Drivers need to shut up a little bit

Share This Post

Last week, when the drivers decided to weigh in on the tumult that surrounds Formula 1, they probably knew they would get a response but the responses they’ve been getting lately haven’t been very pleasant.

F1 boss Bernie Eccelstone has been making headlines today because of a quote that most press have carried in which he said “drivers shouldn’t be allowed to talk”. This makes for good headlines and fuels the outrage culture on social media but it’s not really his point. As ESPN UK quotes:

“What sort of interest do they have, the drivers, other than taking money out of the sport?” Ecclestone said. “I’ve never seen one of them put one dollar in, you go to dinner with them and they don’t even pay the bill. They shouldn’t even be allowed to talk. They should get in the car and drive it.”

His point, if you can be bothered, is that they are not financial stakeholders in the sport aside from getting a salary and precious few of them get that such is the prolific pay-driver scenario in F1 these days. As pundits with little or no financial skin in the game, they really don’t have a lot of room to demand much of the commercial or regulatory direction as one speaking from a position of risk and investment.

That doesn’t make for very good headlines though when you can simply quote his first quip where he’s being the cheeky ring leader he’s always been. He knows how to tee up a story with a clickbait headline. This isn’t his first rodeo after all.

Then there is the story of Lewis Hamilton and Snapchat. The original source I’ve seen was an implied German paper (I’m not doubting that, I just don’t speak or read German) but on this side of the pond, it seems GMM is the most common byline I’ve seen listed and that’s a bit surprising if I’m honest but then when it comes to the denial of some form of social media, I can see where the source becomes of little relevance when you can gin up social media outrage for a few clicks. Surprised no one has made a quick GIF for this story too.

Effectively the story goes that FOM asked Mercedes to tell Lewis to stop posting video from the paddock on Snapchat. WHAT? OUTRAGE! What they may be missing is that the use of any video in the paddock is strictly governed, owned and controlled by FOM. Sky Sports F1 pays huge for the privilege of broadcasting video of Ted and the folks in the paddock area. So does NBC with Will Buxton on the grid along with trusty partner in crime, Jason (who is ace BTW).

That’s why you don’t see gobs of video I’ve taken at COTA in the paddock area. I can’t post it. You’d all have to come over to my house and watch it and while I really like all of you, I don’t like you that much. You’d be getting into my F1 stuff and asking to play one of my guitars and as an introvert, that just isn’t my kind of thing.

So there you have it, Lewis isn’t paying for the right to video Merc’s shenanigans and goings on.

Then there is the third organization in the trinity of piranha…the FIA. You ask for miracles? I give you the F-I-A. When queried by the fabulous folks at AUTOSPORT, Jean Todt (road safety king) said:

“With all due respect to the drivers, I’m not sure if you ask them how governance works, it would be doubtful they know. Maybe I’m wrong,” said Todt.

“I can sympathise with the drivers, with them saying ‘We love our sport, help us to ensure we have a healthy and transparent sport’.

“But unless they have very specific advisors then they don’t know what is the governance.”

So there you have it, there is little love for the drivers these days and some press—some of which I respect very much—have suggested that the GPDA letter was little more than a publicity stunt to absolve them from any fallout should F1 go belly-up. It won’t but there you have it.

So in short, drivers just need to shut up a little bit. That’s not my opinion but with so much opinion out there already and social media outrage, who has room for my opinion on the matter anyway?

Hat Tip: ESPN UK and AUTOSPORT

68 COMMENTS

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

68 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Peter Riva

Holy cow! How can anyone say anything so completely wrong-headers as this about drivers “As pundits with little or no financial skin in the
game…:
1. They literally have skin (their life) in the game
2. They have invested every moment since they were 6 or 7 struggling in the game, being poked and prodded, media events for this or that, appearances, constructors dictum, and, never least…
3. Their entire financial wherewithal.

How the hell can anyone pretend they have no skin in the “game” of F1?

Peter Riva

Jackie Stewart WILL NOT like this… last time he organized the drivers (for safety) he shut F1 down for a while… come on Sir Jackie!

Negative Camber

There’s a difference between spending your youth learning the trade and marketing your skills and getting a ride at 19-years-old and having $600 million invested and 1,200 employees invested behind you. Not to mention and entire car company’s brand and marketing arm too. It’s a bit different.

runnah

And maybe that is the problem right there. Drivers, racing and the fans concerns are all considered secondary to the concerns of board members and stakeholders. Granted I am under no illusions that this isn’t a mega money operation and those things shouldn’t be taken for granted but once quality of the product starts to suffer you lose customers. It reminds me of the modern corporate mantra of 10% profit every year, no questions asked. This unrealistic attitude only results in the working man/women getting screwed, the product quality being drastically reduced and eventually the company will struggle to survive.… Read more »

Fred Talmadge

Actually I would like the drivers and engineers and the mechanics to talk more, take more pictures and post them where ever they. Not only F1, but sport cars and baseball. I think more fans would like this. Also I would prefer if paid shills would do less talking and picture taking.

Tom Firth

Maybe this is a good time for the drivers to claim illiteracy ;-)

Seriously though, the whole thing of taking pictures and video at commercial events and sports etc being forbidden is very normal, it’s printed on the back of virtually every ticket. This isn’t an F1 particular thing.

geeyore

Right. Just checked a Circuit G.V. ticket and even though it’s in microtype font, it’s explicit about “personal use” of images and video, and no “transmitting” of same.

Negative Camber

There you go. Thx for checking.

228929292AABBB

I’m sorry but this part : “His point, if you can be bothered, is that they are not financial stakeholders in the sport aside from getting a salary and precious few of them get that such is the prolific pay-driver scenario in F1 these days. As pundits with little or no financial skin in the game, they really don’t have a lot of room to demand much ” doesn’t make sense. If most of them are pay drivers, then financial stakeholders is exactly what they are, right? Financial skin is exactly what they have in the game, right? And Bernie’s… Read more »

Negative Camber

I think they are stakeholders but that’s the implication here and I understand his point. Paying a team for a seat is not a financial stakeholder in F1. It’s a financial stakeholder in your career. There’s a difference. No driver has put the kind of investment in the sport that Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams or McLaren have. Having said that, they are the drivers and I feel they should have a voice in matters but the FIA has quickly shut that down and said they have voice each Sunday in the driver’s meetings. There have been many times in… Read more »

Glenn

WOW!!! Just WOW!!! How can you say that the drivers don’t put the kind of investment in the sport that the constructors do? These guys put their lives on the line every time they get in the car which in my world is more of an investment than the financial one the constructors make. Ask the families of Jules Bianchi and Ayrton Senna what the investment they made in the sport was! Unfortunately everyone has forgotten that the drivers are actually the show, without them there is no F1, it’s their talent and personalities that have made F1 what it… Read more »

Negative Camber

Glenn, I know that and using Jules as an example may lend gravity to the effort he put in the sport but that’s not what I believe Mr. E is talking about in context to the interview that folks have used to draw attention…namely that they shouldn’t be allowed to talk. He’s talking about the technical regulations and voting structure to impact the change to the sport that the teams, FIA and FOM are currently deadlocked in. He’s talking about the drivers not having a knife in that fight as they don’t have near the financial investment that the other… Read more »

Glenn

NC this is the whole problem, Bernie and FIA are looking at this from a purely financial perspective because it is their cashcow! The reality is that the financial outcome is the result of the purity and quality of racing. The show is poor ultimately because of the decisions that Bernie & the FIA have made yet they do not want to take any responsibility for their actions … this is exactly what the drivers and the fans are saying! Bernie, FIA and the teams could do well to listen to the drivers as they are the ones who’s motivation… Read more »

GenGlenn

Hey Glenn, seems there are two of us posting on this site with the same name from time to time. I have changed my profile name to avoid any confusion. To your points, I thought the drivers made fair and reasonable points about the technical decision making process as it affects their sport/show in which they take most of the risk to life and limb. The rule writing decisions being made do make a difference to the drivers; how much they push or not push, when and for how long, and that has an impact on how much risk they… Read more »

Peter Riva

Look, the amount of Mercedes investment is less per capita (their
F1 employees), less % per dollar turnover of the parent company, so therefore LESS than
Manor’s per capita or business risk. Thinking about proportion before one feels Mercedes is more
important might be useful.

Negative Camber

Proportional risk is parsing the investment liability and that’s fine but overall investment is more important here, Peter. You could say that Manor has more risk given their proportional investment but this isn’t what makes F1 churn. Merc, Red Bull or Ferrari leaving would be massive impact to the sport but not the death blow. It’s happened before but in this case, it would be big as two of them are the leading engine makers such is the hybrid situation.

Meine Postma

Maybe people don’t miss the context but just don’t agree with Bernies antiquated view.

Negative Camber

From the comments I’ve read, I think they’re missing the context and reality of what’s being implied in his statement. Agree or not, it’s important to understand the context.

Peter Riva

The old joke may apply here… Man says to pretty woman, “Can I sleep with you?”
“Go away” she replies.
He responds, “Will you sleep with me for a hundred grand?”
She pauses and say, “Well, maybe…”
He says, “What about a hundred?”
“No!” she responds, “What do you think I am?”
“We’ve already decided that, we now haggling on price.”

charlie white

I think some drivers here may have a vested interest in this mess. If you’re Rio Haryanto and the Pertamina $15million that came with you is providing the life blood for Manor Racing. That shouldn’t be completely ignored. I fear there is a 3-sided civil war coming between the teams, the drivers and FIA/FOM and this qualifying mess is just the first battle.

Negative Camber

Rio didn’t pay $15m, he spent other people’s $15m to get there. He has backers. As backers who paid the money, they have no financial stake in the sport other than backing a driver. That’s a long ways away from what Merc spends in and on the sport.

charlie white

Perhaps but tell that to the staff at Manor and you will get a different answer. They have a viable stake in the sport, not as large as your Mercedes example, but a stake nonetheless. You’re walking a very narrow tightrope, Todd, between the small teams and big works teams. Once Mercedes leaves after winning another World Championship or spending $300million annually, who’s left?

Paul KieferJr

“Fonzie, shut up!? FONZIE, SHUT UP!!?? Why don’t you just say ‘Fonzie, remove all your teeth’? You’d get the same results!”

WonkyDave

As one that has been to your house, I will confirm your introverted ways regarding your F1 memorabilia and your guitars (although I do possess a Strat that would make you defecate in your sleeping quarters that you are welcome to play). However, I will remind you that I have a picture of your prized full-sized cut-out of Jeff Gordon [If you’re wondering, that is definitely NOT a joke], but I don’t recall signing a waiver that prevented me from taking pictures in your domestic paddock. Then again, my memory is beginning to fail me in my advancing age, and… Read more »

Negative Camber

LOL…yes, you have been to my house…and you’ve played my guitars. You’ve seen my Jeff Gordon cut-out (life size which I still have) and my first guitar I had (real guitar that is). I would be happy to play your strat because, after all, I like strats. I have a few myself. :)

The Captain

Did Todt and Ecclestone just use the same arguments coal mine owners used to make whenever the miners got uppity and wanted a say in working conditions? What are these dinosaurs just going to 19th century robber barons for talking points now?

Poh Poh, how dare those little peasants who depend on and have dedicated their lives to this sport speak.

MichaelB

Here’s the thing – in the end, it’s the drivers that are strapped into the car and run around the track… Let’s not forget that Bernie’s attempts to manipulate The Show has a direct impact on the drivers success on the track. His attempts to manipulate The Show has an impact on the negotiations that each driver has to go through in order to get or keep their seat. His attempts to manipulate The Show have a direct impact on the size of their paychecks. So yes, the driver most definitely have a stake in this. If Bernie wants to… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

He’s already damaging his reputation. if my late mother ever caught me talking in a fashion similar to Bernie, she’d smack me upside the head for being disrespectful.

xorpheous

Two things:
1) Current drivers may become team owners and partners. Therefore, there is a potential long-term financial interest. This, of course, is not true for all drivers, but nor is it false for all drivers.
2) Posting video at a circuit is the fastest way to have your credentials yanked and a lawsuit filed. Todd is absolutely right in this regard. As a driver, Lewis would not have his hard card pulled, but he and his team could be confronted with significant civil action.

Tom Firth

Interesting that at least the sites I generally visit, the general OUTRAGE! is towards the Snapchat-gate, can we call it snapchat-gate? Which I agree with Bernie on. Rather than Bernie’s comments about drivers, including his comments about being surprised they could read and write on C4 at the weekend. He also did a great interview with Eddie Jordan this weekend which C4 aired online in full but that wouldn’t create the media buzz the out of context bite where he says about being surprised about drivers being able to write…. Not sure whether creating the OUTRAGE! is really bad for… Read more »

Classic Velocity

Suggesting that drivers must shut up is yet another incindiary comment from Bernie aimed more at headlines than anything else. Are we really suggesting that no athlete should be considered a stakeholder in their sport? Using that logic, football players, basketball players, etc should have nothing to say if the “real” stakeholders wanted to transform the sport into a circus. By the way, those “real” stakeholders would be the advertisers, because they ultimately pay the bills whether on TV, at the track, or on the cars. Using that logic, F! rules should be written by Johnny Walker Scotch or Verizon… Read more »

Negative Camber

They have a stake in the sport’s success and entertainment and actual results as well as appeal. They are critical to the sport no doubt. They are not invested in the sport with hundreds of millions of dollars that the teams and FOM and FIA are. They are not signatory to the contract that teams, FIA and FOM are so they have no seat at the table with regards to the infrastructure changes or the governance model of F1. I think that’s his point.

Classic Velocity

Todd, I get that, and if they were just talking about how to move money around in the sport between financial stakeholders, I would agree. But they are not. They are mucking about with how the sport is played, and in that context, the athletes should have a major voice. What if they wanted to eliminate helmets so that we could see the drivers better ? Would we be telling the drivers to shut up ?

Negative Camber

I certainly agree that they are mucking about with sporting regulations and that impacts the job the drivers have to do and they should have a voice in the efforts. For sure. Do they have a vote? No. Do they have a voice in how F1 is structured for governance and revenue? No.

Peter Riva

And there you have the crux of the whole matter. NC, do you have a voice in the efforts of your company to regulate your business? Do you have a voice in the structure of the parent company you work for? That is the 250 year old argument against guild /unions. “You’re only the hired hand, shut up.” is the mantra of the business mavens. But they always lose track of the ethic of a good worker and that means the worker IS invested in the work – the ethic, the structure, the end result. If you divorce the one… Read more »

MichaelB

Sometimes I’m staggered by the contortions that you will go through to defend Bernie. In the stick and ball sports – the players unions don’t invest in their sports, and yet can and do have the ability to grind the sport to a halt if you cross them. The GPDA is the drivers union. If the issues at stake here were simply whether the FIA, FOM, or Strategy Group should call the shots – then yes the GPDA has no say. If this was simply a dispute about how the prize money gets distributed to the teams, or how much… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’m not going to great lengths to defend him. In fact, I offer very little opinion in this piece. What I do try to do is add some balance to the situation because for years now people just default to the “screw that troll, he needs to leave” mantra any time something happens in F1 and what many apparently don’t realize is that a lot of what’s going on isn’t down to just Bernie. I’m trying to help new fans understand what’s in play here and the structure of F1’s governance today. It’s hard for new fans to understand when… Read more »

MichaelB

I follow the off-track politics of the sport about as closely as you do Todd. I like to think that I have a better than average fan understanding of how the sport is run. I think Bernie used to approach the sport differently 10+ years ago. I think he used to have a firm grasp of how fans could interact with the sport back then, and a firm understanding of ways to generate revenue and profit while at the same time spurring excitement in the sport. But then again, he also had the safety blanket of the tobacco money –… Read more »

228929292AABBB

This may surprise you but I actually have massive sympathy for your position here Todd. You’ve clearly put a ton of work into F1 journalism and you’re gaining well deserved respect for your quality contribution. But you’re not so well established the little monster couldn’t wipe your potential for press access off the face of the earth with a flick of his wrinkled pinky after taking umbrage to a disparaging comment. That’s a tough spot. The problem is it’s essentially impossible to cover the issues in f1 at this point without criticizing Bernie. Even conservative fair outlets like the BBC… Read more »

Peter Riva

My feelings to a “t”.

Negative Camber

This has nothing to do with my position with FOM or ability to host a website. I call it like I see it and I’ve said many times, he’s no angel. He’s done an incredible job for F1 and he’s made some less than savory deals and he’s been controversial for sure. This isn’t an attempt to make people like him, it’s a post that tries to add context to his statement because I’ve seen a serious lack of that lately. Folks can continue to blame him for everything if they’d like but it’s not reality. He’s not to blame… Read more »

228929292AABBB

The article’s not about every single issue F1 has, it’s about one intentionally offensive comment that he made. It’s logical for people to blame him for the things that come out of his mouth, and when you post an editorial defending him for making the offensive comments, it’s logical for people to say you’re going out of your way to defend him. Nothing other interpretation of either action would make any sense at all.

Negative Camber

Not sure if you’ve been following F1 for a while or not but if so, you’ll recall that Mr. E is controversial and he says things for impact. That may rub some folks the wrong way and I get that but in the end, I am not defending him, he need no defense, he’s a big boy. What I am saying is that there is context for his statement, offensive or not. With Mr. E, you can gain a lot of understanding by reading between his words.

Meine Postma

Bernie opened his mouth denegrating the drivers, that will always get him negative comments from the fans, He knows that.
So: why? What is his goal?

SurveyorTom

I get your point, Todd, and agree with it to an extent. The technical correctness of the statement aside, I see it as rather tone-deaf, revealing the same condescending attitude which has been seen in the past regarding those who don’t buy Rolexes, etc. It is another way of saying, in effect, “WE care about US, and care not the least for you poor buggers who pay to put your butts in the seats, or eyeballs on the screen”

Negative Camber

I understand. I’m not trying to be obtuse here but I think sometimes its easier to simply blame Mr. E for everything when, in fact, he’s not to blame for everything. Much of what is happening now has as much to do with the teams voting and power plays as well as the FIA. I have to imagine that it is the FIA who would not allow the vote to go back to last year’s qualifying format. Honestly I would imagine Mr. E would be happy to do that and yes, he has his own ideas about reversed grids and… Read more »

Tom Firth

Per the same point Todd. It could be argued that the reason the teams have the voting control is because Mr.E allowed them, or at least he formed the Strategy group and this is the unintended consequence of doing so, that the teams voting is disrupting the running of the sport.

Negative Camber

I think that’s exactly how he feels. He even said he was the idiot that started that group. His words, not mine.

Tom Firth
SurveyorTom

Excellent point and well stated too. Sorry if I came across as too snarky or dismissive. Please understand, I am not blaming Mr E directly for the current problems. Yes, he contributed to the creation of the governing situation, but were he a dictator right now, things would be a lot different – and much better. In fact, looking at it from his point of view, I can see why he seems testy about how things are being run. Mr E was the prime mover in making the sport the international media sensation it is now, it must make him… Read more »

geeyore

From what I’ve read, ever since his close friendship with Jochen Rindt and the ensuing remorse upon the latter’s death, Bernie has taken a very distanced approach toward drivers (aside from safety and driver-health, where he’s apparently quite generous). He sees drivers come and go and succeed and fail, while at the same time seeing stalwarts like Frank Williams and Ron Dennis sticking around forever (even Eddie Jordan!). So it’s no secret where or with whom his sympathies lie. It’s the long-timers with a lifelong commitment to “the show.” As for video in the paddock, I am just going to… Read more »

MichaelB

I don’t agree with the comparison between Lewis’ Snapchat videos and the video that Todd or any other fan takes in the pit lane. The thing is, unlike a fan (or Todd) Lewis is an employee of Mercedes AMG Petronas Racing. As an employee of the team and an active participant in the sport, he’s also a representative of F1 and the FIA, which means what he films and posts is promotional for both the team and the sport. Fan recorded video – may promote the sport, but fans aren’t team or sport representatives. But the other thing, is that… Read more »

Negative Camber

You’re most likely not alone in this. Most people feel it’s no harm for Lewis to take some video in the paddock but the video is covered by FOM contract and you have to pay to take ANY video regardless of medium it’s being distributed on. I would assume just because it’s a new medium that didn’t exist, it still is disseminating video to millions and that’s against the rules.

Tom Firth

Not to mention that once it is on Snapchat or Periscope etc. Snapchat can do what they like with it, which I can’t imagine FOM would appreciate if it isn’t ‘official’

Negative Camber

That’s a great point Tom, F1 owns the rights to that video from their event, not Snapchat.

MichaelB

Except for one thing – as a team employee the rules are different. The teams have posted video from the pit lane before.

I agree that the medium the video is distributed is completely irrelevant – however as a team employee video shot by a driver (or PR person, or mechanic, or team boss) could be considered promotional of the team or sport, and thereby would fall under different rules.

Negative Camber

If the story is true, then the message delivered to Mercedes was to stop Lewis from doing so so I wonder what the agreement for the teams are and if they pay for the right to take video. It would not surprise me if the team’s marketing arms don’t have to pay for that right. I could be way off base there though.

MichaelB

That’s the big question though – is the story even true? Given that Grojean was told by FOM (I think it was FOM) to pull video that he took in the pit lane when he arrived for testing I think it’s likely a true story. It’s also possible that the teams have negotiated away this right as part of their deals with FOM – but I look at the MLB and NFL who both tightly control the broadcast rights for their sports – yet teams still shoot and distribute video taken at the ball park, on (and around) the field… Read more »

Negative Camber

Yeah, it’s one aspect of the acquisition of the commercial rights of F1 that Mr. E got…all video. They have that locked down tight. They really do. I haven’t checked the back of a NFL ticket or MLB ticket, do they have the same caveats about video taken at games?

Tom Firth

I don’t know about an NFL or MLB ticket myself but I imagine so from the amount of disclaimers about ‘this is a ESPN production for the National Football League’ etc and trademark protections, that they are pretty strong on it…

I’m not sure about other motorsport in the UK, I think its up to the venue as much as the series, as it is private property. The ticket to Silverstone WEC says on the back about video taken, etc etc, but the disclaimer is from SCL (The circuit) not the series

MichaelB

But again – there’s a difference between a fan video and video shot by a team and/or their employees and representatives.

The restrictions printed on the tickets apply to the fans only – not necessarily team and league employees…

Peter Riva

I love the concept here… with over a billion smart phones now in the world… let’s see what happens in China. I am DYING to see FOM try and tell Chinese fans (all 10 of them in the stands and “luxury boxes”) to stop video taping and posting.
Oh, and has Matt le Blanc been told by FOM to remove HIS and other celebrities video they took on the starting line?

Negative Camber

One quick note, I do appreciate the comments folks because you can clearly see here how many of you are very driver-centric. The thing about F1 is there are fans who are all about the individual drivers and there are those that are all about the team. It’s a cool feature of F1 (not that it isn’t in other sports) and it has always been that way. Believe it or not, I am the fan who likes both teams and individual drivers as well as the pundits who lead the sport. You’re absolutely right to defend the drivers but I… Read more »

SurveyorTom

Two asinine statements from the two men who got the sport into the hellish mess it is in right now. First from Bernie “What sort of interest do they have, the drivers, other than taking money out of the sport?” I dare say that, considering probably more than half the drivers in the field are paying for their seats, this is a patently idiotic statement. If every pay driver took their money out of the sport today, the next race would look like the farcical 2005 USGP. Then this howler from Todt, “With all due respect to the drivers, I’m… Read more »

Negative Camber

My hunch would be that if the current paying drivers left, there would be a phalanx of paying drivers right behind them willing to pay to drive. Senna was a paying driver. :)

Steven Boyd

The people that spoke for the drivers have been pushed out if the sport. This is what happens when you replace competent people with Yes-Men. Drivers have no one to advocate for them. Alan Parr and Gary Harstein are gone, to name 2. I guess Jules Bianchi was too greedy, in addition to unreasonable expectations concerning medical transportation and conditions for starting a race. Oh wait, he did’t complain about these things prior to the race – got on with his job, mouth shut. Bernie wants to bring the fire and brimstone and stir us up? Ok , you got… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’m not sure any of this has to do with Gary or Jules. His point is relatively clear that drivers are not heavily invested financial stakeholders in F1 and have no vote at the F1 Strategy table. He’s being cheeky for sure but that’s always been Mr. E.

Meine Postma

Time for a drivers strike… Maybe in Sochi?

PatreonPayPal
68
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x