A breath of fresh air from F1 Racing

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.


  1. I agree in that I don’t want to see F1 Racing turn into Nuts overnight – but I wouldn’t make the assumption that an editor automatically carries the editorial style of his former publication with him.

    A good editor is sensitive to the interests, desires and demand of their readers and if the new hire is a good one I expect he’ll try to balance things out between the commercial demand to stick Hamilton on the cover all the time (after all, he does sell magazines) but not saturate the magazine with Hamilton the way it has been of late.

    To those who are deserting F1 Racing I’d point them in the direction of the relaunched Motorsport magazine which has returned to its original brief of covering contemporary racing as well as older stuff, and has nabbed two of Autosport’s best including Nigel Roebuck, who I interviewed the other day for my own site (sorry for the plug I just sort of wandered into it!)

  2. I must admit that I flicked through this month’s magazine in Smith’s the other day and was more impressed by it than by the issues which had preceded it.

    It wasn’t enough to tempt me back though, in fact I managed to read all I wanted to in the 10 minutes I was stood in the newsagents!

    I will keep an eye on it though, and see how it goes – if I felt it worthwhile and worth the money then I wouldn’t have anything against renewing my subscription, just not with the magazine as it is at the moment.

  3. Ahhh the 21st century! What a sad time for magazines and alikes.
    I totally agree with your opinion on the dead tree vs the internet dilema. I fill my needs of info in the internet, reading professional websites and blogs like yours. Nothing easier than a RSS feed and a little bit of time.
    While it is true that Alonso’s behaviour with the press is faultless, I think it is more because he does not like to talk much. You can’t imagine how many people here in Spain would like him to be more… “charismatic”. Anyway, I prefer his style, I am tired of Montoya and the like…

  4. But they have also obtained the services of a Mr Bradley Lord who did absolute wonders for Renault and is a man with a sensible head on his shoulders.

  5. Matt Bishop? The same Matt Bishop who has been appointed Group Head of Communications and Public Relations?……………..read spin doctor to the British Press. God Help us!! The guy gave up serious motorsport journalism several years ago, he is the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner, sucking up snipits of info from the paddock & then dumping the lot on an editorial page. I wonder how much Ron is paying him to sell his soul? May a great pox be upon his house!

  6. You have some serious hate for Lewis , he is a top level competitor in
    F1 thats it. what your real problem?