Eddie Jordan’s ‘fake news’ highlights F1’s human element

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Mercedes could yet pull out of Formula One in the foreseeable future, though Toto Wolff’s repudiation of Eddie Jordan’s latest prophecy demonstrates the humanity which remains in a sport driven by relentless speculation at the media’s behest.

    The German manufacturer’s executive director took a dim view of the notion that his team will depart the sport following the 2018 season as foreseen by ‘Village Idiot‘ Jordan, citing the livelihood of its many employees and the undesired doubt such views can create as his foremost concern.

    “I stop laughing when it’s about making jokes on the back of 1500 employees that care about their future,” remarked Wolff, speaking of his personal conviction and investment into the team’s culture beyond Stuttgart’s long-term intentions, placing a human aspect on innuendo extolled by the fourth estate.

    ‘Fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ have entered the lexicon in the wake of Donald Trump’s inexplicable ascension to leader of the free world, yet the Austrian is succinctly on point when he calls out “these rumours” as such reported in media outlets covering the sport at large, particularly the British press.

    It’s callous to act compassionately for the world-beating Mercedes team – despite admiring their achievements, this columnist is no fan of the outfit – but while Manor became the latest operation to bite the dust with little fanfare in the offseason, it doesn’t require much coverage for a topic to gain traction and for the insecurity to set in.

    Jordan, who ran his eponymous team with moderate success for over a decade until its sale in 2005, has carved a reputation in his punditry capacity as an ‘oracle’ of the paddock, with a tendency to be alarmingly correct or spectacularly misinformed. This particular case, should it fall into the latter category, highlights unconsidered implications of theories perpetuated by some.

    (Image: Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport).

    The Irishman justified the reporting of his theory with a corporate point of view, replying, “he’s talking about 1500 people, I’m talking about thousands and thousands of shareholders. It will be a decision of the board… they will do what suits the company best”. That may be true, but it displays the ruthless manner in which media creates a story certain to capture attention.

    His reasoning is that title sponsor Petronas and UBS are looking to wind up their association with Mercedes at the conclusion of their respective contracts – next season, according to Jordan – is baseless despite its fundamental logic and irresponsible when accounting for a successful manufacturer which isn’t dependent on commercial arrangements as a means of survival.

    Regardless, it’s sufficient for the whispers to commence, and coupled with the rise of the so-called fifth estate – primarily encompassing social media – in no time the idea, founded on little other than precedent, becomes an unstoppable juggernaut with which the subject must contend until a definitive response is issued, even if it isn’t expedient to do so.

    The pen is mightier than the sword, as the saying goes, and the views of its modern successor in the broadcast medium put those in its crosshairs to the sword, rendering the organisation accountable to its employees. Notwithstanding the media’s perennial lust for an answer, in many cases ‘stories’ are condemned to the trash bin the instant the outcome is known in either direction.

    For his part, Jordan fights his corner – “I’m in the job of reporting what I know… no one is going to shut me up” – and it’s understandable that he must produce content for his own employer; it’s simply that some content is more meaningful than harmless contemplation.

    It might be that Stuttgart is readying itself for a pullout or a ‘soft exit’ and returns to its former capacity as a heavily invested engine supplier, as is its prerogative, but it’s the principle raised by Wolff that must be championed – the human aspect, far too frequently made a pawn as the line between fact and fiction is straddled with the sole motive of conjecture and publicity.