Rascasse controversy: British Press is apparently bored

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I was reading Alan Baldwin‘s story over at Reuters and Paul Weavers story at the Guardian today about the British Press and their questioning of Michael Schumacher at a Mercedes GP press conference. I found the entire line of questioning in poor taste, tabloid in nature and actually base behavior. History will recall that Michael Schumacher took pole in his Ferrari in 2006 after parking his car at Rascasse corner impeding Renault’s Fernando Alonso on his hot lop.

We all know this and most agree that, regardless of Schumacher’s explanation, it was egregiously wrong nor very becoming of a 7-time champion. Fair enough, but that was four years ago. Schumacher is getting ready to start his 6th grand prix of the 2010 season and the press seemed intent on belaboring the issue to the point of embarrassment in my opinion.

Here is a taste of he incessant questioning about the infamous park-gate at Monaco in 2006 via Alan Baldwin’s Reuters story:

Asked by Reuters at a meeting with reporters in the Mercedes motorhome whether he now had any regrets, Schumacher politely dodged the question and said it would change nothing to delve back into the past.

Asked again by another questioner, the winner of 91 races including five in Monaco replied: “I had great fun in the race, I have to say. Coming from last and going through the field and I think I finished fifth. That was good fun.”

If Schumacher thought that was the end of the matter, he was mistaken.

Another British reporter tried a different approach: “That Saturday was one of those points in your career wasn’t it, a sort of infamous low?,” he asked.

“You made it, yes,” replied the driver, smiling. “Some of you guys,” he added with a laugh. “I mean, let’s look forward and not backwards.”

“Well, let’s look forward,” chipped in a radio reporter, also British. “If you had to get on pole here, would you do again what you did in 2006?”

“You’re boring,” answered Schumacher, this time with a wink.

The British press tried one final assault, this time with a verbal battering ram.

“They say that sorry is the hardest word. Is there any reason you are not able to say sorry for four years ago?,” enquired the man from a tabloid newspaper that fiercely defended the likes of 1996 champion Damon Hill and David Coulthard when the Britons were competing against the German.

“I think you can keep trying, absolutely, but as I said before I am not in 2006 any more,” replied Schumacher, the smile on his face wearing a little thin.

“I think there is enough said and I don’t feel I need to dig any deeper into it.”

Seriously? This is news? I understand the question about how Schumacher feels he will do this weekend or how his reverting back to the short wheelbase car will affect his performance for Monaco. I understand asking about his reflection on Spain and if he feels Mercedes GP have done enough in the development arena to warrant Nick Fry’s assertion that the world title is not out of reach yet. The question of Mercedes GP’s new air intake and does Schumacher see a safety issue as a former GPDA president. How about the question of the tire negotiations? Does Schumacher think a sole supplier is still the best solution or would he like to see a tire war? These questions make sense. But rehashing the Rascasse incident? Honestly?

It seems to me that in the presence of a vacuum, the British press still seem to pull out the tried and true Schumacher-bashing angle when more salient, pertinent and professional questioning eludes them. It’s disappointing to see them try, embarrassingly, to paint Schumacher into a corner while alienating their readers with banal, base behavior when the readers themselves have moved on.

F1 is a parochial industry and reporters are as much of the political machine as anyone else in the game and for that reason, as a site of fan opinion without a physical presence at grands prix, I would expect better perspective from professionals I’ve grown to admire over these many years. It is no wonder that neither Baldwin or Weaver mention a reporters name in their stories. Just who was perpetuating this offensive line of questioning? Like I said, it’s a parochial business but that’s fair enough. I can’t fault them for protecting their own.

I would not expect Messrs. Noble, Baldwin, Cooper, Weaver, Carey, Hamilton Roebuck et. al. to compromise their integrity for tawdry headlines or some breaking story about an “apology” or “confessional” from the German driver. F1 is chock-a-block with terrific F1 reporters. Some are absolute stalwarts in the industry and the amount of respect I have for them is immeasurable but the reason I like them so much is their integrity, insight and prose. They truly give journalism and F1 the proper respect it deserves.

Continually banging on about the Rascasse issue is nonsensical to me. I have read several interviews with Nelson Piquet Jr. and no one is hounding him about his role in crash-gate in 2008. No one is seeking further apologies or implications. I have not read many articles lately about Max Mosley where the reporters hound him for more insight to the sex-gate or sought some public atoning for his actions.

For those who are perpetuating the rift between Schumacher and the British press, let it rest. Let’s get back to real F1 coverage about the series, expectations, insight and nuance that will make this weeks Monaco Grand Prix another good race.

Thank you ~ Management

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