Why we need racing drivers to behave themselves
Last Saturday, I spent my time at an event in Brno, Czech Republic. Unexpectedly, the event made me appreciate the standards set by pro drivers.
Upon arrival at the venue, I still wasn’t quite sure whether I would want to spend time trying to write an article about the event. However, I became a witness to something that made me realise the importance of the driver's on-track behaviour.
Masaryk Racing Days is an annual event held at Brno Circuit. It features an incredible variety of racing series, the field mostly consisting of “gentlemen drivers”. The spectators can enjoy anything from Renault Twingo cup cars to touring cars and even see a historic F1 car in action.
However, our story begins with an incident during the FIA CEZ Division 2 race of F3 and Formula Renault machinery. At the start of the race, one of the drivers, Vladimír Netušil, jumped the start by a huge margin and was awarded a drive-through penalty, which he was supposed to serve within three laps. He proceeded to ignore the penalty, continuing his race as usual. Race control have surely had enough by that time and decided to whip out the black flag. Netušil was disqualified from the race. However, he did not return to the pits and finished the full race distance anyway. In my opinion, this was an illustration of unsportsmanlike conduct at its worst.
Vladimír Netušil's jump start: Own footage
Not serving a drive-through penalty is one thing, ignoring a black flag is quite another. I have been trying to find information about the incident and its aftermath. I even contacted FIA CEZ circuit racing via their Facebook page. I was told all decisions on this matter were in the hands of race control. Race control responded that the driver was disqualified for the incident, which I had already known. Massive thanks to Division 2 driver Václav Šafář for confirming the info about the incident!
I certainly hope the punishment will be adequate. A race ban or even racing licence revocation would seem like the right choice to me in this kind of situation. However, no one seems to care about what happened in that race. The driver in question ended up competing again in Race 2 on Sunday and taking fifth place.
Later that day, the BOSS GP race, with a field of GP2 cars and even the Toro Rosso STR1 was supposed to be one of the highlights of the weekend. However, what happened, has left the spectators with a bitter taste in their mouths. The driver of the Toro Rosso, Ingo Gerstl, lapped around 12 seconds slower than his best time in Qualifying, even falling into the clutches of the Dallara GP2 car of Marco Ghiotto and letting him overtake, only to breeze past whenever the STR1 driver felt like it.
BOSS GP Brno Race 1: Own photography
When we attend a sporting event or watch it on TV, we expect to see the athletes performing at the peak of their abilities. However, in this case, it almost felt as if the driver was bored of running at the front. Can you imagine if Lewis Hamilton slowed his dominant Mercedes to let a Williams pass him, only to have some fun?
Even though we may not realise it, competing in any sport, at any level requires integrity. Without it, the spectators will leave feeling empty, or worse, disappointed in you. This is my message to all the sportspeople out there: Please do your best at all times without breaking the rules. Isn’t this what sport is about? Pushing the limits of human capability within the boundaries of the rulebook? You need to keep the fans happy. If they leave disappointed after an event, the may not return next time and if this happens to enough people, ticket sales will drop and there might not be a sport left for you to enjoy either.