I’m taking a brief break from my break because I think I can afford to now.
When I last wrote about the racism issue in F1, it was to bemoan the media’s role in fuelling the fire. If you have been reading for a while you might know of the distaste I have for some of the coverage found in F1 Racing over the past year or so.
I am not the only person to have noticed a decline in the standard of the journalism in F1 Racing. For instance, Clive has spoken about “the abandonment by the magazines of the high ground.” Alvin in the comments here has said he is currently boycotting F1 Racing.
Craig at craigblog has posted at least twice on the subject of cancelling his subscription to F1 Racing. And there are a few people in the comments saying the same thing time and again — “I have been buying F1 Racing for around ten years, but now I have to stop”.
Speaking as someone who is sitting just yards in front of a huge pile of eleven years’ worth of issues of F1 Racing, I have to say I am in the same position. This is not the result of some kind of mass internet campaign against the magazine. But I can’t help but notice for a lot of people that at some point in the past year came a few straws that broke some camels’ backs.
One particularly low point came when the editor Matt Bishop wrote a poisonous piece about Ralf Schumacher. It was little more than an excuse for “The Bish” (as no-one but Mr Bishop himself calls him) to use up four or five pages to explain how he told Ralf Schumacher to “off you fuck!”
Now, Ralf Schumacher was not the most popular driver in the paddock and you would struggle to find many fans of his. But for me, Matt Bishop’s piece was highly unprofessional, particularly for an editor as experienced as him. It was just so childish. “Ooh! Look at me! I told Ralf Schumacher to fuck off!” It’s like a small child saying, “Hahaha! I called the teacher a fanny!”
Last year there was also a heavy dose of unbearable Hamilton hype (or should that be “Lewis hype”, seeing as the whole British media is apparently on first name terms with him?). Then of course there is the fact that it is much more convenient and quicker to get all of the news on the internet rather than waiting every month for a dead tree to pop through the letter box. By the end of last year, it is fair to say that quite a lot of us were bashing The Bish.
And then The Bish left. In retrospect, that is probably why he felt free to write that terrible Ralf Schumacher article. His new job is as an apologist for Lewis Hamilton–no change there then.
But it begged the question–would F1 Racing improve again with someone else at the helm? The first couple of issues sans-Bish did not promise much. But what a pleasant surprise I had when I read this month’s editorial, written by the magazine’s deputy editor Stuart Codling.
I sorely want to quote it in full, but out of respect for the publishers I will summarise it. Mr Codling writes about how the phone was ringing off the hook after the racism story broke as radio producers went on the hunt for “experts” (those are Stuart Codling’s scare quotes, not mine). He writes about this poisonous era of 24 hour radio and television which is making coverage of anything increasingly confrontational and shrill. “Complex issues become a shouty amalgam of ‘Us’ vs Them’.”
He continues, racism does not solely exist in Spain. The aggravation that Lewis Hamilton faced was as a result of his rivalry with Fernando Alonso. As I wrote a couple of weeks back, we all know that the racists would be out in force no matter what country was involved, and British people especially are not in a position to lecture others countries on how their sport fans should behave.
Mr Codling’s next sentence is such a breath of fresh air–it actually felt like a relief to read it.
But who stoked up this grudge that has so publicly become a vehicle for xenophobia and racism? Well, we all did — both writers and readers, supply and demand.
He goes on to bemoan the goading that Alonso received from a British press eager to get an anti-Hamilton comment from the Spaniard. It has to be said, that Alonso’s behaviour in the media has been absolutely faultless, and you seldom hear him commenting on Hamilton in negative terms, and certainly not on anything other than his on-track actions. This is certainly a great deal more than can be said for Lewis Hamilton, who cannot seem to resist constantly making snide comments about Alonso.
Stuart Codling clearly has his head screwed on. He has a sense of morals, unlike most in the media. The way his editorial ends basically sums it up. Hearing that Mr Codling speaks with a modicum of balance, the radio producer ended the call “to find someone ‘better’.”
Three cheers for Stuart Codling. His behaviour was certainly much better than that of Matt Bishop. Mr Bishop had no qualms appearing on Radio 5 Live to say one of the most ridiculously overblown things I have ever heard someone say about Formula 1:
Lewis Hamilton is in the same chapter only as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher. And that’s it.
This was made after Lewis Hamilton had completed his third race. No-one has a career after three races. Not even Michael Schumacher was Michael Schumacher after his third race. To compare Lewis Hamilton with names like Ayrton Senna after just three races does justice neither to Hamilton’s talent nor Senna’s legacy. If that needs explaining, as it did for one commenter* on this blog, please read this.
So I will not be cancelling my subscription to F1 Racing just yet. Unfortunately, this month’s issue is the last of Stuart Codling’s short tenure at the helm of the magazine as Matt Bishop’s replacement has been hired. For those who are worried about the increasing tabloidisation of F1 Racing it could be bad news. The new editor is Hans Seeberg. Is that the same Hans Seeberg who has recently been deputy editor of Nuts And / Or Zoo Magazine? Oh dear…
*Quite ironic when you look back on that actually. Lawrence says that Hamilton deserves comparisons to Fangio and Senna on the basis of his drive in Fuji. Hamilton was later to be investigated for dangerously bad driving during that grand prix.