The latest calls for Lewis Hamilton to be banned from China over spraying a Formula One grid girl just serve as more proof that you should never, ever listen to anything printed in the Daily Mail. Out of the billions of social issues to raise about the Chinese Grand Prix, Hammy's champagne simply isn't one.
Images of Hamilton spraying a grid girl have made their way through the dumbest depths of social media, where people who don't understand the context are now calling for Hamilton to apologize to the lady at the least, or to be banned from China altogether at the worst. The Australian reports that images from the podium celebration have been "angrily pored over by outraged Chinese," who are calling for his head on like-Twitter-but-with-more-Chinese-Big-Brother services like Weibo.
The Daily Mail's article on this so-called international incident is just as ridiculous. It leads off with a bunch of sensationalized close-ups of Hamilton spraying the grid girl with champagne who doesn't appear to enjoy getting wet. It then goes on to show Lewis spraying another grid girl at another race and spraying Nico Rosberg with ridiculous captions that make it seem as if spraying champagne is a thing done out of malice and domination, not the "WOOOOOO HOLY CRAP I JUST WON A GRAND PRIX" that it is.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Daily Fail tossed this article to someone who's never seen a motor race in their life, because they clearly don't understand the point of the whole "spray everyone and everything with champagne" part of the podium celebration. That is the point. You spray everyone and everything with champagne, because you just won a Formula One race. You, Person Standing On This Podium, have done something that only a handful of people in that field, much less the world, are capable of doing. Go nuts.
People spray champagne even at the smallest motor races. WOO I JUST WON A THING! is a valid human emotion worthy of blasting everyone within cork-shot with bubbly. Shake it up and have at it like they're Super Soakers. Did no one at the Daily Mail ever own one of those, either?
No, instead, they gave voice to a group galled Object, a campaign against media sexism and what the Daily Mail quotes as "sex object culture." Object chief executive Roz Hardie explained the group's objection to the spraying to the Daily Mail as such:
If this if the case we think Lewis Hamilton should apologise for his actions and think carefully about how he behaves in the future. For most people, it would be apparent that she is not enjoying it.
It is surely a very difficult position to be a grid girl and she would have had little option but to stand there and take it. That is something of which he should be aware. But instead, he appears to have abused her position.
It's unfortunate that a great victory has been marred by what appears to be selfish and inconsiderate behaviour.
So, there's missing the point, and then there's being so far off the point that you've hit Pluto.
Lewis was a bit of a selfish buttock after the Chinese Grand Prix, but that was all in his attitude towards his team. Admittedly, I was a bit harsh when I called him out over his post-race comments regarding teammate Nico Rosberg because he was closer to the mark Mercedes asked him to hit on lap times than the television broadcast made it seem. However, his me-me-me-first attitude won't fly if Mercedes wants to maximize their shot at a constructors' championship, and even Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff is now saying that he may have to make an "unpopular call" to protect that. Wolff explained to Sky Sports:
It is not just the two guys out there but about a thousand people working on these cars. If it ever comes to a point of interfering between the two of them because we risk to lose a race win, we would do that. We do not have the gap any more from last year where we can just let them push each [other] until the very end. We need to manage the gaps between the two of them.
It could have come to a point on Sunday where we could have been very firm on the radio saying this is what needs to be done in order not to risk the race result. It could come to a situation where we risk losing the win to a Ferrari when we might have to do an unpopular call and manage them more.
The message to Hamilton and Rosberg there is clear: drop the attitudes with each other or we'll "manage" this situation more. Wolff was careful not to mention team orders, but the threat of heavier-handed team management is real, particularly if a Ferrari is on their tail. Mercedes' job is to get both cars to finish as high as possible in a race, and neither driver can be so focused on their own race that they take an unnecessary risk or fail to finish.
Hamilton wasn't selfish at all when it came to spraying that champagne, though. That was the least selfish part of this entire grand prix. Dude was happy. Let him enjoy it. Let's examine exactly how willing to share Mister Hamilton was up on that podium, shall we?
Spraying rival Sebastian Vettel!
Spraying teammate Nico Rosberg, who appears to be trying to catch champagne spray in his mouth!
Getting sprayed and making "ack! cold liquid!" faces of his own!
Spraying the crowd!
Given that Formula One is admittedly a bit of a sausagefest, you can safely estimate at least 80% of the people he's spraying aren't even female, which makes this allegation of sexism on behalf of a spray-happy Hamilton even more ludicrous. The CBC has an even more extensive gallery that shows podium celebrations doing what podium celebrations do: get people wet.
As for Object, Hardie at least gets a little closer to the point when she attempts to connect her beef with Hamilton with the larger problem at hand.
"Motor racing appears to unnecessarily portray women as sexualised objects and that probably makes it even harder for the women to stand up for themselves," explained Hardie to the Daily Mail. "We would hope people in the industry would be respectful to these women."
There you go. If you're looking for sexism at this podium celebration, how about the fact that women are used as decoration for the stand in the first place?
That's the practice that's worthy of criticism here. Hamilton's an equal-opportunity sprayer, and not sexist in the least bit. What's sexist is the practice that another FIA competition recently banned for being unnecessary, outdated and dumb.
As far as any bans from China are concerned, I'm absolutely fine with the whole Formula One show not going there again, given China's egregious human rights abuses and general disregard for the well-being of its own people. Sure, Shanghai International Circuit is one of the more interesting Tilkedromes, but China as a whole desperately needs to get its own house in order before anyone complains about the "manners of English gentlemen" on social media.
Why do we go to China instead of Germany this year, again? Honest question. There's the other very real, and very bad Formula One social issue that you should be in arms about, folks: the brutal-authoritarian-regime-filled schedule. Why are we lining the pockets of dictators instead of going places where we actually want to see Formula One race?
Accusing Lewis Hamilton of being sexist in any way, shape, or form over champagne spray is missing the point.
UPDATE: Slo-Z found where the woman in the picture discussed the "incident" here, where she told Shanghai Daily that she "didn't think too much" about being sprayed by champagne and wasn't really offended by the spray at all.
Photo credits: Getty Images
Contact the author at email@example.com.