Shades of Depailler on the Abu Dhabi podium

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In the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leader Kimi Räikkönen’s testy response to his race engineer’s radio offer to keep him informed of the gap from his pursuers will surely pass into Formula 1 legend.

I am delighted that the Finn’s comeback victory is not, by and large, being added to the true Lotus tally accumulated between 1960 and 1987, for apart from the same lettering and the brand projection the modern Renault team based in Enstone has sweet Fanny Adams to do with Colin Chapman’s great creation. Their ‘Lotus’ Grand Prix victory should statistically stand alone.

But I could easily imagine the self-possessed Räikkönen’s testy “Leave me alone I know what I’m doing” being uttered by the equally curt and abrupt Jochen Rindt if only ship-to-shore radio had ever been in use between him, out on circuit in the Lotus 49 or 72, and either Colin or another of Team Lotus’s finest in 1969-70.

It’s always a delight to see a cool, concentrated sporting winner expose hyped-up TV excitability for being just that. I wouldn’t describe the race engineer’s well-meant offer as being due to excitability, but David Coulthard’s podium interview for global TV in Abu Dhabi certainly bordered upon it when he rashly encouraged Kimi to expound upon how “he felt” upon achieving this first Grand Prix win since he had only returned to Formula 1 at the start of the season. Fairly recently retired racing drivers really ought to know better, especially when a winner as cool as the unimpressable Finn stands before them. Kimi’s refusal to gush for the cameras, or to enthuse for poor David, was entirely predictable and the Scot’s evident discomfort I must confess was quite entertaining to watch.

In fact it reminded me very much of a genuinely quivering Jackie Stewart who really was bursting with excitement brandishing the TV microphone under Patrick Depailler’s nose immediately after the little Frenchman had won the Monaco GP for Tyrrell in 1978. Jackie was thrilled not only because it was Patrick’s maiden Grand Prix victory, but it was also the first for Tyrrell at Monaco since JYS himself had won there four years previously.

“Patrick!” Jackie bawled in such an excited Clydeside falsetto you could hear the exclamation marks: “You’ve just won the world’s most glamorous Grand Prix! Tell us how you feel! This must be the greatest day of your life!”

And dear old Depailler, at that time the consummate Mr Cool, adopted a contemplative expression before he thoughtfully replied: “Nooo I don’t think so. I ‘ave ‘ad better…”. I think he possibly mentioned the birth of his son…

Note to TV interviewers, remember the measure of your man before asking bloody silly cliché questions. And let’s hear it again for Kimi Räikkönen, a grown man’s racer.

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