The “missed” handshake

In sport, the media amplifies rivalries by reporting on the action in front of them. Whether this reporting concerns on the football pitch, the boxing arena or the tennis court, media outlets, both print and visual, are looking for that moment. Sometimes though, the journalism goes beyond the sporting arena to further a rivalry, leaning towards reporting of a deceitful nature.

The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel came to a head in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with Vettel side-swiping Hamilton. The media reported the story from every angle, Fleet Street had their say as did broadcasters everywhere. Whilst the two championship protagonists have moved on, the media around them are still looking for opportunities to further elongate their rivalry.

With that, we come to the “missed” handshake. Did Lewis Hamilton refuse to shake Vettel’s hand? Or did Hamilton shake Vettel’s hand earlier in proceedings, in a more natural manner? And either way, does it matter whether he did or did not?

From the World Feed, moments after qualifying and just before the post-qualifying interviews, an overhead camera captured Vettel and Hamilton shaking hands. The two did not make a big deal of it, the handshake was part of the informal pleasantries before the post-qualifying grid interviews. The overhead shot was probably not the close-up angle Formula One Management (FOM) wanted.

🤝 . #AustrianGP #Austria #F1 #Formula1 #LewisHamilton #SebastianVettel

A post shared by FORMULA 1® (@f1) on

The problem comes later when, after the interviews, Davide Valsecchi asked the two drivers to shake hands. Hamilton refused, stating that the two had already shaken hands prior to the interviews. Media outlets used this refusal to further their rivalry. Except, the refusal was a non-story for reasons described above.

Whilst it is easy to criticise Valsecchi, who is also a reporter for Sky Italia and Formula Two commentator, it is possible that the directive to throw the handshake line in there actually came from FOM, aka. Liberty Media to get a handshake on television in front of the large viewing audience. It felt like an incentive was thrown to stir up trouble.

Either way, certain aspects of the media spun the story by directly referencing Hamilton’s “refusal” to shake Vettel’s hand, choosing to leave out the latter half of the story. Sky Sports F1 tweeted, with video, that Hamilton rejected “a public show of reconciliation”, despite the fact he and Vettel shook hands minutes earlier, in front of the public! Sky were not alone, The Mirror chose the same approach with their headline, almost as if alternative facts existed. Other broadcasters no doubt went down the same route.

Again, I re-iterate the above point: does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. This time tomorrow, the handshake will be history as we analyse the Grand Prix. But, this ‘episode’ is a symptom of sensationalism that is ever more creeping into Formula 1 journalism, as journalists are eager to find stories and build on their hits.

The concern for me too is that Sky will be UK’s only F1 television broadcaster from 2019. Personally, I want to see them tone down their tabloid reporting such as the above – not every single incident requires verbiage. Today’s build-up from Sky was excellent in my view, but unfortunately their tabloid style post-race with this has let the broadcaster down, and not for the first time.

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5 thoughts on “The “missed” handshake

  1. Thought this post may be coming after today! I’m frankly fed up with Sky’s tabloid and biased reporting and it’s shameful that Channel 4 are the ones losing out in 2019, Sky are milking this story and the Azerbaijan incident and making Hamilton out to be a saint.

    On a similar point, BBC Sport’s (and most notably, Benson’s) reporting on the Baku clash was even worse, I think I counted 8 stories on the BBC F1 website solely directed at bashing Vettel and even today, the quite frankly stupid infographics on the BBC quali report regarding Vettel’s “outbursts” over the years seemed to be more important than Bottas’ pole position.

    Would be good to hear your views on the whole Baku incident David 🙂

    • Kai
      You do realise that Lewis was completely blameless for the Baku incidents.

      The stewards on track and FIA post race examined ALL the data and concluded Lewis did nothing wrong.

      In the hearing the following Monday Seb apologised and admitted Lewis did nothing wrong.
      Seb has also admitted Lewis did not “brake check him”.

      What is it you think Lewis did that was so wrong that warranted a smash in the back and a subsequent side swipe all behind the safety car and the perpetrator being let off with a telling off and slapped wrist?

      • I’m in no way saying that Lewis was at fault here. The point is the way Sky and the BBC have portrayed the incident, the unnecessary and constant reposting and reposting of “Vettel got off lightly”, “F1 just turned nasty and it’s Vettel’s fault” etc. etc. and stupid infographics about drivers losing their temper on a qualifying report.

        Also the BBC seeming to love the results of their so-called poll answered by 5 PEOPLE where 80% said he should have been DSQ, and posting the result everywhere with no context or anything.

        Like I said, I and everyone else are past the actual incident itself, the FIA have closed the case but yet you still have “broadcasters” milking the story with unnecessary content every day.

  2. I am far more concerned that Hamilton had a brake disc failure, than all this artificial milking of the incident. Such a failure could be catastrophic in the race.

    Your point about sky being the only UK tv provider from 2019 on means that F1 will loose a large portion of its UK fans who are like me, old and grumpy and most decidedly not going to pay for something which in its very 100 year agreement is contracted to be broadcast free to air.
    Let us remember that Liberty have not bought the sport, they have taken control of Delta Topco by majority shareholding, Detla Topco are owners of FOM. FOM are the lessees of the remainder of the 100 year agreement to rent out the commercial rights of F1. The FIA still owns the sport and is responsible for its governance.
    The 100 year agreement is like the Truman presidential order creating the NSA, very secret and only two living people have seen it! However there are may rumours about what it actually contains one of which is that it states that races must be shown on FTA tv. Now we know that Bernie wriggled round this by including news clips and race summaries as FTA tv, but I had hoped that Liberty would recognise the value to sponsors, which have substantially reduced their investments in team sponsorship in the last few years. Why pay to advertise on tv when the potential audience is a tiny fraction of what it used to be under FTA tv?
    Going pay tv only in the UK will effectively kill of F1 for the UK audience, which as I mentioned above are mainly middle or old aged now and will tend to view F1 in the future in the same way as Polo or yacht racing.

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