Sport that is all about passion and emotion. In Italy the country goes wild when Ferrari wins a race: church bells are rung. Prime Ministers send their congratulations to winning drivers, grandstands and spectator banks heave with flag-waving fans wearing crazy hats and sporting painted faces. It’s sweaty, its exciting and it’s fun. That is why people like doing it. In the cockpits of the F1 cars feelings have to be controlled. After the chequered flag, when the race is run, the drivers enjoy an explosion of joy and relief. Watch the TV and you can hear them screaming. It is not unusual for them to cry when it is their first win. It’s raw and powerful. It’s a big deal. And it’s great live TV. It’s way better than medal ceremonies with bouquets of flowers. Spraying champagne was something that began in 1967 when American Dan Gurney won the Le Mans 24 Hours with AJ Foyt. Gurney was handed a bottle of Moët & Chandon and sprayed it on everyone in his vicinity, in a totally spontaneous and joyous gesture. He sprayed Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby, photographers, wives, other drivers. Everyone.
“It was a very special moment at the time,” Gurney says. “I was not aware that I had started a tradition that continues in winner’s circles all over the world to this day. I was beyond caring and just got caught up in the moment. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime occasions where things turned out perfectly… I thought this hard-fought victory needed something special.”
Don’t forget that this was the 1960s when people died regularly at the wheels of racing cars. Winning was a big deal and celebrating was important. I am sure that psychologists will tell you that it was all to do with releasing tension or whatever. I don’t care, but the fact is that it is a tradition that has been going on for coming up to 50 years and it is a tradition that should be cherished. Everyone who goes up on an F1 podium knows what is going to happen. And if they don’t, then they should not be there. And people have a choice. You don’t have to become an F1 podium hostess if you do not want to be one. It’s a choice. And in making that choice you accept that you may end up being sprayed with champagne. It is much the same with grid girls. No-one forces a woman to become a grid girl. They do it from choice. And I have known quite a few racing driver’s wives over the years who started out as grid girls. It was a good career move… So, if choice is involved in the matter, the over-zealous followers of political correctness should shut up and go away. Part of the emotion of F1 is the raw and powerful celebration after the event. The kind of people who made a fuss last week about Lewis Hamilton spraying a podium hostess last week in Shanghai were either journalists desperate for any old story; or people who want to read into the celebrations things that are not there. It is got nothing to do with sexism. It has nothing to do with treating women as sex objects. That is all tosh. The people complaining and stirring up trouble are the kind of people who think that a burglar should be allowed to sue you if he trips over and breaks his ankle while stealing from your house; the kind of people who think it is right for a country to apologise for bombing another country during wartime.
“I do my talking on the track,” said Lewis Hamilton. “That has how it has been since I was eight years old. The stuff outside the car I’m not very interested in.”
“Ultimately it was a great weekend. My actions are through excitement. This is Formula 1, it’s the pinnacle of motorsport. I’d just won a Grand Prix for the team and… I usually see it as a fun thing. I would never intend to disrespect someone or try to embarrass someone like that. I don’t really know the reasons why people are starting to bring those kind of things up, but this is a sport that so many people love and the more we show character and fun, perhaps it reflects just how great this sport is. That’s what I try to do. I don’t really know what to say about it.”
Liu Siying, the 22-year-old real estate agent, told the Shanghai Daily that she was not really bothered what happened.
It’s called motor racing. Not a place for the health and safety culture that poisons so many societies today.