F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

31st July, 1999

Formula One - The Fickle Factory

by Julie Gates

This Formula One lark is a fickle old game! Two weeks ago saw the Italian press cussing Eddie Irvine and the British press praising the brilliance of Coulthard. Today, the roles are very much reversed...

The Austrian Grand Prix exposed many - in the media and general public - who changed their perception of the two top Brits dramatically. Eddie Irvine has revelled in his Austrian success, whilst Coulthard has been the expected victim of even more criticism.

The oldest saying about Formula One drivers goes like this: "You are only as good as your last grand prix." In Shakespearean context, it's more like: "thou shalt not be judged unless thy performance classes as major cock-up or race win." Well, similar anyway! But is this really fair on the teams or drivers? After all, as a tree doesn't make a forest, a mistake or win does not define a driver.

David Coulthard's confidence was sky-high entering the Austrian Grand Prix weekend. He could still taste sweet success from his stunning Silverstone triumph - one he said was better, or at least equal, to sex, [to the chagrin of his girlfriend - editor]. He was more determined than ever to prove his sculpted McLaren seat should stay in its present form - fitting his Scottish body.

After an almighty qualifying battle with Hakkinen, he "only" claimed second spot on the grid. Still, one of his lightning starts could have shown the Finn a thing or two...

The engines roared, the lights went out and the hills of Austria were engulfed with the sounds of twenty two rip-roaring cars soaring around the A1-Ring. The second corner: ouch, mayhem! Hakkinen left the door open, and Coulthard goes in for the kill - about time he dug deep to find some of that 'killer instinct' the press go on about. But he touched Hakkinen, sending him into a 180 degree spin and to the back of the pack. Still, all wasn't lost just yet - he did have the lead, after all.

Anger all-round the McLaren pit. Red faces, shamed gestures, words too explicit to print here. How on earth would the press react to their two drivers coming-together? More to the point, how would they handle it? Enter fickle Formula One part fourteen million. Coulthard, hero one day ago, was now being dismissed as something you'd be likely to find on the bottom a tatty and warn-out shoe.

His work over the weekend had been admired, until the point of impact with the number one McLaren. Had he then won that race, rather than being beaten by Ferrari tactical manoeuvring, the villain aspect would have received a lot less exposure. Sure, he would have still been wanted for knocking out his team-mate, but he would also have been the man to ride the show for McLaren.

Hakkinen was clearly less than impressed with his team-mate's tactics, but let me take this opportunity to refresh your memories. Hakkinen, battling his way fiercely through the field, pulled several 'forceful' overtaking moves out of the bag. Most at turn two and often requiring the co-operation of the man ahead. The Finn put his faith in Heinz-Harold Frentzen and co. and Coulthard obviously did the same with the Finn. The World Champion might well have made it his business to know what was going on behind him on the opening lap. After all, when you have half a dozen cars shoved up your posterior at the start, one cannot take anything or anyone for granted - even your team-mate. The passes were brilliant for Hakkinen, but when Coulthard tried to up his mean-machine reputation, it was a complete no-no. He needed to for the race win and he attempted just that.

Eddie Irvine, the current Formula One hero, was pretty despised two weeks ago. He was again sharing his disgraceful opinions with all and sundry, to the utter delight (sorry, dismay) of Ferrari and the Italian-clad media. Now those very same people love the arrogant, self-obsessed playboy where they hated him such a short time ago! Oh pur-lease!

Ferrari hate his mouth, the Italian press hate his mouth and a lot probably hate him, too. Yet now he has won for the scarlet team a second time this season, and they are crawling around his rear-end like he is God's gift. Either they like the guy or they don't! It's pretty simple, really. If they want to take the good times, they have to take his mouth with it. That is Eddie - he wouldn't be Eddie if he didn't inject his weekly contribution to the motor-mouth association. Take him or leave him, guys, but less of the "we like him when he wins, but..."

Neither David nor Eddie are as good as Schumacher or Hakkinen, but they are out there giving it their all, determined to prove to the world that they are there to be taken seriously. So, how about on their bad days, we support them instead of ridiculing? After all, we do the praising well enough. It's just a shame peoples' memories stretch to only as far as the last grand prix.

Good luck guys, I fear you may need it.

Article is written by and copyright © 1999-2001 Julie Gates and The F1 Rumors Site

Julie Gates is happiest watching F1 and writing. Also interested in singing, cars, cinema, reading and going to concerts, she has little spare time to relax, but this is the way she likes it - rather being busy than idle as she can't stand still for five minutes! Totally committed to her career as a Formula One journalist, she is determined to succeed.

Interested in reading more by this author?

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Stewart 1: Jackie Stewart - a profile of the man and the driver
Stewart 2: Stewart Grand Prix - a profile of the teams origins, and baptism of fire in Formula One
Stewart 3: Stewart McTiger - profile of Stewarts recovery from 1998
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