Here’s a little follow to yesterday’s F1 blog item in which I suggested that reporters covering Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix should have asked some tough questions of driver Giancarlo Fisichella and racing team Force India after a weekend performance that was quite out of character for both.
I’m suggesting today that maybe it’s because those reporters have put themselves in a position where they can’t ask those types of questions.
Let me explain.
Most news organizations – the Star included – allow reporters to accept a credential (translation: you get in for free) in order to cover something, be it a game (Maple Leafs, Blue Jays) or a concert (Elton John and Billy Joel) or an event (Honda Indy, Mosport ALMS). If lunch is offered during the game or event, it is okay to eat it.
But those same reporters are not allowed to accept gifts or other inducements – such as a night out on the town – which are sometimes offered by game or event organizers in hopes of generating positive publicity.
Which brings me to a little feature that’s posted on the Autosport.com web site on Mondays following Grand Prix races. It’s called "Paddock Life" and it sometimes makes for lively reading. It can be a real peek behind the scenes.
This week, it was particularly enlightening in the wake of Fisichella’s pole run and second-place finish, which should have raised some eyebrows but apparently didn’t.
One of the items in this week’s "Paddock Life: Spa Edition" says this:
"On the Thursday afternoon at Spa, watch maker Casio held a press conference in Red Bull’s energy station to announce that Sebastien Vettel was being made its new F1 ambassador. . . .
"The event was packed to the rafters . . . as Vettel was presented with a new name-branded Casio Edifice watch – straight from the company’s Tokyo headquarters. . . .
"Once the formalities ended, the shoving, elbows and general melee began as Casio handed out gift press packs – which included an Edifice watch.
"Never has the press pack been so on time for everything as they were for the rest of the Spa weekend."
Now, Casio Edifice watches range from a low of US$50 to a high of US $700 (gold ones), according to some Internet sites. I suggest that Casio is a Formula One sponsor because it wants to sell many more $700 watches than ones worth $50.
I don’t know the value of the watches accepted by many of the reporters at Spa last Thursday but the price is immaterial anyway: a gift is a gift and, once accepted, the recipient is compromised.
Which means that the next time one of those reporters gets a bee in his (or her) bonnet about something (like what's going on when Force India starts behaving like Ferrari all of a sudden), and decides to start nosing around, one glance at that watch (or whatever else is being handed out that particular weekend) will probably be enough to make him (or her) back off.
Which maybe helps to explain all those cottton-ball questions lobbed in the general direction of Giancarlo Fisichella last weekend.