I’ve been seeing a lot in the press lately about how fans are booing Sebastian Vettel when he gets up onto the podium after winning a race. I’ve also been seeing a lot in the press about how this is extremely unfortunate and bad for the sport. Many reporters are going into incredibly long-winded explanations about what they think the root of the booing is: fans are bored with the same person winning every race; fans hate Red Bull; fans think Red Bull is cheating; fans hate the way Vettel puts up his index finger to show he’s Number One.
These are all fine and good, and many journalists make quite compelling arguments that are very convincing. But they’re all wrong, and totally miss the point.
Vettel was a douchebag in Malaysia, so the fans boo him now. Plain and simple.
There is no conspiracy here. There is no grandiose nor intricately detailed plot that the fans are upset about. At the Grand Prix of Malaysia, which was the second race of a nineteen race season, Red Bull was running one-two, with Mark Webber in the lead. Knowing that they had a long season ahead of them, and knowing that they have a budget and a very limited number of engines they are permitted to use in a season, the team principle, seeing that Red Bull had an overwhelming lead, made the call that both drivers should turn down their engines, drive conservatively, remain in their current positions, and bring the cars home with limited wear and tear. Mark Webber obeyed those orders. Sebastian Vettel did not. Vettel decided to completely ignore the team orders and drove for the win, nearly colliding with Webber at one point. The tension after the race was palpable, and Red Bull found themselves doing damage control for several weeks in the press.
Fast forward a few months and Vettel is winning race after race. His lead in the championship standings is overwhelming. He has the title all but wrapped up. He knew that he had the best car in the fleet this year: Mercedes had endless tire problems until their questionable test with Pirelli; McLaren forgot how to make a fast car; Ferrari only has one driver who is competitive. He knew all this at the beginning of the season, and yet still decided that he would ignore the team’s orders and endanger his teammate and both team cars to get the win at Malaysia.
I understand that F1 drivers drive to win. I understand that they are cocky. I understand that, in their minds, they are the best driver in the world and should never be told to “hang back and let the other guy win”.
But guess what?
The fans don’t care. All they saw was one of the douchiest maneuvers in F1 history, and as a result, they now boo when the villain takes the stage.