With Channel 4’s live coverage being restricted to just one Grand Prix in 2019, the British television network appeared to sense the urgent need to provide material for a Gobshite Award while the going was good in 2018.
A Gobshite – as originally cited by the Irish playwright, Hugh Leonard – is often harmless but always hopeless. Straightaway you’ll appreciate that motor sport, and Formula 1 in particular, provides plenty of scope for nominations.
David Coulthard made a promising pitch during the Monaco Grand Prix as the camera focussed on a dozing spectator. Coulthard’s quip ‘He’s just listening to Sky’ was, at the very least, contentious when your side is continuing to seriously offer the blathering blarney of Eddie Jordan as informed comment. Intentionally or otherwise, DC’s catty remark hinted at a discomfort that had nothing to do with sitting for a long period in sprayed-on jeans that are painful to look at, never mind wear.
While we’re in that area, so to speak, this is a good point to mention the ‘Did I Read That Correctly?’ moment that arose during coverage of the Formula E event in New York. Reports stated that Jean-Éric Vergne and team-mate Andre Lotterer had been fined and given penalty points for breaching the FE sporting regulations.
Dangerous driving? A jumped start, perhaps? None of that. The Techeetah drivers, if you please, had blatantly worn illegal underpants. Given this is a sensitive area – as it were – the official bulletin outlining such a heinous crime happily spared us detail of how the checks for ‘non-compliant underwear pants’ were actually carried out.
There was similar disbelief in June when the ‘Daily Mail’ reported that McLaren employees were deeply unhappy about being offered Freddo chocolate bars as a bonus for meeting tough deadlines with updates for their woeful F1 car. By a happy coincidence (for the media, at least), Eric Boullier was nominated as a member of the panel for the FIA’s Friday press conference at Paul Ricard.
McLaren’s race director played down the compensation by confectionary, saying he had received good feedback (presumably, no pun was intended – although you couldn’t be sure). But the calorific and confrontation count went up several notches when Jonathan McEvoy, the author of the inflammatory piece, asked Boullier if he intended to resign over failings on the McLaren. Beginning to melt like…well, a bar of chocolate under the scorching spotlight, Boullier said he had no intention of resigning and suggested it was McEvoy who should be fired because ‘I think you are lying now’.
12 days later, on the eve of the British Grand Prix, Eric Boullier resigned. McEvoy continued with the ‘Daily Mail’ just as surely as the McLaren MCL33 remained in the rear quarter of the grid and the Freddo bars were set aside for Stoffel Vandoorne’s going-away present.
Part of McLaren’s humiliation had been created by the shortfall of the orange chassis being exposed by a switch from Honda to Renault power. You would think that Red Bull’s continuing pre-eminence as the leading Renault runner – and subsequent embarrassment for their rival – would have reduced the sniping between Milton Keynes and Viry-Châtillon.
Not a bit of it. If anything, it got worse as Christian Horner rarely missed a chance when presented with a Sky TV camera – which was often – to make snide remarks that would not have been out of place in a school playground. By season’s end, any remaining diplomacy had gone out the window thanks to Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul accusing Red Bull of ‘hiding the facts and manipulating the data’ and prompting a pathetic response from that master of tact and happiness, the ageing Helmut Marko.
Nice try guys, but all of the forgoing fell short when the Gobshite Committee considered a couple of stunning entries from the same source.
If you went – or tried to go – to the French Grand Prix, you will not need reminding of the traffic chaos. You’d think that the F1 hierarchy might have been concerned about reports of turmoil in that strange world beyond the paddock gates. Or perhaps they might have spotted something amiss as they looked down on the masses while flying in by helicopter or private jet.
The frustration increased to fury when Chase Carey was asked what he intended to do about the queues snaring every road within miles. With barely a concerned look, the executive chairman of the Formula One Group blithely replied: ‘Well, it's great to be popular! We got a great crowd here on a Friday and it'll just get bigger as the weekend grows and, er, we'll all have fun.’ A feeling of fun was not uppermost in the minds of punters being forced to make U-turns and toss tickets worth hundreds of Euros into the trash can.
In case anyone had missed Mr. Carey’s dismal failure to grasp what this business – his business – is all about, he really nailed it just before the start of the United States Grand Prix – his home Grand Prix.
Grid walks have become increasingly dull and irrelevant these days, particularly as the drivers disappear in between standing to attention at the urinal and then for the national anthem. It was a sign of desperation to have someone – anyone – to interview that Mark Webber and David Coulthard resorted to Carey.
‘Exciting day for Lewis; history in the making,’ enthused Webber, in reference to Hamilton maybe wrapping up the championship. (That’s Lewis Hamilton, by the way. Liberty Media’s biggest F1 star and the only one widely acclaimed in the United States.)
‘Yeah,’ said Carey. ‘It’ll be number five – or six?’
‘FIVE!’ shot back a clearly startled Webber. It was easy to envisage the thought bubble exploding from the Aussie’s head: ‘Mate, congratulations. You’ve just won Gobshite of the Year.’
Happy New Year!