F1: Mixed Messages

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It's fortunate for Johnny Herbert that many F1 fans either can not afford, or do not feel inclined, to breach Sky F1's pay wall. Had this excellent channel been free to air, social media would have caught fire on Saturday when the pint-sized former racer stepped onto his soapbox and questioned Fernando Alonso's motivation in the light of recent events.

I happened to mention the contentious remarks on Twitter, describing Herbert as 'a brave boy' because 'Ferdy has many devoted followers inside and outside F1'. Talk about don't shoot the messenger. I'm currently resting up in the Ecclestone Home for the Bewildered, recovering from tweet wounds.

I'd say the response was 98 percent against Herbert's judgement. The few in favour were not exactly gushing with enthusiasm but did allow that Herbert could have a point when he simply wondered about the effect of the past few years on a driver who is heading into the last lap of his racing career.

The trouble with social media is that 140 characters allow room for personal and vitriolic attacks rather than reasoned arguments against one man's opinion. But, whatever you may think of Herbert's views, he is paid by Sky to express them.

That fact that Johnny and the majority of F1's commentators do not hold back should be celebrated on a morning former international athlete, Steve Cram, has been savaged for his wimpish interview on BBC TV with Lord Coe over the state of world athletics. In a powerful piece in the Mail on Sunday, Oliver Holt describes Cram as 'doe-eyed, sycophantic, self-serving and anodyne' - to quote just a few adjectives in a contemptuous catalogue. Herbert cannot be accused of any of that.

Holt used to be a motor sport writer and his views on the current shambles in F1 (choose any number of topics) can be easily imagined. Our current newspaper correspondents have, as you might expect, waded in this morning with words that do the sport no favours.

The sad part is that Lewis Hamilton's superb performance has been buried beneath negative comments that are becoming tedious, even if fully justified. It's not an exaggeration to say that Hamilton's lap, under pressure following his earlier mistake, may be recalled eventually as the pole position performance of the season; one that was truly outstanding and typical of the man's flair when forced to take a F1 car to the edge - and bring it back.

It seems a shame that has not been celebrated more in the midst of crushing censure, even if the criticism of F1 is far more serious than Herbert's contentious but nevertheless welcome personal opinion.