Formula 1 news story about [F1 2017 NEWS] MAURICE HAMILTON: GOBSHITE OF THE YEAR

Allow me to introduce the Irish Racing Drivers’ Club, a gathering that becomes more informal and rowdy as the annual lunch in London’s RAC Club wears on in early December. Membership is by invitation only. You don’t necessarily need to be Irish – but it helps when understanding the blather and the madness.

I was sitting beside a well-known motorsport insurance broker from County Kerry. He’d better remain anonymous since the subject of this story later became his client and he doesn’t want to lose him. 

It seems this client was racing in the Daytona 24 Hours and was offered insurance (by another broker) on his Ferrari – but for the left-hand side only. I’m serious. 

If nothing else, you can understand the broker’s reasoning, what with the wall on the banked bits being on the right and the insurance coverage beginning at the centreline of the car. Quite how this chancer proposed to work out the costing on a damaged chassis is another matter. 

Even more difficult to comprehend is the fact that the driver in question initially agreed to the deal. And no, he wasn’t Irish. My table partner’s more logical offer of insuring the entire car was quickly accepted and the two have happily done business ever since.

I’m telling the story because it perfectly encapsulates the concept of this award: a Gobshite (as originally cited by the famous Irish playwright, Hugh Leonard) is often harmless but always hopeless. And from that you can understand why we have some notable entries from across the motor sport spectrum. 

F1 people should not make jokes about some poor soul racing half a sportscar when its most famous team sent Kimi Räikkönen down the Baku pit lane without a steering wheel. The tirade erupting from the cockpit proved that the Kimster was not only alert to its absence but he is also capable of stringing together more words than ‘Bwoah...Idunno…Lezwaitansee.’ 

There was a lovely moment – and a moment it was in every sense – on Sky TV during Ted Kravitz’s informed ’Notebook’, live on air during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. Keen to illustrate a story on Brendon Hartley by showing pictures of the Kiwi in his youth, Ted reached for his mobile phone. Unfortunately, an associate or mate (he was then, but that may no longer be the case) was quick on his thumbs and sent a text. 

As Ted held the phone to camera, the word ‘COCK’ (in capitals for further emphasis) suddenly appeared on the screen. To be fair, Ted covered up…as it were… and calmly flicked the heartfelt message away, but not before its effect had…er…stood out among the tactics and tyre compounds. 

It’s tempting to wonder if Sky F1 has honorary membership of the Christian Horner Fan Club. Something happens, and they interview the Red Bull boss. Something doesn’t happen, and they interview him anyway. Horner is erudite and has an opinion that’s worth hearing even if, quite often, you realise this is the F1 equivalent of BBC News interviewing an MP outside the House of Commons knowing the stuffed shirt is driven by a political agenda.

But Gobshite Committee members were really impressed when someone actually prompted the Daily Telegraph to devote five pages in a recent Saturday supplement to the man whose team had finished third in the championship. Or, to be more accurate, the man who is married to a former Spice Girl, as we were reminded early in the piece. 

Fair enough; that’s what sells newspapers. But the thing that really swung it in the Gobshite stakes was the writer seriously linking Horner with the legendary Mercedes team manager, Alfred Neubauer. Comparing Horner with this commanding figure was like mentioning Theresa May and Winston Churchill in the same breath. 

At least Horner gets his point across in King’s English without resorting to stumbling sound bites. F1 has moved from having a boss who said very little to a collection of individuals straight from the Ron Dennis School of Strangled Sermons. 

Liberty Media may have only been around for a year but, impressively, they’ve already got an eye on the Mrs Malaprop Gobshite award. Here’s a few extracts from an entry discussing F1’s future as they see it.

Liberty produced a ‘mission statement’ with ‘key behaviours’ such as ‘Making the spectacle more spectacular’, ‘Revel in the racing’, ‘Feel the blood boil’ and the final clincher, ‘Taste the oil’. (How about giving us race cars that can overtake rather than extolling the virtues of a pint of Petronas Syntium Special Brew?) 

But here’s the thing: all of this is to ‘…have them [that’s you, dear reader] have their viscera moved by the sounds and smells of this amazing sport’. So, if you’re feeling a bit below par this morning, it’s not a hangover; just your viscera on the move after a rough journey home last night.

We can only guess what might have happened to Kris Meeke’s viscera in the Mexico Rally. Holding an easy lead about a mile from the finish, Meeke suddenly flew off the road, landed in a car park and, appropriately for an Irishman, found himself heading for the beer tent while trying to urgently make his way back to the special stage. It gave new meaning to ‘One for the Road’.

At least the Citroen driver was dressed for the occasion when he eventually reached the top of the podium. It’s difficult to say the same for Sergio Marchionne who chose to wear his favourite sweater while joining a room full of smart suits in The White House. 

He may have a few curious ideas about his station in life as president of Ferrari but Marchionne’s multiple entries based on his visions for the future of F1 and his team make him an easy winner of 2017 Gobshite of the Year.

To be fair to Signor Presidente, there’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that he’s threatened withdraw all Ferraris from the forthcoming Daytona 24 Hours and races in the USA in protest over President Trump ‘playing with fire’ by refusing to declare Maranello as the capital of Italy. 

That said, Marchionne might get very upset when he thinks some other Gobshite appears to imply that one half of a Ferrari 488 is stronger than the other. I mean, who would be daft enough to think such a thing?

Happy New Year!