MAURICE HAMILTON

Gobshite of the Year


And so, we come to Gobshite of the Year. Just to remind you; a Gobshite is the idea of Hugh Leonard, an Irish playwright who used a column in a Dublin newspaper to distribute his annual awards. Leonard described a Gobshite as being a jackass, often harmless but always hopeless. Actually, 'Jackass' is perhaps too strong a term in most cases here, but you get the general drift.

Being a part-time commentator, I'm treading on dangerous ground and risking charges of hypocrisy when I say that one or two of my colleagues made it to the semi-finals. Believe it or not, the eloquent and soft-spoken David Coulthard received a few votes for some of his techno-speak on BBC Television; the most notable offence committed in Abu Dhabi when he referred to a driver as "clearly under-rotating his rear axle".

Never mind the precise meaning of the statement; I could never get my head around the use of the word 'axle' in relation to a Formula 1 car. Call me old fashioned but, to me, an axle is an ignorant hunk of metal (excuse the technical terminology) with a wheel on either end and a bulge that houses the differential; the sort of thing I used to see at the back end of my school bus.

Thinking about it, DC's family have had connections with the haulage business, so an early association with heavy trucks perhaps explains his affection and familiarity with the term. As for under-rotating the thing, I always had the impression that if an axle moved in any direction, circular or otherwise, you really were in the poo.

At least with DC, you could see what he was getting at, the term 'axle' having adopted a wider use in racing, albeit one that my mates in 'The Three Horseshoes', even allowing for a certain intake of alcohol, didn't fully understand.

But, with Eddie Jordan, many of the utterances emerging from his mouth (or 'gob' as they say in Ireland) were totally incomprehensible to everyone including, you suspected, the man himself. And the one statement that you could follow - "Thanks George" - was so incredibly careless that it probably went straight over the head of Sir Paul McCartney, who could be forgiven for thinking that the jabbering, lovable eejit with the microphone in Abu Dhabi really did believe he was addressing the late George Harrison.

EJ could be absolved because of his sense of humour (not to mention that of his shirt-maker) and also taking into consideration the impromptu nature of his work. But the latter cannot be used as an excuse by a BBC spokesman when explaining the decision to share F1 coverage with Sky and show just 10 races live, the rest as highlights.

According to Ben Gallop, Head of F1, the new arrangement will: "...allow us to tell the story of the whole F1 season for BBC viewers, while providing extended access to the biggest moments in the calendar."

Don't know about you, but I would classify the opening race of the season as a fairly big moment; ditto Monza and the first race in Austin, Texas. But those boxes will remain unticked because your extended access will not actually be live. Mildly patronising statements like that do no more than demonstrate how BBC high rollers are beating themselves up with the bar they raised to such superb heights of coverage during the past few seasons.

Viewers, faced with paying for their F1, are understandably upset. But nothing can excuse the daft behaviour of tweeters imploring fans and F1 journalists alike to petition the UK government to keep F1 on the BBC. You can see it now, can't you? "And we interrupt this programme to go straight to Brussels where Prime Minister Cameron has broken off Euro crisis talks with Chancellor Merkel to take a call from Melvyn Cruddy, a F1 fan and irate BBC TV licence holder from Barking." Clear winners here of the Gobshite New Media No Idea Award

All of the above are put in perspective by the actions of our governing body over a subject of far more serious import than the business of broadcasting. The runaway winner of Gobshite of the Year is the FIA Vice President Carlos Gracia who visited Bahrain on May 31 "to assess the situation in the country" and returned with the news that everything appeared fine and dandy. Whereupon the Bahrain Grand Prix was shoved back onto the calendar and motor sport's reputation took the public flogging it deserved.

The rights and wrongs of F1 visiting troubled countries (not just Bahrain) have been discussed in a previous column (June 7). But some say this verdict by Vice President Garcia ought to be compared for naivety with that of Neville Chamberlain following the British Prime Minister's visit to that awfully nice Mr. A. Hitler. Fortunately good judgement finally prevailed in F1, if not in Bahrain. Or, come to that, in Germany in 1938.

This column returns on January 4 with Old Mo's Almanac as we look ahead to 2012 based on some of the antics witnessed during this past season. In the meantime, season's greetings, safe motoring and enjoy your break. And for goodness sake, don't under-rotate your rear axle.

Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.

His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.

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