Racing’s Puppetmasters and Pricks

Malaysian GP Podium

Imagine going in for a regular work day, greeting your co-workers in normal fashion and having a productive day. Suddenly, at the last hour of the day, your boss phones you and says: “Give all your completed work to Steve so he can have better day than you…”. Your reaction is natural and would probably warrant some explanation — unless you work for a Formula One Team.

I am told that Team Orders do not exist, however there is too much evidence to the contrary. One team, Red Bull Racing, tells Sebastian Vettel, a 3-time World Champion, to lay back to allow Mark Weber to win the race. Vettel did not. He walked away with a victory that he would actually have to apologize for. Vettel was quoted as saying:

“I made a big mistake today and we should have stayed in the position. I messed up in that situation and took the lead from Mark and can see now he is upset. Apologies to Mark. The result is there and all I can say is that I didn’t do it deliberately.”

Weber is a great driver that represents F1 wonderfully and he should never be cheated out of a win. On the other hand, I don’t think he should be handed one either. Is it really racing if the Team Principal orders the outcome? Please, spare me the rebuttal. I heard the interviews about conserving the tires….sure (eyes rolled). Vettel is now on an All-Time wins list that includes: Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. There is no way that he (or any other driver, for that matter) should have to apologize for establishing his legacy or progressing his career.

I wish that were the only controversy of the Maylasian track. In a similar situation, Nico Rosberg was told repeatedly not to pass Lewis Hamilton, and obeyed — giving the Briton his first podium finish with his new team. The reason: an F1 technicality that requires teams to have a certain amount of fuel left in the tank so that it can be examined. Lewis’ reaction was somber:

“I don’t feel spectacular sitting here. Nico deserved to be where I am right now,”

Are you kidding me? I never heard A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti go to victory circle and then say another guy deserved it, let alone, apologize for winning the trophy. Perhaps Mercedes had to legitimize the millions spent on Lewis’ arrival and all the hoopla that went with it. What is the premier series coming to when a team can bring home a trophy, but say the wrong guy won? That’s like the Honda Accord winning Car of the Year and then getting upset because it wasn’t the Civic. Fangio would be ashamed. Bernie! Are you running a racing series or manufacturing a billion-dollar video game?

Another scenario has you playing with your sibling. In the heat of play, you get hurt. The compassion fails to kick in and your play partner expresses how, even though it’s their fault, you should know that playing with them is dangerous and that your injury is a result of something you did to them the last time you played together.

Joey Logano Denny Hamlin crash

Back on our shores, a long –standing NASCAR feud between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano has now gone from track to Twitter, to hospital. A last lap skirmish between the two for the lead led to a crash that put Hamlin head on into the wall. He would collapse after getting out of the car and would be flown to a nearby hospital. During a post-race interview, still fuming from the crash that snatched victory from his hands, Joey Logano said:

“I guess we’re even now. He’ll think twice before he does something next time.”

This is racing passion and the result of two young bucks full of ambition bumping heads. In the next few seconds, Logano would allow poison words to spew from his lips saying:

“He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets…”

Okay, that’s where I draw the line. Despite the fact that he was unaware of the impact that Hamlin faced, when you see another car fly in one direction, after making contact with you at 200+mph, refrain from vengeful comments until after you get more info on their condition. Joey had every right to be angry but his vengeful attitude effects more than just Denny: the crew, the people at the shop that meticulously put the car together, the sponsors and the fans of both drivers. I don’t know if Joey is just young and rebellious or is auditioning for the role of official NASCAR bad boy. Either way, if Tony Stewart doesn’t put a good whoopin’ on him, Denny Hamlin will. After the weekend of the Savior’s Resurrection, I await seeing the Logano beat down. We are going to Gladitorial Games of Martinsville in two weeks. “Boys, Have At It” — on and off the track!

I can certainly see where every one of these drivers has a legitimate argument for their actions. After all, Copernicus had a heck of a job proving that the earth revolved around the sun and not itself. The natural inclination of the racing driver is that everything revolves around them and every mishap is usually someone else’s fault (per Tommy Kendall’s insight). This was a confusing weekend in motorsports for me. Do I root for my driver to win or wait for the powers-that-be tell me which guy will be the winner? A final lap battle or last lap crash is fun to see, but any fan would tell you, they would rather see their guy/gal cross the finish line and not crash out just short of it. Racing is about sportsmanship. Don’t take the adrenaline or angst out of the sport, but don’t be a jerk or a push-over either. If you do, motorsports may as well be a big video game with cheat codes.

Congratulations to James Hinchcliffe, Kyles Bush and Larson and Paul McMahan….. The true victors of the weekend, showing us that it’s not all fixed.

What did you think of the drama that occurred this past weekend in motorsports? Leave a comment and let us know!


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