Following Sebastian Vettel´s outburst after the German Grand Prix, where he did or did not call Lewis Hamilton stupid, one think back to other occasions where drivers get a little emotional. Vettel´s comments about Hamilton is not the first time this has happened.
You are driving along the motorway and are of course following the rules of the road. You are slightly below the speed limit, there are plenty of room up to the driver ahead and you are in the correct lane. Suddenly a tuned BMW hurls past you going 200 km/h and you just have time to think “what an idiot.” But for some reason he overtakes you and immediately after crosses over to the lane you are in and brakes. Hard. You step on the brakes, adrenaline pumps through your body and you think fast. You narrowly avoid the idiot in front of you, by inches, and manages to find a spot on the hard shoulder for you to breathe a little. The BMW continues to harass other drivers.
Think about how you felt in that situation. Not nice, right? You started to sweat almost immediately, you yell at him and raise a fist in the air, only for your efforts to be fruitless, as the hapless driver, who should never be allowed a driver´s license, you think, just goes on his way. Imagine this scenario with race cars doing 280 km/h, with a few centimetres between them and you might get an idea of why drivers are so quick to judge their rivals when they do something stupid.
Vettel´s “stupid” comment after the German race can be translated many times and many ways, and yesterday I wrote a relative neutral article about how Vettel and Red Bull are now trying to smooth the situation, by saying he did not call Hamilton stupid. In that article, I focused a little on the retracting of the comment, that they felt it necessary to explain once more what had been said. And by the way, Vettel did not say Hamilton was stupid, he never did.
“That was not nice of him [Hamilton]. I don’t see the point why he is trying to race us,” Vettel complained. “If he wants to go fast then he can drop back, find a gap and go fast there.
“But it’s a bit stupid to disturb the leaders. He was a lap down so I don’t see the point anyway. I think that potentially lost us the position to Jenson because soon after that we pitted, I think only two or three laps after that.”
So there. Vettel said the move by Hamilton was stupid, not that Hamilton is a stupid man. Makes all the difference, right? Yes and no. But when we think about how often we have heard drivers complain about their rivals, one can make a very long list, that goes back from the early days of motor racing. We have heard Vettel comment on Narain Karthikeyan after a collision between the two, where Vettel called Karthikeyan a cucumber, for some reason. Other media reports that Vettel said “as in real life, there are a few idiots on the road.”
I don´t know why Vettel would call someone a cucumber, since the word “idiot” is a lot more powerful than calling someone a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. The only reason I can see that Vettel, perhaps, changed his comment from idiot to cucumber, is because the cucumber actually originates from India. That would suddenly mean that Vettel is a scholar and certainly knows his greens.
And we have seen Felipe Massa give Hamilton an insincere pat on the back after the Singapore GP and Hamilton said something along the lines of “don´t touch me, mate. Don´t touch me.” So back to why they act like this.
Is it very different to call a move stupid, instead of the driver? Not really, but then we forget what these guys are doing. The pressure is immense, it´s not just that they would like to keep their race seat, for many drivers this thought is way back in their minds. They focus on the situation right now, not something that happened two weeks ago. They focus on the car settings, and overtaking the slower car in front and hundreds of things at the same time. We tend to forget what a tough job this is, and when the drivers step out of the car after a race, they are almost immediately presented with a microphone so we can hear their fresh thoughts. And naturally, when the pulse is way up and the sweat is covering the body, with adrenaline still pumping in your system, drivers don´t have a minute to breathe.
This is not an attempt to say that Vettel´s comments are ok, but to explain why he does it, and why drivers as a whole do this. Emotions run high and being in a cut-throat business like this is, mistakes are made.
That said, Vettel is a young driver who is very emotional when he races and yes he is even a sore loser. When he wins, he sticks his finger out and points to the air, he bites his lip and has a smiling and friendly look, but also one that screams “come at me if you dare.” He does come across as an immature driver, but then again so does other drivers. We just don´t see them winning as much as Vettel.
Hamilton´s move on Vettel was not stupid, it was perhaps a little un-necessary, but racers race and if Hamilton didn´t try a pass when he had the faster car, internet forums would not see the end of it.