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An Open Letter to F1 Fans

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On: Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 2:08PM | By: Nick Bakewell

An Open Letter to F1 Fans

I want to discuss sportsmanship; not among sportsmen themselves, but among the fans.  Colloquially, this is also known as “being a decent human being”. Sebastian Vettel has just achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Formula One world championship four times in a row; which puts him in a very exclusive club. So exclusive, in fact, that he numbers among just three others, all of whom firmly sit in the pantheon of All Time Greats. You can’t be the best in the world at something four years straight and not be one of the most highly regarded in your field. Or so it should be.

Alas, then, that your typical F1 fan is so fickle. I admit, I’m guilty of this as well: I’ve spewed my fair share of Vettel-hate. He’s done enough to deserve it, the pass on Mark Webber in Malaysia earlier this year, his fits of poutiness and petulance, that stupid finger. But one thing you cannot fault him for is winning. He wins because, yes, he has the best car, but also because he’s the best driver on the grid. Hamilton may be faster over a single lap, Alonso may be craftier, but given all the factors, the confluence of circumstances and regulations that make up this (and the preceding three) seasons, Vettel is the best at F1 the way it is now. Just as Schumacher was the best a few years ago, and Senna was the best in the late 80’s/early 90’s. There’s no comparing any of them because the sport was so fundamentally different in all those different periods. Well, there’s one, and look at it: Schumacher was on the grid with Vettel, and he lost, badly.

So it’s because of this that I can’t abide the way people are expressing their feelings towards his continued dominance. It’s one thing to grumble, to moan that the sport is boring, to whine that your favorite team isn’t winning, to feel the gut-slug of disappointment at seeing the McLarens fail to make it out of Q2 again. But it’s not okay to boo Vettel when he stands on the podium. That’s never okay. There is neither logos nor ethos in disliking someone for being good at something, and it’s even worse to condemn someone for being the best at something. He’s worked harder than you ever have to get where he is, and he keeps working that hard every day to stay there.

I’m not defending him as a person; I have no idea what he’s like, personally. People say he’s polite and has a good sense of humor. He sounds like a nice guy. But that’s not the point: the point is that if someone booed at you every time you did something you were proud of, how would you feel?

Knock it off, guys. The sport has enough problems already without the fans making it worse.


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