For me, the worst aspect of this Formula 1 season has been the hopelessly biased media reporting. I have railed against the British media’s love affair with Lewis Hamilton many times. But it is worth pointing out that, if anything, the Spanish media are probably even worse when it comes to Fernando Alonso.
Let us not forget that
before Alonso burst onto the scene, Formula 1 was not even televised in Spain! () At least prior to Hamilton F1 was a regular fixture on British television screens. So it should be no surprise that some Spaniards are pretty rabid Alonso fans. This has led to some rather colourful goings-on on the internet.
One of the strangest was the mass invasion of nationalist Spaniards on Ed Gorman’s rather good blog for Times Online. The rabid one-sidedness of the Spanish commenters was quite a sight to behold, and it became all the more entertaining when they began to adopt Anglophone names in a bid to disguise their favouritism.
I suppose it is always possible that someone called George posting on the internet can have terrible English. Have Your Say is testament to this. But seeing Victor screaming to Ed Gorman, “I WANT TO SEE THE EVIDENCES!! GIVE TO ME THE EVIDENCES!!” doesn’t quite convince.
Of course, Ed Gorman did not help himself much by being so blatantly biased (in the opposite direction) himself. And this is the very problem. The British media talks through its arse on one end, and the Spanish media talks through its arse on the opposite end. It is no wonder that different groups of people have ended up with such radically differing views as to what has happened during the season.
In Britain, Fernando Alonso is viewed as a moaner, while Hamilton’s own moans (post-Monaco and post-Belgium) have been downplayed. While Alonso’s comments about not getting equal treatment at McLaren have often crossed over into the realms of the ridiculous, let us not forget that Hamilton was the first to run crying to the media about his treatment at McLaren following the Monaco Grand Prix, long before Alonso hinted at any such levels of discontent.
Meanwhile, in Spain, this season has been viewed as one massive conspiracy against Fernando Alonso. As Keith Collantine notes, the claims are easily debunked.
Why would McLaren want to sabotage the efforts of their own driver? Moreover, why would they go out of their way to upset him when he is a double World Champion? If McLaren were acting in their own self-interest to sabotage the season, it’s not exactly worked out well for them, has it? This season has been one long PR disaster for the team.
This is why I have such a short fuse when it comes to nationalistic sports coverage. I suppose being a Scot I am naturally wired up to have a sensitive bullshit detector when it comes to nationalistic sports coverage. But while for most of my compatriots it stops at pro-English bias in sports commentary, I find myself equally exasperated by all biased commentary — pro-Scottish, pro-British, pro-Spanish, pro-whatever.
Part of me really hopes that Lewis Hamilton fails to win the Championship today just to burst the ridiculous bubble that the British media has blown up. The ridiculous “weekend of British
supremacy ” was already dealt a blow yesterday with England’s failure in the Rugby World Cup. With all eyes on Lewis Hamilton today, I really hope the media ends up with egg on its face.
The bias exists in team sports as well. Holyrood Watcher wrote about it today in relation to the rugby. But at least I can understand it with team sports. International rugby is one sport where a team is set up specifically to represent a country.
Formula 1 is a team sport — but the teams do not represent countries. It is also an individual sport, and in no way does it make sense to constantly make references to “Britain’s Lewis Hamilton” or “Spain’s Fernando Alonso” as though their nationality made a blind bit of difference to anything. You might as well talk about “blond Kimi Räikkönen” or “the right-handed Felipe Massa”.
Because you can bet your bottom dollar that Lewis Hamilton doesn’t want to be World Champion “for Britain”. He wants to be World Champion for himself. For an explanation, I wrote here about sportsmen and nationality some months ago.
The recent obsession with F1 drivers’ nationalities particularly saddens me because every single one of the drivers who will be racing at Interlagos this afternoon is an absolute hero. They all do extraordinary things, putting their lives on the line. I can never get my head round how these drivers can travel at 200+ mph, routinely experiencing forces of 5+ gs, yet still manage to hit the apex of a corner, inch-perfect, and complete lap times consistent to a couple of tenths of a second.
It astonishes me. These drivers are super-human. Extraordinary achievements are being made routine. Yet, what is the media coverage reduced to? “Let’s support Lewis Hamilton because he’s British, and let’s throw stones at Alonso because he’s foreign.” It sickens me. To do certain drivers down because of where they happen to come from, when they are every bit as much of a hero, is just not on.
The media’s fixation with nationalities offends me. To me, “Britain’s Lewis Hamilton” (as the media apparently has to call him, by law) does not exist. Nor does “Spain’s Fernando Alonso”, “Finland’s Kimi Räikkönen” or even “Japan’s Sakon Yamamoto”. They are Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen and Sakon Yamamoto: extraordinary, super-human, heroic motor racing drivers. Every single one of them. No matter where they came from.