Sebastian Vettel pulled a dick-move on Mark Webber in Malaysia. No two ways around it. But when you do pull a dick-move that detracts from, and over-shadows, the accomplishments of your team and draw the ire of the viewing public and paddock, you do not get to say that people need to move on. As the guilty party, you are not in a position to say that people need to move on, or shift their focus to other aspects of a race or incident. When you’re the cause of the disturbance, you no longer control the message.

Vettel was quoted recently on Autosport, saying:

“I don’t apologise for winning, I think that’s why people employed me in the first place and why I’m here. I love racing and that’s what I do.”

“I think we already had a very strong weekend in Australia but we maybe didn’t quite get the result we wanted. But in Malaysia we were racing at the top and I think we worked excellently well with the tyres and everything.

“I think that’s what people forgot. Obviously what stuck in their heads was the way the race ended, but I think there’s not much more to add than what happened.”

vettelwebber_01And you know what? I’m fine with it. He’s wrong: he was wrong to ignore team instruction; he was wrong to pass Mark Webber for a win that wasn’t his; he was wrong to lie through his teeth, saying that it wasn’t deliberate; and he’s wrong now to try and steer the conversation away from his dick-move. But, really, as a fan, I’m 100% fine with it. The same way I’m ultimately okay with how Michael Schumacher raced Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve in the 90s, or how he tried to manipulate qualifying in Monaco in 2006. I’m okay with it not because I support or tolerate dickheaded moves from racers, because I don’t. (And for the record, I think Webber was just about out of line for racing Vettel to the pit-wall as they were battling.) But I do love me some drama! And with the retirement of Formula 1′s greatest, most polarizing heel, F1 needed someone to fill that void.

For a while I thought Fernando Alonso was going to be that guy. And I’d say for a couple years, between 2007 and 2009, he was. I think for a lot of people, Alonso was the knight that slayed Schumacher as the legend was at the tail-end of the peak of his powers. Alonso was the next Formula 1 legend, as he was two-times World Drivers Champion and by all accounts, the series’ most shining baby-face. Then Alonso v Hamilton at McLaren happened. With a young upstart ruffling his feathers, Alonso transitioned himself from face to heel by outing his own team as smugglers of technical information, gleaned from a rival team, and then hitting the eject button on the McLaren experiment. And while all that was happening, he damn near won the 2007 Drivers Championship again.

Since then, Alonso’s been able to rehabilitate his image – in large part, I feel, because he’s been such a valiant contender, year in and year out, but ultimately failing to retake the F1 championship crown. In 2013, many consider Fernando to be the best all-around driver in the paddock, and the ‘hero’ that fans can attach themselves to when combating the mighty Red Bulls and Sebastian Vettel.

So with Alonso back as a baby-face, who would play the heel? Enter Sebastian Vettel. Malaysian Grand Prix. 2013.

As the reigning champion, three times on the trot, Vettel was marginally polarizing, but only due to his success. It wasn’t personal. You respected his ability as a driver – regretted his success, but you couldn’t hold it against the man for being good, right? Now it’s personal. In one of the best face-to-heel turns since Shawn Michaels put Marty Jannetty through a fake barber shop window, Vettel’s now derided not just for being damn good, but for being the guy who double-crossed his team, and his square-jawed, sportsman’s sportsman of a teammate for that sweet, sweet taste of victory nectar. Or maybe it’s more akin to when Shawn Michaels pulled the infamous Montreal Screwjob on Bret Hart? Maybe Sebastian didn’t screw Mark Webber. Maybe ‘Mark screwed Mark’.


You can respect a man for fighting for every position and every point. You can respect a man for being willing to do just about anything to get that win – as only so many people in the history of motorsports can say they’ve won a Formula 1 grand prix, let alone 27 of them (good enough for a tied 6th-place all time). But to go for glory at the expense of your teammate? To superkick your own teammate and then throw him through the barber shop window, in front of the millions that made of the Formula 1 global audience?

We know the story of where Shawn Michaels was able to go with his career once he turned heel and put his teammate through a window. But I’m curious to see where Vettel can go with this, and if we’ll see him begin to crack and perhaps show us his ethics. But I think we’ve got something good on our hands, as fans: We’ve got ourselves a heel, folks. Formula 1 now has its own heartbreak kid.

Christopher

APR 2 – Not car design, but graphic design. In a previous post I mentioned branding and where Formula 1 succeeded and Indycar seemed to fail. As a graphic designer, I do my best to keep my thumb on where design is going, who’s doing the best work; and where I can, I look for where great design is being applied to the automotive or motorsports industries.

Interstate is a design firm that has had a hand in a lot of motorsports, and motorsports-related creative work and direction. Their list of clients ranges from Porsche to the Formula One Group, to race tracks, to race teams, to sponsors. Needless to say, their work is hugely impressive. But one case study they’ve posted sticks out to me: this case study showcases the process that went into creating a book to show that in the depths of the financial crisis, there was still value in Formula 1; there’s still a profound emotional and alluring value to being a part of Formula 1, as well as a financial and marketing value.

I could easily see Indianapolis Motor Speedway doing something like this for the Indianapolis 500 and the Indycar series that showcases the rich history and pageantry of Indy car racing. When I talk about how the Indycar series presents itself to the world, and compare it to Formula 1, this is an example of where Indy car racing can be deficient and where Formula 1 knows that a lot of good can be done with a little polish in your presentation.

The Power of Formula 1

“In 2009, as Formula 1™ headed towards its diamond anniversary the global economy was in free-fall and with it, the entire value chain of what big companies invested their money in and considered critical to success.

“F1′s usual diet of global brand partners and glamourous locations was running well but there was a growing feeling that the sport was not communicating its quality and value.

“Unsurprisingly Formula 1 was not immune and sensing he could better leverage its strengths, Mr Ecclestone asked us to develop something that would capture the sport’s unique heritage and leverage its value and relevance to current and future business leaders around the world.”

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MAR 29 – Bill “Pressdog” Zahren had a really interesting post recently on his blog (read it, it’s really good) that talks about public relations. He dives into what the hell “PR” really is and how it pertains to sports and racing; who does what, and for whom, and why they do it; and why it’s important and so damn hard for a series like Indycar to get really great traction on a really good story, and get it out to the public.

“The main thing media people want is readers/viewers (i.e. customers). News organizations want more people to read/view/listen to their stuff than any other news organization’s stuff. Media outlets are businesses so that means success is all about attracting and retaining customers. Traffic (customers consuming the media product) makes them more attractive to advertisers, and fees charged for advertising are what drive media company revenue.”

If you want to learn a thing or two about how public relations actually functions, and how it functions specifically in racing and Indycar, give that a read. There are a lot of universally misunderstood misnomers about the goings-on in Indycar, and this goes a ways toward dispelling a lot of ignorance on the topic.

This isn’t going to be much of a post. I just want to say how happy I am that Indycar racing has commenced. The weather here in SF is sunny, and warm, and I know somewhere in the world (St Petersburg, Florida, to be exact), there are Indy-style cars in motion.

I’m a happy boy.

MAR 19 – There are a lot of drivers that can feel snubbed and slighted by the fact that they aren’t in an Indycar seat this year. But I’ve always felt like Alex Lloyd and Rafa Matos were the top of the crop who’ve washed out.

Three what-if’s:

What if: Rafa Matos took the $2m 2007 Atlantics scholarship, signed with a Champ Car team, and then raced in the unified Indycar series in 2008 – instead of forfeiting that money and racing in Indy Lights (eventually winning that title as well)? I wonder if the money for winning the Atlantics title was no longer on offer because of the pending merger between Champ Car and Indycar?

What if: HER Energy Drinks had stayed with Alex Lloyd in 2009 and beyond? Granted, if you Google the product, HER Energy Drinks doesn’t come up with very positive results. So many Alex was able to dodge a bullet being associated with that sort of brand. But had they stayed, would Alex still be in the series today? Would Alex have been the catalyst for the Ganassi B-Team that is now filled by Charlie Kimball, and formerly Graham Rahal?

I feel like Alex Lloyd was the prototype for that secondary Ganassi program, but was never able to find the backers Graham and Charlie did in order to make the deal happen. As we know now, he decided to end ties with Ganassi in any effort to get seat time elsewhere.

What if: Instead of racing in Indy Lights and Formula Atlantics, respectively, Matos had raced in Lights a year early, or Lloyd raced in Atlantics instead of Lights? Very much a dream scenario (similar to how in 2006, I wished Dan Wheldon and Sebastien Bourdais could’ve raced against each other, as they were both so dominant) but I feel like it would’ve been a treat to see Feeder talents like Raphael Matos and Alex Lloyd doing battle in the same series.

Due to the nature of feeder series’ not being destination series’, we often times miss opportunities to see fantastic, young talent go head to head unless they both make it into Indycar. That’s something we miss today with no Formula Atlantics and a largely diminished Indy Lights series – the futures best and brightest getting the chance to duke it out before reaching the big leagues.

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