Sunday, January 04, 2009

I confess to having been exceptionally quiet. Most of my posts related to my former employment and have been kept private.

Regular readers (that is if there still are any after this long hiatus) will be aware that I am a motor-racing fan of long standing. I love my motor sport. I am the nut who sits in front of the TV but spends most of the time looking at the live timing on the laptop and believe me I can follow the race better with the laptop than I can with the commentary. This wasn't always the case. There was a time when the TV coverage gave a good overview of the of the changing pattern of the race. Sadly those days have gone. Firstly, through the retirement of Murray Walker compounded by the inane wittering of his replacement, James Allan, and secondly through the arrival of Lewis Hamilton. Sadly, the TV coverage in the provided by ITV seemed to fall into the sort of nationalistic fervor that is normally only seen with the most unsavory of football supporters. But it's worse than that! Nationalism would imply that all the British drivers are included. Not so. There is only one person who is on the receiving end of the ITV idolatry – Lewis Hamilton. Typically, the programme would start with a welcome to [circuit] in [area of country] for the [country] GP. Then there would be a description of the circuit's attributes usually followed by some comment that this would be perfect for Lewis Hamilton. We would then have a quick review of LH's thoughts for the upcoming race. There might be a 5 minute section on some general issue where we might, if we get lucky, see other drivers being interviewed for quick soundbites. Then its back to LH, a quick review of qualifying perhaps an interview with Antony Hamilton, Lewis's father. All of this is interspersed with Steve Rider and Mark Blundell waxing lyrical about LH to the point that you half expect them to genuflect at every mention of the sainted Lewis. Then they get to the race at which point the insufferable, half witted egomaniac, James Allen, would take over. From here on the Hamilton lovefest was always excruciating – if Hamilton is quicker by a tenth of a second in a sector Allen has him as the fastest man on the track, it doesn't matter that someone else is quicker in the other sectors. If Hamilton had been out qualified then we are told that he was unlucky or the other driver was on a low fuel strategy and would be soon pitting for a refill. There was the famous incident where the TV producer was, quite rightly, concentrating on cars that were fighting for both race position and the potential of winning the World Championship but Allen shouted “come on producer we want to see Lewis”. Well no we don't. We want to see the most exciting and most relevant battle for position at any given moment of the race. If we were to fall into Allen's trap we would believe that there is only one driver and his name is Lewis Hamilton. There has been one voice of sanity in the whole ITV team. Martin Brundell did his best to give a relevant commentary of the race, only to have the Allen idiot bring the whole thing back to LH. Sadly, though, even Martin succumbs to moments of Lewis mania but thankfully as an exception rather than the norm.

The most annoying thing about this is that James Allen has gone on record as saying that those who object this kind of biased broadcasting and knocking Lewis Hamilton are either jealous or racist. I'll be honest I don't like Lewis Hamilton. I don't like his driving style, which although fast is very untidy. I like drivers who are aggressive and yet drive with neat, tidy lines. Felipe Massa fits this bill, as does Robert Kubica, so does Nick Heidfeld (well most of the time). I suppose this is why I liked Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Elio de Angelis, Jochen Mass and quite a few others over the years. There have been a couple of exceptions – Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve were both capable of driving beautifully precise lines whilst being aggressive (French GP 1979 is one example) but were both equally capable of being all over the track, but they had something else. I've been trying to put my finger on it but hindsight has blurred my memory so the only thing that comes to mind are flair and humility. The whole sense of it seemed a good idea so I tried it and I don't believe I had the ability to pull it off. Yes, they were ambitions. Yes, they were supremely self confident, but to the average race goer there was never any sign of arrogance. Hamilton on the other hand, despite the constant exhortation of Ryder et al that he is charming and personable; a genuinely nice guy; is anything but. He exudes arrogance. Since winning the championship I haven't seen a single comment from him commending the other drivers for the close race and no acknowledgment of the fact that in reality he didn't win the championship - Ferrari lost it by making silly mistakes. Without these mistakes it was likely that Massa would have gone to his home GP in Brazil already World Champion.

Don't take my word for it. In this video from the BBC Lewis has had a bad performance at a kart race. Look at the sulky, petulant way he deals with his father. How many parents would put up with that behaviour from a child. Next a look at the 2007 McLaren launch (it keeps appearing and disappearing - the joys of take down notices). You'll see he stays half a step behind Alonso and then gives his team mate a sneering look of contempt. Surely the assembled press should have been able to predict the fireworks within McLaren after seeing that. Then look at all his interviews in that first year, and they way that he subtly paints Alonso as the bad guy, at the way he used the focus of I'm a team player but Alonso isn't to drive a wedge straight through the team leaving a 2 times world champion to be treated as a rookie whilst he, the actual rookie, is treated like a king. Look also at the way he speaks about the stupidity of rules every time he is caught out by one. Case in point. Canada 2008 when he ignored the pit lane signal and ran into the back of Raikkonen. The rule is there. Everyone knows about it. Two drivers were disqualified for leaving the pit lane under the red light the previous year and Hamilton's comment “it's a stupid rule. It's a shame because I was leading. I was breezing it” Erm no, he was 3rd. If he were leading he would not have had Raikkonen and Kubica stopped at the red light in front of him. This incident at Canada brings me back full circle to the appalling coverage of F1 by ITV. After LH had crashed out Allen's first suggestion was that Raikkonnen had stopped when he didn't need to, then spent the rest of the race talking about what could be happening if LH were still running. At the end of the race he was more concerned with LH's bad luck than the fact the Kubica had driven brilliantly (tidily aggressive) to take his maiden victory at the same circuit where he had crashed horrifically only 12 months earlier. Scarce mention was made of the BMWs being 1-2 and how strong they were looking at that part of the season. Since then, at the end of each race, it seemed that the only interview ITV wanted was LH even to the point that he got preference over the winners press conference. Alternatively, ITV leave the press conference as soon as LH had spoken.

All I can say is thank Bernie that ITV have lost the rights to the coverage. Lets hope that the BBC team who take over from 2009 will do a better job and from their announced line up it's looking promising. Meanwhile I'll keep supporting my tidily aggressive drivers at BWM, Ferrari and Williams and hope that just occasionally they will notice my boys enough to give them a mention.