Sebastian Vettel has had a terrific season in Formula 1. Definitely one of the most dominant and skilled performances from a champion for a long time. He may have the best car, but he still has to drive the thing. Nonetheless, for five slightly-less-than-serious reasons, I just wish he and Red Bull would give it a rest once in a while…
1. The Finger
Ask anyone from the casual F1 fan upwards, and there’s a 99% chance they’ll tell you the thing that pisses them off most about the races is Vettel’s bloody finger. When the Red Bull stops in parc fermé in front of the number 1 board and the driver clambers out of the car, only a matter of seconds will pass before the helmet is removed and the supremely talented German pilot screws his face up, thrusting an index finger towards the crowds and cameras at an acute angle. The horrible inevitability of this is akin to a rather rapid form of Chinese drip torture, the viewers at home sitting on the edges of their seats and pleading with Seb to just extend his digit and get it over and done with for another weekend.
All great sports personalities have their trademark celebrations. From Denis Law’s arm going up in the air in a no-nonsense fashion as he runs back to the centre circle, to Jürgen Klinsmann’s dive and through to Michael Schumacher’s emphatic leaps, a good celebratory move shows everyone who’s number one. But for some odd reason The Finger is just downright irritating, and it seems Vettel’s in too deep with it to back out now. A period away from the top step of the podium would give us all a rest from The Finger and allow the German to retire the celebration quietly;
2. Big Bad Wolf
If you ever watch the post-race forum on the BBC coverage, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, I shall explain. Big Bad Wolf is a piece of music the Red Bull team play when ‘they’ (i.e. Vettel) win a race, irritating celebrations extending beyond the driver to the team as a whole. The tune in question –
produced by an outfit known as ‘Duck Sauce’ – is blasted out of speakers in the team garage at full volume, helping the mechanics to get the party started whilst they go about the long and vital process of getting the team’s kit packed up and ready for transportation to the next circuit. It is a dance track that consists of a kickdrum beating at moderate tempo, with the imitation sound of a werewolf howling dubbed over it. It is as awful as it sounds.
Much like The Finger, the trouble with Big Bad Wolf is that it is forced upon everyone and beamed out to millions of homes around the globe. It’s irritating enough hearing it at home in the background as the pundits on telly do their best to drown it out, so one can only dread to think how much it would get on one’s nut were one actually working in the paddock. The only analogue I can think of is a time about ten years ago when Raith Rovers were at home to Livingston, and the away team elected to bring a troupe of pipe band drummers to the game with them. Said drummers proceeded to hit their percussion instruments for the entirety of the first half, until a steward sensibly confiscated their beaters. With the drums gone, the Rovers went on to score two and win comfortably.
It would perhaps be wishful thinking to hope that the absence of Big Bad Wolf would bring about the demise of Red Bull in the same way, but when the pauses in Jake Humphrey’s speech are filled with the distant howl of an over-familiar wolf cry from the other end of the paddock, you know it’s time to give the tune a rest;
Once upon a time, there was a character from the world of racing whom I was rather fond of. This character was quick, good-natured and extremely talented. Unfortunately, he also had a habit of whooping excitedly every time he won a race. This became wearing to such an extent that I and my fellow racers ceased to like this fellow, and switched our allegiance to those with more modest declarations of victory.
The character in question was Toad from Mario Kart. I do not need to elaborate as to which figure from F1 this mirrors. All I will say is that at least Toad’s repertoire stuck to ‘wa-hoo’ and ‘I’m the best’, leaving out key components of the extended celebration-speech-by-
numbers such as ‘ring-ding-ding-ding’ and ‘that’s what I’m talking about’. Enthusiasm is great, but when it consists of the same tones and the same set phrases over and over it does become a little wearing;
4. Proof of Vettel’s greatness
Sebastian Vettel is a great driver. That’s not a subject for debate, you’d be hard pushed to find someone to disagree with that. But what’s perhaps not so clear is the extent of his greatness. See, Vettel is very young, and has been in cars that have been getting better and better since he started driving. He is now at an age where he seems to have matured to the extent that the rookie errors have all been ironed out, and he’s turned into a thoroughly polished driver. What I’d like to see now is a situation where he isn’t in clearly the best car and really has to fight for wins, points and championships rather than streaking off into the distance most of the time. For that would be a real test of his character. I remember watching Michael Schumacher in fast but flimsy Ferraris fighting for fourth and fifth places as the car (sometimes literally) fell apart around him, only to emerge as champion at the end of the year against superior or equal machinery. I’m pretty sure Seb could handle the pressure now, but I’d like to confirm my suspicion. This tenacity also leads me onto the last thing I’d like to see back, namely;
5. Mark Webber
After two hard years where he’s been in the title fight right until the latter part of the season, Mark Webber’s had a relatively subdued year in 2011. It’s hard to see what has happened to him, other than that the car has got faster and Vettel has become more consistent. Putting two and two together, it may be the case that the team have been focusing more on honing the car to the German’s style and tastes to the detriment of the Australian driver’s outright speed. Should this be the case, and should the chips go down any time soon, I’d like to hope that the car can come back to Webber so we can see more of the gritty determination that helped him to push the man that now looks like he could break all the records all the way. As we say in rallying in Scotland, God loves a trier, and there are few harder triers out there than Mark Webber.