I have a question: Have there been any other F1 races that have been started by a politician or where politicians are allowed into the pre-podium room? I ask because I honestly cannot remember, but I don’t think it has happened apart from in Sochi last year.
This leads me to another question: What is the protocol for this happening? Let us assume, for example, that President Barack Obama happens to be in Austin, playing golf, next week. In between bunkers, he is suddenly struck by the thought that he could see a Grand Prix and get some nice propaganda shots hugging Lewis Hamilton, who is big with the youth of America because he likes hanging out with Twitter Royalty, such as Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kris, Kylie and, of course, Kendall. His staff are instructed to inform the F1 powers-that-be that he will do the driver-hugging and it would most helpful if the band played “Hail to the Chief”, the official Presidential Anthem of the United States, before he appeared on the podium itself. Can the Formula One group now turn him down? After all, Putin was allowed to do it and it would be a monstrous slur to refuse to allow that to happen. And then, of course, we have Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and the UAE President His Royal Highness Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, all of whom might like the idea as well. I would imagine also that China’s President Xi Jinping would be pretty unimpressed if he were not allowed to do the same. And how would one decide at Silverstone whether the Queen of England would get to hug Sergio Perez or whether that role would go to Prime Minister David Cameron? And then, of course, we might have problems when a similar head of state is too busy playing golf with President Obama and so decides to appoint an official driver-hugger or button-presser?
Setting mighty precedents with mighty presidents is really not a very good idea… Before you know it, the FIA President will be demanding red carpets at airports, in exchange for the driver-hugging rights in Formula 1, because it is not defined in the commercial agreements who has the right to nominate the local dignitaries. I guess it would end up like the single supplier rules, which have the federation nominate the choices, the commercial rights holder agrees the terms and then the FIA makes the official announcement (not to be mistaken for the decision). I wonder too if Bernie Ecclestone would have the cojones to tell the monarchs of the world that the right to hug the drivers costs X million… and whether they would simply resort to that celebrated royal phrase from Alice in Wonderland: “Off with his head!”