DIETER RENCKEN
2 minute read
25 Sep 2013
12:00 am

Why do some F1 fans hate Vettel?

DIETER RENCKEN

In the opening five years of this century Michael Schumacher and Ferrari absolutely dominated F1 Grand Prix racing, setting record after record as the scarlet steamroller annihilated the combined opposition.

UNPOPULAR: Sebastian Vettel has been the recent target of booing from Formula One fans. Picture: AFP.

Such domination may have damaged F1’s television viewing ratings – the sport’s life blood – but not the Prancing Horse. The German driver and Italian team were cheered and feted from Melbourne and Monaco, from Montreal to Monza as millions of Red Riding Hoods unashamedly bought into the Ferrari dream.

The precious road cars they may not have been able to afford. But Ferrari peak caps or after shave sets were within reach.

These added up with such items ultimately delivering profits which collectively exceeded the revenues generated by the sale of Ferrari cars. Now 12 years on F1 is experiencing another hegemony, again led by a young German with sublime driving skills.

Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel is the new serial record setter who has taken Red Bull Racing to heights shading even those achieved by Ferrari at its most brilliant. Yet, far from being worshipped a bemused Vettel finds himself at the receiving end of vindictiveness.

“As long as they keep booing it means we’re doing a good job” the young German said before blaming an army of well-heeled tifosi.

“It is not nice, but I think if you look around at the grandstands most fans are dressed in red,” he said. “They’re emotional when not winning and when someone else is winning they don’t like it.”

Maybe, maybe not, but still it begs the question why the stark difference in podium welcomes received by the two German superstars? Is it Vettel’s personality, Red Bull’s image, a combination of both or simply a sign of changing fan base demographics?

Schumacher had a raft of annoying traits, not least his feigned innocence. At a personal level Vettel is courteous and approachable, a young man leading a model lifestyle as he lives his dream.

While Vettel drives uncompromisingly robustly he has yet to attracted criticism from his peers.

Not for nothing is a particularly unsporting manoeuvre known as “Chop Schuey” in F1-speak. It would seem the boos were not aimed at Vettel personally, but rather at Red Bull Racing which exists to sell fizzy cans across the globe at exorbitant prices.

Where Ferrari oozes passion out of every pore of its historic factory in Maranello and transfers this to every product bearing the stallion, Red Bull operates out of a clinical facility situated in an industrial estate in Milton Keynes, a bland ‘new’ city created in the 60s and featuring concrete cow statues. It is fair to deduce that Schumacher was worshipped because of his relationship with Ferrari.

He enjoyed nowhere near such popularity when winning titles with Benetton.

Like Red Bull the Benetton squad was a marketing driven team. While nice guy Vettel attracts boos aimed predominantly at his team, which passionate fans increasingly view as none other than a cynical marketing programme.

In which case one wonders how much longer Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz will continue pumping R2 billion a year into his two teams – he also owns Toro Rosso – simply to attract ridicule.