Premiership footballers are latest thing corrupting the nation’s youth. Apparently the sight of angry, impassioned sportsmen raging at referees over decisions that have gone against them is warping the fragile little minds of Britain’s junk food-stuffed sprogs. Some teachers and parents are even going so far as to suggest that football be screened after the watershed, where the kiddies apparently won’t see it.
Funnily enough, nobody has suggested that the more outrageous antics of leading Formula One drivers be subject to the same level of censorship. Obviously, that is because Formula One drivers long stopped misbehaving for fear of upsetting those omnipresent sponsors. Elsewhere in this week’s issue Ben Evans berates the sponsorship generation of F1 drivers for not getting involved in more other forms of motorsport. All I want is to see them have a go at each other once in a while.
We don’t want to see things start to get ugly, or even comical (remember Nelson Piquet’s celebrated karate kicks aimed at Eliseo Salazar after the hapless Salazar shunted Piquet out of the lead of the 1982 German Grand Prix?) but the last time I can remember a pair of drivers solidly squaring up to one another was Schumacher and David Coulthard at Spa in 1998. Since then we’ve had a few fiery words from Mr Montoya but that’s been about it.
It’s not as if there hasn’t been the provocation. We’ve got Bahrain coming up next and we all remember Ralf Schumacher blundering into the side of Takuma Sato last year – but no post-race punch-up. Nick Heidfeld would have been entirely justified in squaring up to Schumacher after their coming together in Australia this year. And it did briefly look like Mark Webber was going to bop Giancarlo Fisichella after the two tangled in Malaysia – but the adrenaline subsided and Mark slunk off again.
Formula One drivers have long preferred the ‘psychological’ means of inflicting damage on their opponents, but even that seems to have disappeared now that Montoya and Ralf aren’t at Williams together. Whoever is conditioning these drivers into channelling their agression into some other avenue is doing the sport a disservice: F1 is in dire need of spectacle and if it doesn’t happen on the track, as it rarely does, then the fans still want to know that the chase for victory means something to the drivers involved. No broken bottles and headlocks, but a bit of pushing and shoving and shouting wouldn’t go amiss.
OK, it’s a double-edged sword, and in a sport as professional and demanding as Formula One it’s not becoming of drivers to have them howling abuse at each other in the manner of Wayne Rooney. But F1 lacks passion at the moment, and it would do a few of the drivers a fair bit of good to give vent to their frustrations a bit more often.
After all, do we really want our kids growing up to be sullen, monosyllabic Kimi Raikkonens? I don’t think so…