I’ve noticed, like a few others, that Formula One has been ramping up several key messages recently; Racing Against Racism, Going Green and various Drink Responsibly campaigns. With tobacco sponsorship now pretty much outlawed (Ferrari are still sponsored by Philip Morris, but they will no longer display the logo, at all), it seems as though alcohol has clinched a few spots on the cars in replace. But is this any better than promoting smoking? And to take it that little bit further, should the drivers be be taking a swig of champagne on the podium?
In this day and age, and certainly in the UK, drinking and driving is becoming very much a big no-no. While there have been laws in place relating to the amount of alcohol you may have in your body while driving for along time now, it has taken a little longer for it to pass down to a social level. However, as time progresses it is slowly becoming socially unacceptable to drink while driving, and is something I’m sure the government is very pleased about.
The problem arises though when, albeit in a different situation, car-owners the world over tune in to watch a grand prix and see the cars adorned with Johnnie Walker and Martini logos. This is further pushed when on the podium, the top three finishers (Bahrain aside) are seen spraying and drinking Mumm champagne. It is, of course, a very different message to drinking and driving, the consumption taking place after driving and in small quantities. But alcohol is there though, at the tracks, on the cars and around the drivers. Is this really any better than seeing ‘Marlboro’ written on the engine cover of a Ferrari?
Smoking was banned in the pit lane and paddock areas many years ago, much to the annoyance of Peter Sauber who used to enjoy his cigars, and Flavio Briatore who eventually quit the cigarettes. But drinking alcohol is socially acceptable at the circuits, and the paddock area goes through an awful lot of champagne over the course of a Formula One grand prix weekend.
The only circuit on the championship calendar to not have champagne on the podium is Bahrain. The reason is that the Kingdom of Bahrain is mostly Islamic, and therefore alcohol is prohibited. Instead, the podium celebrations are helped along with a mix of locally grown fruit (pomegranate and trinj) combined with rosewater instead. And the celebrations on the Bahraini podium look to be just as joyful as anywhere else the circus travels to.
I think the thing that causes concern in my head is that those invited into the paddock are typically the type of people who might possibly drink and drive. These folk, like thousands others around the world, are celebrating something, having a bit of a party and generally enjoying themselves at the weekend. Many of the paddock-dwellers will have drivers, or even pilots, but the message is still there: Alcohol and motor sport go together.
Isn’t it time, along with the tobacco ban, that alcohol should also be banned from the podium and cars? I don’t think you’d be able to enforce a ban on the fans who line the circuits, but by removing the name ‘Fosters’ from the sides of the circuits certainly cannot do any harm.