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Haters Gonna…Well, You Know.

If I were looking for an example of how things Sebastian Vettel actually does in real life make absolutely no difference to the haters out there, I could not have dreamt up a more perfect one than some of the reactions to qualifying today. Smiling, waving, shaking Mark’s hand, stating in the press conference that Mark “deserved pole” and “did a better job today” — exactly what else do people want? Well, the fact is, that’s an utterly useless question to ask. There’s nothing those people want, really. Vettel could have draped a congratulatory wreath of flowers over Mark’s shoulders, and it would not have made one iota of difference. Such people would still describe him as “petulant” and “throwing his toys out of the pram.” (And can I just say, as a brief side note, that I could not possibly be more tired of that expression? I don’t care who it’s describing. Oh my GOD. Please, I beg of you, come up with a new metaphor for this phenomenon.)

I’ve seen people — more than one — allude to Vettel’s “body language” after qualifying, rather than citing any instance of specific behavior. Wow. Seriously? What sort of body language were you expecting, exactly? Was he supposed to leap for joy and extend his loathed #1 finger when he lost pole to his teammate, after a streak that seemed as though it could have been headed toward a new record? Come to think of it, if memory serves, his body language resembled that of many other drivers I’ve seen in..well, not precisely the same situation (after all, that doesn’t happen too often), but similar ones: gracious, sportsmanlike, yet smiling perhaps a bit halfheartedly. Slightly subdued.

I realize Vettel has not always behaved this way in similar situations in the past. I’m talking about what happened today. If we’d like to start delving into the behavior of last season, perhaps we might hearken back to some of the instances in which the tables were turned and Mark lost out on pole position to Seb. Because if that wasn’t sullen “pouting” on Mark’s part after quali for, say, the European Grand Prix last year, I’m not sure I know the meaning of those words. (Hey, maybe I don’t! It would explain a lot of my confusion today, that’s for sure.)

I had hoped for a good weekend for Mark, and it looks like so far he’s getting just that. What I hadn’t anticipated was this blood-pressure-increasing illustration of what I’ve been arguing for a while now: the widespread, vicious dislike of Vettel among fans has little to do with any of the things people say it has to do with. He’s young, he’s German, and he’s dominating the sport, and if people feel more comfortable seeing him as a petulant loser “throwing his toys out of the pram,” then that’s what they’re going to see, regardless of whether it has any basis in reality.

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