funny, friendly ex­changes on Twit­ter be­tween Mercedes and Lo­tus, as well as with their fans, and Lo­tus are known in the pad­dock as a team whose PR peo­ple let their driv­ers speak with­out in­ter­fer­ence. For sure, driv­ers scream at one another just as much as peo­ple in other sports do – and I think in a lot of cases we’re miss­ing that raw emo­tion.

Not all driv­ers want to ex­press them­selves to that ex­tent, of course. Some are quite shy. You see driv­ers like Fer­nando and Lewis ar­riv­ing at the cir­cuit, be­ing mobbed by fans, and they stop to sign au­to­graphs and say friendly words. Oth­ers – mostly younger ones – hurry on by with their heads down. That’s a shame. Then again, some­times the best way to ex­press your­self isn’t ver­bal. As I wrote in my book about that cham­pi­onship show­down at Watkins Glen in 1974, when Clay Regaz­zoni had nearly forced me off the cir­cuit as I passed him, I’d wanted to say some­thing in the in­ter­views after the race about how dan­ger­ous his tac­tics had been. But I de­cided not to – be­cause I’d done my talk­ing on the track, and there was noth­ing more to say.

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