The Rights of the Crowd

I don’t understand Formula One – at least according to Niki Lauda.  Maybe TPL readers will agree with him.  In this case, though, I have to politely disagree with the three-times World Champion and everyone else who says it is inappropriate to boo at an F1 race (I’m looking at you, Martin Brundle).

For some reason, it has become seemingly unacceptable for paying fans to express their views on what is taking place on the track.  As someone who follows, at least casually, most sports, it seems to me that F1 is the only sport where fans should not boo when they see something they don’t like (at least according to the sport’s insiders).

However, if I don’t want to interact with the drivers, teams, and fans at the track, I will stay home and watch the race on my high-definition TV, where I get close-ups of the cars and it is much easier to follow the race.  Part of the reason I am willing to pay $300-400 to sit for three days on an uncomfortable bench, exposed to the elements, is for the opportunity to cheer on my favourite teams and drivers and (how should I put this so as not to offend Mr. Brundle’s delicate sensibilities?) . . . express my displeasure with those I don’t like.

vettel and webberSomething I don’t like (and the primary reason Vettel is now getting booed): The Sepang Screwjob
Photo credit: Morio via Wikimedia Commons

I did not boo Michael Schumacher because he won a lot of races (which some people seem to think is the reason Vettel is getting booed – he is too dominant).  I booed Schumacher because his ruthless, reckless behaviour on the track made him someone I could not like.  With Sebastian Vettel’s performance in Malaysia earlier this season, he provided us with another, less savoury, point of comparison between him and Schumacher, other than the obvious driving talent and multiple world championships.

It is not like the fans booing Vettel are being obnoxious.  They are not throwing things at him on the circuit, nor rioting in the grandstands.  To the best of my knowledge, they have not even come up with any rude chants for him, like some other sports are dealing with.  They are merely expressing their feelings about him as a racer and, maybe, as a person.

singaporeThe Singapore Grand Prix
Photo credit: Zervas via Flickr

To all the journalists who travel with the F1 circus, Malaysia may be ancient history.  For fans who only have the opportunity to attend one race each season, Singapore or Italy may have been the first chance they had to let Vettel know what they think about him screwing over one of the most popular drivers in the sport.

Sorry, but if you are a professional athlete, especially one earning $10 million or $20 million per year, you have to be able to handle the jeers along with the cheers.  And to his credit, Vettel has done just that so far, laughing off the boos on the podium.  He even suggested to Mr. Brundle that the booing fans must have buses to follow him around.  It is everyone else, many of whom have no stake in Vettel or his success, who are getting upset.


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