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Formula 1

Does Ricciardo’s F1 social media gripe hold up to scrutiny?

by Matt Beer
5 min read

Daniel Ricciardo handled the storm in a teacup about his criticism of Formula 1’s social media output with his typical class and maturity.

Clarifying the original comments ahead of this weekend’s second round of the 2021 F1 season at Imola, Ricciardo admitted he should have chosen his words more carefully and been more aware that comments made in a relaxed interview with a non-specialist outlet could easily be picked up and spread around online very quickly.

But while he said he would “take that quote back” – referring to using the line “you guys are fucking idiots” – he also stood by his disapproval of some of F1’s output, and mapped that out in clearer terms.

His initial comment was out of order, and it was to his credit that he chose to tackle that head-on rather than try to hide behind claims he was misquoted or it was taken out of context.

We’re not here to spend any more time looking at what he said originally. And he’s perfectly entitled to retain an opinion that he doesn’t agree with the way F1 goes about what it promotes on social media.

Ricciardo believes F1 should “highlight the highs more”. So does he have a point?

Given he has used the example of F1’s 2020 ‘most dramatic moments’ compilation video that he felt featured too many crashes, we can assume he’s mainly talking about the F1 YouTube channel. Looking at the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, we can loosely say that 38 videos were released relating to the F1 and F2 action over several days around that race.

Ricciardo feels there are “better stories to be told as opposed to just crashes”, and he feels there is “more room to expose the highs of the sport and the great achievements of a lot of individual drivers and individual performances and some spectacular overtakes”.

F1 Youtube Bahrain

Over the Bahrain GP weekend, there was plenty of that. F1 highlighted the great battles between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, as well as comparing their qualifying laps in great detail. There was also a special mention for the Fernando Alonso/Carlos Sainz Jr/Sebastian Vettel fight.

Post-race, great achievements that were given airtime included ‘Sergio Perez’s epic comeback’, ‘Yuki Tsunoda’s stunning F1 debut’, Red Bull setting the two fastest pitstops of the race, hyping up the chances of a title fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, plus team radio compilations and insight into the technical developments on the cars.

Formula 2 even got a decent shake, with race highlights, its tight battle for pole position and an incredible final lap battle all getting showcased.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Practice Day Imola, Italy

Of course, if there had been a massive crash in Bahrain, that would have been covered too. But it would have been one of tens of videos, and wouldn’t be the only thing F1 was pushing.

Since the Bahrain GP, F1 has also released videos on the best lead battles of the hybrid era, feel-good moments from Imola, and it celebrated 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s 50th birthday by releasing the latest of its ’10 moments of brilliance’ countdowns about famous drivers. Plenty of positive stories are being told.

To suggest all F1 does is amplify crashes is unfair. But Ricciardo has far better things to do with his time than study F1’s full output, so it’s understandable that he might only see the occasional standout video.

F1 Youtube Top Vids

A look at the most popular videos on F1’s channel paints a picture more in-line with what Ricciardo believes has been going on up to now. And perhaps that’s where the slight confusion comes from.

Of the top 25 most-watched videos on F1’s channel, 14 of them are crash-related, and the videos range from 7 million to 20 million views. F1 has 5.2million subscribers on YouTube, so it’s fair to say a significant number of the people watching all of these top videos are not regular viewers.

That’s not a reflection of F1’s output, it’s a reflection of the more casual audience those videos have attracted. But hardcore fans who want to see more than just crashes are very well-served, too.

The hope will be that the drama and accidents help attract new fans, who then want to hear about the other stories F1 is trying to tell.

This isn’t meant to be a defence of F1. Given The Race has its own YouTube channel with more than 550,000 subscribers, the presence of an official F1 channel is in many ways a huge inconvenience! Nor is this meant to be a ‘take down’ of Ricciardo’s valid opinion that he has subsequently explained very well. It’s just adding a few more layers to the debate.

Ricciardo’s McLaren F1 team boss Andreas Seidl had his say at Imola on Friday morning, adding that he felt “the topic is closed”.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day One Sakhir, Bahrain

Seidl praised the “excellent job of promoting our sport” that F1 has done, and the “rapid growth in engagement in recent years, bringing the sport to a lot of new audiences”.

He added: “While the danger may be a part of the appeal to some fans I agree with Daniel that there’s a bigger and more positive story to be told about the sport, which Formula 1 is also doing.”

That last bit is the key point. F1 is doing this already.

It was interesting when Ricciardo referred to doing it differently if he had creative control. F1 should definitely take him up on that offer.

Both sides would learn a fair bit from that kind of tie-up, and fans would definitely tune in to see what one of the most popular drivers on the grid came up with for them to watch while he was in charge.

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