Debacle seems an appropriate choice of expression for the Vettel/Karthikeyan saga that’s been raging over the past couple of weeks. What initially appeared to be nothing more than a racing incident has exploded across the F1 community and press; with Twitter feeds in particular lighting up with divided opinions.
So where do I stand?!
The FIA have reproached Narain Karthikeyan as the guilty party, giving him a 20 second penalty, but would it have been a different story had they been racing for places? As it was, Sebastian Vettel was lapping Karthikeyan and as such, Narain was obliged to get out of this way. Perhaps the stewards felt Karthikeyan did not take sufficient avoiding action and that’s why they punished him. I think had they been racing for a place the stewards would have ruled it to be a racing incident, but as that was not the case, I think they felt the need to punish Karthikeyan. Whether that decision was right or wrong is not a debate I wish to wade in on, but what happened after the race is a different story.
Vettel was caught on camera showing Karthikeyan his middle finger shortly after the incident and in his post-race interview went on to call Narain an “idiot”. Karthikeyan responded by calling Vettel a “cry baby” and “unprofessional”. Was this a naive dig at a fellow driver or simply post-race adrenaline-fueled frustration? I’m inclined to think it was a bit of both.
Racing drivers depend on adrenaline to get them through a race and give them the courage to make those overtaking manoeuvres that leave many spectators peering through the cracks of their fingers. So it’s probably fair to assume that during the intensity of the race and shortly thereafter, things are said and done that in the light of day would be thought better of. This particular incident would appear to be a classic example of this.
I also believe it’s difficult to judge Sebastian for his actions when you’re not in his position. I have, on many an occasion lost my temper and said things that I ultimately regret. The advantage I have is that these outbursts are not captured live on television and shared with millions of people. As such, you could argue that Sebastian should be more mindful of the situation and choose his words more wisely, but when you feel vindicated it’s easy to get carried away.
I think it’s also worth noting that plenty of his peers have behaved similarly (Alonso vs Hamilton for example); perhaps this incident has grabbed the headlines because it’s more unusual to see this kind of behaviour from Vettel? Notwithstanding the ‘minor incident’ and resulting feud involving Vettel and Webber in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix…
I’ve read through several opinion pieces on this subject, the majority seem to feel that Karthikeyan’s punishment was overly harsh and that Vettel’s comments and actions were a naive and immature response. However, when passing judgement it’s very easy to forget that Sebastian Vettel is only 24 years old. Regardless of his performance last season and in 2010, he is still very young and possibly lacks the years of experience to be able to maturely handle a situation like this. Time will tell whether his foolish remarks will come back to haunt him. But I’m sure he will learn from this experience and will be back to his usual self at the next race meeting in China.
Whatever the final outcome, this situation has raised a few eyebrows and called into question the way drivers handle themselves in media spotlight. But when all’s said and done these guys are racing drivers not diplomats.