F1 and Nationalism

haas

Despite the potential ramifications that Haas F1’s arrival has on our beloved team,  we are pleased they are on the grid.  We are fans of the sport first and foremost and the more teams there are on the grid the better.

A lot of people complained about the presence of Virgin, Caterham and HRT because they were so far off the pace but it is worth nothing that those teams have given debuts to talents such as Daniel Riccardio, Jules Bianchi and now Pascal Wehrlein. They also provided homes for solid drivers such as Timo Glock and  Heikki Kovalinen who should never have been allowed to fall off the grid at the time.

Given that Gene Haas has a proven record in successfully running motor-sports teams it was a no brainer that they should be on the F1 grid.  We are also in favor of the model in which they have used to make the grid.   However, there is something that annoys us about them.  It’s the whole ‘Team America’ aspect of it all.

One of the reasons F1 is sport I care most about is the lack of nationalism that it displays.   It’s a multi-national sport which travels round the world and it does not matter where you are from as long as you have a proven talent.    Sure fans tend to rally round their home country hero, but it’s no big deal if they don’t. Fans all round the world go crazy for drivers who are not fellow nationals.

Personally,  We’ve never cared where a driver is from.  We have our favorites’ like everyone else but that is purely based on personality and occasionally skill.    Our country has produced three F1 drivers in the 20 odd years we have watched the sport and never once was one of them our favorites.  We are actually from the same town as one of them and roughly the same age group and I really could not care less about him and we saw the same negatives in him that it seems everyone else did.

It’s not that we don’t understand nationalism and really do not see anything wrong with having some pride in your country of birth.   Civic nationalism for example is also something entrenched in our political views. But,  ethnic nationalism which defines people by their ethnicity is something that has zero appeal to us, particularly in a sporting sense.

We considered tackling this subject before when we encountered British fans online who to put it very bluntly were extremely xenophobic in their views of a certain  F1 driver who took the place of British driver.  At the time, we felt it was unfair to tar everyone with the same brush and just left it but the subject has again been in our heads post Melbourne with the constant ‘Team America’ references and the amount of Tweets we received regarding the Indonesian Flag being absent behind the TV graphic of Rio Haryanto on the grid line up.

So let’s tackle ‘Team America’ first.  Gene Haas is most definitely American.  That we will give him.    But Stephen Fitzpatrick is Irish and that does not make Manor an Irish team.  Vijay Mallya is Indian, he owns a team called Force India and if they ever did win a race it would be the Indian national anthem that is played but no one can seriously tell me they consider Force India an Indian team.   It’s a marketing gimmick and that is how ‘Team America’ should be treated.

They are based in Charlotte but also have a base in Banbury (we don’t want to talk about it) So they are ‘Team Anglo-America’ surely?  Their car was designed in Italy, it is powered by an Italian engine and driven by a Frenchman and Mexican.

Surely if they were truly ‘Team America’ it would all be done in their Charlotte, powered by an American manufacturer and driven by Alexander Rossi who for our money is a better prospect than Esteban Gutierrez.    Why didn’t this proud American team pick a young exciting American prospect with F1 experience?

The whole team nationality thing is a mystery to us.  We’d like to see the national anthem done away with full stop at the end of the race.    Hearing the German national anthem time after time for a car built in England and run by two Austrians is just silly to us.    F1 is not involved in a proxy war between countries in 22 different places.   For us F1 transcends borders and it is one of the reasons it appeals to us.

Come to think about it, we’d do away with the national anthem for the winning driver also.   Take the winner of the Australian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg.   His father is Finnish, his mother is German and he was brought up in Monaco where he still resides today.

Don’t get us started on drivers who live as tax-exiles!  All very happy to wave the flag but contribute little of their vast wealth to the betterment of their country.  All we will say is that we used to love it when Mark Webber won the British Grand Prix as he was the only British tax payer on the grid!

On Monday morning our Twitter timeline was filled with tweets from Indonesians angry that the FOM TV graphics failed to include an Indonesian flag behind Rio Haryanto on the pre-race grid lay out.    We are sure it was purely an oversight and we are confident that it was not meant to disrespect anyone and we are sure it will be resolved in time for Bahrain.

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We’ll try and be as sensitive as we can about it this,  it’s really nothing to get angry about.  If you’d had asked us do they even show the flags behind the drivers on the TV visual we  would not have put my mortgage on the answer being yes.   We’ve never taken any notice of it before Sunday.  We’re interested in the person, not the country they are from.   Everyone who watches F1 knows Rio Haryanto is from Indonesia.  They don’t need a graphic to remind them.

We are sure Rio Haryanto is extremely proud to be the first Indonesian driver in F1 and we know for sure that his Indonesian fans share that pride but Haryanto drivers for a) himself first and foremost  b) Manor Race Team.   No points or money is given to Indonesia for Rio Haryanto being a success.

If we had ever been lucky enough to win a F1 race we would have had to stand under a flag we don’t believe in then listen to a dirge of an anthem about a person we don’t believe in, saving a privileged un-elected official.  If we’d just won an F1 race we would not care less!

We are sure not everyone will agree with the above, just our two cents (an American-ism!) on some F1 related topics.  If you are American and are really behind Haas F1 for that reason, or want to explain why it is so important to have the Indonesian flag behind Rio Haryanto on the grid graphic we will more than happily open up the blog to you and give you the right of reply.