Waffle and wadding in F1

It never ceases to amaze me how inventive people are when it comes to writing “news stories” about Formula 1, or rather writing “non-news stories”. One site, I see, has written around 10 stories from the Pirelli wet tyre test at Paul Ricard, an event that had absolutely no value at all to anyone other than Pirelli. There were, of course, all the usual “he said”, “she said” stuff and in-depth analysis about sprinklers and water in the Var département and how it was all magnificently recycled, but it meant nothing for F1 and as such was not news. The fact that Dan Ricciardo is happy to be back in an F1 car after the holidays is not going to stop the presses, even in Marangaroo, although I guess the parish newsletter might have a bit of space available, after reports on the jam contest at the church bazaar.

Headlines like “Vettel focused on title, not opening race” are so nebulous that come February 28, I would’t be surprised if some white person at the Academy Awards doesn’t open an envelope and announce “And the award for stating the obvious goes to…”

And don’t even start me on the headline “Massa announces Pato to Chelsea”.

I read with wonderment this morning that Michael Schumacher’s kid Mick is going to race in India. So what? The guy finished 10th in the German Formula 4 Championship last year. That means that there are at least nine people who are probably better drivers than he is. He has always had very good material because he has a shed-load of money behind him and his famous name is the only thing that puts him the news. One of the nine, by the way, did only eight of the 24 races… Surely, should we not care more about David Beckmann or Robert Shwartzman (although I am not sure he’d be allowed into the Oscars) or maybe even Marvin Dienst, who won the German Formula 4 title, scoring three times as many points as Schumi The Follow Up II? And what about Joseph Mawson? Now there’s a story: he’s a Sydneysider, with Peruvian antecedents, who races (pretty well) in Germany (eh?). My view is that we should leave poor Mick alone and let him make up his mind about being a racing driver, before talking him into something he isn’t.

Herr Dienst, by the way, translates as Mr Service and he comes from the city of Worms in Germany, just up the road from Vettel’s home town of Heppenheim. Worms is a place that every schoolboy in the world should know, because it used to play host to the German Imperial assembly, known as The Diet, and hence was famous for the Diet of Worms, which sounds truly disgusting, but made me laugh when I was 11.

That is way more interesting than Mick Schumacher’s visit to India…

The F1 crash-tests are a similar story. If a team passes a crash-test, it is not news. That is what they are supposed to do, and it is only news if they fail to do it. Similarly, do we really care about what people who didn’t quite make it F1 think about the sport? Isn’t it obvious that they will try to sound like they don’t have a chip on their shoulders when clearly they do? There is so much clutter out there, it is a wonder that anyone ever finds any real news. The “what if” stories are also just a waste of time. What if Hamilton had joined Red Bull. Who cares? He didn’t. It’s utterly irrelevant to discuss it any further.

Today, the F1 websites are a shapeless jumble of content, elbowing one another for space. The job of a journalist is supposed to be to find some structure in this chaos, not make it worse. What is news? It’s not complicated. Is it new? Is it interesting? Is it unusual?  Is it significant? Are people affected by it? If it is not new, it is not news.

Ordinary things (like crash tests) are not news. “Man goes to work” does not make headlines, although if the man is 95 and riding a pogo stick, it is news because it is unusual.

You know what they say: “Dog bites man” is not news, but “Man bites dog” very definitely is, except in Korea, where it is only news if the dog is uncooked.

Similarly, things are significant, based on who does them. If, for example, the Minister of Health says that we should all eat pork pies every day, that is news. If Donald Mackenzie of CVC Capital Partners says the same thing, we will all think he’s gone bonkers, unless he just bought a pig farm and is trying to get his proverbial snout into the trough.

The rest is just filler, endless word wadding to fill the gaps between the virtual ears of F1 websites that don’t know any better. The problem is that we are now all conditioned to expect this dross, like Pavlovian dogs who see a laboratory assistant and start to salivate, assuming that food in on the way.

Only salivate when you see the meat…


86 thoughts on “Waffle and wadding in F1

  1. Keep the faith at your end. There is content everywhere but no one has time to read all of it. The dross dies on the vine. Roll on proper testing – we’re ready for real news now.

    1. Even “proper testing” can be incomplete, misleading and just a litany of “we’re looking forward to Melbourne” sound-bites. The real news happens around the races, and allied activities that actually affect who is driving what where, not who might or might not be driving some fictional wunder-car next year.

  2. Just read some “news” that Paul Ricard “would consider” having a Grand Prix…

    Now, if only it was owned by someone who proclaims passion for the sport, has piles of cash lying around so obviously wouldn’t need to rely on government to fund it, and who knows something about negotiating with the sports commercial rights holders so could make sure it was done in a way that allowed the circuit to make a profit.

    1. Last time I checked it was run by a trust fund belonging to the Ecclestone Family. This is entirely independent of Bernie Ecclestone.

      1. “This is entirely independent of Bernie Ecclestone.”

        and I have a nice bridge for sale if you’re interested.

    2. That and it’s a pleasant but not exactly rapid drive to get to it from anywhere useful. 100,000 fans trying to get there on a Sunday doesn’t seem feasible in my experience.

      1. Jem’s ‘100,000 fans’ reminded me of the rumour, some years ago, that BCE was interested in a VIP only GP at Paul Ricard, with no facilities for the hoi polloi to inflict themselves on the occasion, other than via TV. Joe, do you believe there was any substance to that story?

        Since a plank of his business model includes collecting money from promoters/track owners for the privilege of running an F1 race, one wonders how attractive to the Bambino Trust it might be to hold a race at Paul Ricard.

        1. It seems that the suggestion came from the fact that Paul Ricard, being mainly used just as a test facility now, has very few facilities for spectators (I believe it is officially limited to 15,000).

          It therefore seems that the proposal, if it was true, was based on the fact that, since they could only have sold a small number of tickets anyway, they therefore needed to maximise the potential revenue from each ticket.

  3. The conversations I am having with other F1 colleagues currently are along the same lines as this. The problem is the shear lack of news from F1 this particular winter. It is a shame that this is the case as the sport completely falls off the radar of the normal / casual fan in these instances. The very fact that in the UK the sport has moved to Channel 4 also, means that it is becoming even further out of reach for those to just stumble over the sport.

    The Premier League is genius in a way. It created these “transfer windows” where the summer one is great for keeping the sport in the headlines in the summer months – as are the every fourth yearly tournaments.

    F1 needs to be clever and create some kind of show during the winter to keep the interest up. To create opportunities for tracks to sell more tickets, for merchandisers to sell more chuff, etc, oh and importantly for the sponsors to be able to justifiably activate through this period, rather than simply having to write them off as dead months or planning for the new season.

    So maybe the story here is not the childish level of journalism that is currently going on from the likes of our yellow mast headed website friends in America, but actually the fact that FOM / F1 is simply producing nothing noteworthy. Now that is worrying to me and others in the industry. The very fact that there is literally nothing to talk about….

    We’re doomed I tell you… Doomed. (to be read in the Dad’s Army voice)

      1. Will Buxton, and probably others (perhaps even you, Joe, but I can’t recall.) have astutely suggested formalizing all the new car launches into one combined event. In terms of creating legitimate news in the off season and getting fans excited about the upcoming season, methinks that would be a brilliant place to start.

        1. I don’t see the teams doing that. Maybe a kind of NASCAR style Media Week, but then what about Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Sauber…?

        2. I remember car launches being much more exciting, with dates announced well in advance. I can’t even find a launch calendar for this year and they must be less than a month away. I assume most are just showing up to Barcelona and will remove a tarp outside of the garage. The one that really stands out in my mind is McLaren/Vodafone 2011 (I think), where different crew members were traveling with parts of the car, showed up and assembled it on the spot in public! That was really fun to watch live.

          1. There was one year where Mercedes (I think) or Red Bull launched the car in Potsdamer Platz by putting it together piece by piece there. The reasons why the teams are just doing it at the first test in Barcelona is to keep their cars and the technology a secret for as long as possible, to work on the cars as long as possible before the test, and to save money.

              1. Yes, that’s the launch I was talking about. McLaren, 2011. There were cameras following the different crew members using public transit, all had different parts of the car with them. I see both McLaren and Ferrari are having live streaming launches this year. Looks like the rest will just show up to the track.

  4. Great post Joe, you made my smile 🙂 and you are totally correct.

    Most of that type of stories I would never read, I limit myself to visiting very few F1 websites these days….

  5. One of the finest articles about ‘nothing’ that I’ve read for a good while.

    Nevertheless, one thing that emerged from the tyre test is that Ferrari are somewhat unimpressed with the new Pirelli wets and preferred last year’s.
    Not massive news, but maybe the harbinger of a controversy down the line???

      1. Perhaps in this case being an American has left me in the dark regarding the level of nonsense one may read in Europe but I don’t get it. IMO I just read a rant complaining about nothing of significance written by others. Did this not just highlight their work?
        Also isn’t this just a re-occurring theme by our host? After a while this theme becomes white noise IMO.

      2. Isn’t this what testing is all about? Not every test gives positive results and even when things go wrong teams generally learn something.

  6. I know exactly what you mean.

    This morning’s Guardian online sports page (please don’t run away) had the following headline:

    “Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fastest at F1’s wet tyre test for Pirelli”.

    Now apart from the fact that who was fastest entirely misses the point, to compound it, it transpired that only 3 teams took part: Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, plus the test was called for by Pirelli, plus it was in a 2015 car.

    Now I’m always on the lookout for F1 news, but this one made me scream in my head, in a Dave Gorman fashion: “Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!”

    Honestly, bottom feeding is not even the word for it. I think it’s sunk even lower than that now. If that were possible.

  7. The crash test updates are almost anti-news enough to be worth reporting, just in the sense of being faintly aware that the chance of a failure has been eliminated. A crash test passed in early January is at least a sign that a team is more or less on track and not struggling to get to the first race.

    Do any of the F1 sites offer a simple (and continually updated) rundown by team of things like crash test status, car test status, driver line-up announced, etc. in the run up to the season?

    A bit early really, I suppose.

  8. Isn’t it about demand and supply. Right now there would be room for some more F1 product, since what ever is served seems to be eaten. Recall a quoted red ex mgr saying something about the product going quite for too long in periods. Nonsens news being a symtom, a problem to be fixed or exploited. Thanks for entertaining.

  9. Nice one Joe. This is just like the 24/7 tv news channels.Endlessly reporting the same old trivial story and trying to make sound as important as the end of world just because they have all that time to fill, and ratings to achieve.

  10. Oh you are so right! It’s like the magazines who run the we are doing this and that ….subject to securing budget – never to be heard of again ; or go on to run up debts with teams stupid enough to cling to the PR. However ; Joe ; your ” great” clear distain of certain websites is clear , you do not have to cheapen yourself by giving them the oxygen of publicity! Keep up the good work!

  11. I don’t miss the ‘Winter GP’ era where we had these great stories on many .com sites of say a Prost going 3 seconds faster than a Ferrari in testing. Many of these so called web reporters of course failed to tell the reader that the ‘winners’ of these test sessions had no technical inspection to go through or were running on an amount of fuel that would just about fill a tea cup. It wasn’t journalism – it was an arm around the shoulder and a promise of an interview for Monaco that you can go back and tell your website owner about and the great need to be at that event – as long as your story about these great lap times is front and center…

    Of course the terrible first race performance of the year down under is buried or not mentioned, least the editor/owner question the point of the expense of a Monaco GP visit for a back of the grid team…

        1. 519vdb – how do you equate racism with the act of eating dog? After being in Korea for decades, I am not offended by others saying they like 개고기 (dog meat). It’s their culture, and is thousands of years old.
          But it is odd to others, and is slowly but surely becoming unacceptable here.
          Four ‘dog meat’ restaurants that have opened in my town in the last few years all went out of business rather quickly.
          Joe’s comment was very clever and downright funny.
          (I warned you, Joe!)

  12. Just to play Devil’s Advocate: Passing a crash test can be significant under certain limited standards (which probably doesn’t apply to the stories you cite, but could in the general case). For example, if a car has repeatedly failed its crash tests previously, significantly delaying it’s readiness, that’s newsworthy. If the test was significantly earlier than that of the competition, that could also be newsworthy.

  13. Joe,
    As usual your rants against the mediocrity of the F1 media are delightful and a humorous way to start the day, thanks.

  14. This situation is unfortunately a by product of the modern IT media driven 24/7 rolling news….useful sometimes, but mostly not!

    Back in the Dinosaur Friendly days of my youth, in January, we motorsport fans would be doing things such as….considering the Racing Car Show, looking forward to the Daytona 24 Hours, where the cream of European sportscar teams would be battling some great locals….usually with the likes of Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue & an Unser or two involved….
    We would have the Monte Carlo Rally to think on, possibly the Argentine Grand Prix or South African Grand Prix, an F2 series in South America and the Springbok Sportscar series in South Africa….oh, and the Tasman series in Aus/NZ…..
    So, motorsport was buzzing for us….now?? Well, we have Non News about F1 and this week we had the Monte, but that’s it really……is it any wonder that motorsports are not getting the public interested now?
    A wide based sport works better for all than just 2 or 3 series and that’s your lot….personal opinion.

  15. Part of the problem surely is there is not much going on to write about! I think that if each team, the FIA and FOM would put 1-5% of their budgets towards marketing efforts that are aimed at engaging fans, there would be way more interest on the one hand and more stuff to write about that is not made up, dull, uninteresting etc. that would mean more income for teams so a totally justifiable investment. It all goes back to problem number 1, the sport is run by (rich) amateurs.

  16. “Most people are unable to write because they are unable to think. And, they are unable to think because they congenitally lack the equipment to do so.”
    – H.L. Mencken

  17. Wait, so the health minister didn’t say we should eat pork pies everyday? Goddamn it, Joe, for a second there I thought I’d been living the perfect life. Ah, well, too late to change course now. I’ll just have to hope the world comes around to my way of thinking. My delicious, crusty, spicy way of thinking.

  18. In the US the so called press just reports on politics, specially, making sure the liberals win. Pure rubbish. That is why I enjoy reading your articles Joe. Pure journalism the way it should be. BTW: Koreans, along with many Asian countries ate dog when food was in short to nonexistent. Now Korean and their neighbors eat at Mickey D’s and doing Starbucks, plus have dogs as pets. Its called moving up in the world.

  19. Bravo!

    And this line: “Surely, should we not care more about …. Robert Shwartzman (although I am not sure he’d be allowed into the Oscars)” is sheer brilliance.


  20. I guess the risk is that if you chose to offer no new content at all, your visitor numbers drop. Hence a website culture of ‘something is better than nothing’. The discerning fan still knows what the real news is though, and where to get something of substance.

      1. Interesting point Joe. A friend of mine has a specific type of food restaurant that is very well known and rightly regarded as excellent. He has told me at various times that it is easy to retain custom if your food quality is good. It is also, so he says, easy to retain custom if your food quality is pretty dire, but what is not possible is to keep a food business going if the quality goes up and down a lot each week….people will always buy good meals, and apparently they will happily buy crap meals, but what they won’t tolerate is having a good meal this week and a lousy one next week!

  21. The bullshit wagon modus operandi of F1… only to be expected these days. The only thing interesting and worthwhile about it is Joe

  22. I haven’t seen any of these “stories”. Having read enough of your “bottom feeder” comments in the past I usually only ready our blog for F1. Last year I went to James Allen a couple of times to get another perspective on a particular story, this year I haven’t and shan’t be bothering. I do check into the Peter Windsor site every four months or so to see if he has updated it, but not for F1 news, just his prose and recollections.

    This time of the year I am happy to be reading less about driversbut enjoy your blogs, quizzes, financial/political reporting and general preseason discussion, of course if you have driver news I will read it, but I can wait till the racing begins before caring too much about Vettel/Hamilton/Alonso said/did/think. In general I still treat January as downtime. btw – cheers on being in the “like” camp for Vegemite.

  23. The joke about “Man bites dog” (in Korea) cracks me up! You have to live here to really understand…
    Expect to be flamed by ‘netizens’ soon. Hahaha

  24. Joe
    You are so right in this.
    And also big thanks, you made me laugh so loud that my wife asked what was happening. I just told her that it was about a guy who bought a pig farm and also bites a dog.!!!

  25. Mr. Saward’s reference to Korea wasn’t “racism”, it was the thought of a bigot that should have known better, esp. in this century.

    1. It is a fact that Koreans eat dog. Others do too but are less well known for it. It is not racism, not bigotry. It is fact. And anyone would wants to dispute that fact is ignorant. If you’re going to throw words at people, learn what they mean.

      1. A nephew went to live in S Korea, to work as a teacher, and got himself a S Korean girlfriend. He told me they went for a meal and obviously he wasn’t sure of what he was eating, as he didn’t understand the language and there was no translation for the menu. Anyway his new girlfriend ordered for them, and her english was limited, so they are busy chewing the starter and he asked what it was, as he said it was very nice……she had trouble conveying to him what it was, but eventually he worked out that it was a cow’s arsehole in batter….with salad…..and not an unusual menu item….i like the cultural difference in foods around the world…but dog would not attract me especially as we have three.

    2. Dave – odd that I wasn’t offended, isn’t it? I guess that you don’t live in Korea, nor know much about it here.
      Joe’s quip was brilliant.

    3. Well done, Dave. If it weren’t for people like you, being offended on behalf of people you do not know or even care about, where would we be? Or more to the point, where would you be, Dave? What would you do all day?

  26. That’s so crazy. I’ve been so annoyed with GP’s idiotic headlines I was going to bring it up totally off topic. Their worst nebulous non-stories are the “Driver X Says X Driver is F1’s Best Driver” and “X Driver Tips Alonso For a Better Season.” Obviously Alonso is going to have a better season…up from what zero points?!

  27. There was no real suspense and drama to end the season in F1. The championships that been decided and the season ended quietly. It’s looking like Mercedes will dominate again so the suspense is where the other teams will finish.

    I personally hope that Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull, etc. are able to be more competitive so that the championships aren’t decided before the last GP and there is some carry over buzz into the off season.

    The Premier League keeps itself in people’s thoughts because of the teams’ online presence, transfer speculation/deals, etc. Until F1 gets a bigger online presence where fans can interact with the teams (and not feel like they’re watching constant promotions for the manufacturer’s road car products), consume F1’s product (i.e.: GPs-historic and newer, F1 themed shows and segments, etc) any time that they want, etc. so that F1 is part of their thoughts year round like soccer/football, it will have quiet periods.

  28. Hi Joe, actually this post is not news either. Regular readers know what you think about thos websites and/or journalists. As I am a great fan of yours and actually one of only two good sources for F1 news (the other being Autosport), the best thing is to keep your level as high as you can.

    As this is a blog it is even better than news, because when it matters you give your insights which gives us extra stuff to think about.

    Apart from the races themselves I cannot wait for your notebook blog. That alone makes your blog twice as good!

    1. Accuse me of whatever you wish, but as you yourself point out, a blog is not a news source. If readers want to learn the finer points of Internet definitions, use Google or the second paragraph of this blog’s rules. So it is right that this post is not news, but wrong to think it should be. This is not a news website. It’s my opinion on stuff. Tomorrow, I might write about Japanese daikon or French taxi drivers (or selfish reactionary wankers, come to that). I am not bound to stay on F1… It is the art of the column writer, in an e-format, which means we save trees so that the nasty people have something left to cut down…

  29. Canadian local newspaper Battleford News-Optimist ran a front page editorial this week, which started with the words “To be truthful, there isn’t really anything happening in the news this week”. (Google the newspaper name for images). Some F1 websites should follow the example.

  30. “Worms is a place that every schoolboy in the world should know, because it used to play host to the German Imperial assembly, known as The Diet, and hence was famous for the Diet of Worms, which sounds truly disgusting, but made me laugh when I was 11.”

    I am more than cheered by the fact that you did chuckle at that fact; back then and hopefully now still.

  31. I used to be a regular reader of Autosport magazine in the UK. However, the magazine the has in my view gone down hill quite a lot. For a so called specialist genre magazine, it far too casual and superficial these days. There is no real in depth analysis, insight or opinion. I get the strong impression that the Autosport journalists are too cosy to the drivers, team principals etc because they never say anything controversial. I am also fed up with the extremely annoying and lazy articles on “Why so and so?”. For example, the latest two of these types on the Autosport online website are titled “Why the F1 regulations meeting will be messy?” and “Was Maldonado poised for a breakthrough year?” What the heck is the point of writing these? Its conjecture and there is little actually reporting. That’s Autosport. That’s also why I come to Joe’s blogg and follow the likes of Nigel Roebuck in Motorsport. Proper F1 journalism.

    1. The world has changed… but Autosport should be a specialist publication and today it is written as though it was a red top newspaper. In my opinion that is a mistake. Still, the readers get what they want.

  32. Your comments on Schumacher junior make interesting reading. First let’s not forget that Damon Hill’s son walked away half way through a promising F3 season, preferring to go back to his drum kit. I have no idea how good or mediocre Mick Junior is, but I do know that drivers improve (or not) at different rates. It might be a little to early to judge him.

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