Dear Mr. Inoue,
On behalf of a grieving worldwide community of racing drivers, mechanics, journalists, and fans all around the globe, I would like to ask you to please take your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or whichever device you choose to post to social media, pick it up, and chuck it into the Monaco harbor, or at least outside your apartment window. At the bare minimum, just delete your Twitter app, your Facebook app, your Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, what have you – and have it wiped off your phone.
Do that real quick, and then take an indefinite amount of time to just shut the hell up.
For much of the last two and a half years since opening your Twitter account, you’ve been able to coast off the fact that you have been, to your credit, one of the most self-deprecating and good-humored backmarkers in Formula 1 history. Never a month goes by without a reference to the time you tried to put the fire out of your broken-down Footwork Hart in the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix, only to be bowled over by the FIA Medical Car that ironically was meant to come to your aid and assistance. Maybe a reference to the time your awkward driving forced a shunt between title contenders Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill at Monza a month later. In 2013 you were named Autosport’s Worst F1 Driver in the last twenty years, and you were as proud of receiving that honor as if you had just won the Formula 1 World Championship.
You will always own up to your sub-par performances at backmarker teams in an eighteen-race career that saw you make relatively unheralded Footwork teammate Gianni Morbidelli look like a prime Alberto Ascari by comparison. It is that sort of driving that you now speak out against as a talent manager for young Japanese drivers, though to be quite frank, having the utterly forgettable, except when driving in a ninth-rate feeder series, Kimiya Sato be the shining star of your roster of managed talent reflects rather poorly on your overall ability in that category of racing as well (however, as a fan of the Super GT series, I will gladly welcome Mr. Sato with open arms this season as he takes on a part time role with JLOC in the GT300 class. The new Huracán GT3 will look nice in their livery.)
And like so many others, I was in on the act. I appreciated your sense of humor. It takes a special driver to look back at something that many other drivers would consider a humiliating experience with a humorous approach.
But I haven’t followed you on Twitter in some time, Mr. Inoue. To be quite honest, even as most people still adored you for owning up to being the worst driver of your generation with laughter and chuckles, I had grown quite weary, sick, and tired of you using Twitter as your open forum to snipe many of the active drivers and hard-working teams of Formula 1 for their failures, in an act of chucking rather large boulders through the front door of your all-glass mansion. I’d grown tired of you voicing your own xenophobic opinions about Formula 1’s newer markets – such as referring to Malaysia, the host of this weekend’s Formula 1 race, as a third-world country unfit for staging a race in the World Championship even after it being a constant for nearly two decades. That was a year ago actually, and it was ultimately the last straw before I decided to hit “unfollow” for myself.
Because I was sick and tired of following a retired professional racing driver who acted like a computer-illiterate knuckle dragger posting in the comments of a YouTube video. Not when there are other accounts that actually give back to the sport in a positive manner. Not when there are other, far more likeable former F1 backmarkers out there like the brilliant commentator Karun Chandhok, or the charming and upbeat Max Chilton, drivers who rarely if ever take to twitter bash other drivers and teams, only when it is absolutely warranted.
But that’s not why I’m writing this open letter today, using social media, just like yourself, to voice my own feelings and opinions.
Why I’m writing this letter is the latest disgusting, barely cohesive, and given your penchant for openly discussing the practice before, likely inebriated commentary about the horrifying crash that happened at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe on Saturday, a crash in which NISMO driver Jann Mardenborough‘s Nissan GT-R became airborne at the notorious Flügplatz section and flew over the guardrail, into a spectator area, killing one spectator and racing fan, injuring four more. And in far less than the maximum allotted 140 characters, you spewed forth something that made me so angry that I found it absolutely imperative that I deliver a response.
If my great and lovely friend and fellow racing fan Alice Wakely had not tipped me off to this, I would have just gone about my day, trying to put the tragic events of today in the back of my mind. Now, now I had to say something, and I feel almost as if I was baited, or goated, into a response but if I said nothing I might be at risk of having nobody say anything.
The only thing you got right in this abbreviated regurgitation of inept bile was to acknowledge Jann Mardenborough’s background as a video gamer before his professional racing career.
Forget that taking to Twitter to place the blame on the accident on a driver who was literally helpless to avoid his own car becoming airborne at one of the most dangerous portions of one of the most dangerous racing circuits in the world, is by itself so uneducated and tasteless. Forget that veteran drivers from far more traditional backgrounds, such as Mark Webber and Peter Dumbreck each became airborne in a similar manner at Le Mans driving the same model car in the same race just sixteen years ago, or Manfred Winkelhock, at that very same area of this exact same circuit, thirty-five years ago in a Formula 2 race.
But to use Mardenborough’s video game background as fuel for this stupid argument takes it to an unforgivably terrible level.
How dare you, Mr. Inoue.
Mardenborough used a video game competition to propel him to the highest levels of international auto racing, but he always had the desire to race. The trouble was that even though his father Steven was a professional footballer for two decades in the top divisions of England, that income that his father made in sport was not nearly enough to fund the necessary career in go-karting that so many drivers take nowadays en route to the highest levels of auto racing.
That funding is something that you, Mr. Inoue, took for granted as a driver as you bought your way right up the ladder from Formula Ford to Formula 1, almost certainly pricing out many other drivers with far more natural ability out of the pinnacle of motorsport – from late 1994 right up until March of 1996, the week before the Australian Grand Prix, where your checks somehow didn’t clear and you couldn’t race for Minardi, your seat instead going to a far more deserving young driver in Giancarlo Fisichella.
In his already brilliant career, he has become a bonafide star of the future in endurance racing. Two stellar outings at Le Mans have led to a well-deserved appointment to the Nissan factory team in the World Endurance Championship, where he will drive the most radical and exciting prototype sports car to be built in some time starting in June at Le Mans this year. He enters his second season in GP3 Series competition this year as well, where he will hope to build upon already being the first GT Academy champion and the first Black British driver to win a race in that championship, despite not being a “natural” single-seater talent.
This is a lot more that can be said about your own career in the lower categories of single-seater racing, which included a grand total of eleven career points in four seasons of Japanese Formula 3, and a grand total of zero points in one year of Formula 3000 – in addition to the zero victories, pole positions, fastest laps or podium finishes across those five forgettable campaigns.
And before settling on a double campaign in GP3 and WEC competition this year, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, another prominent Nissan figure, who in a legendary racing career as a driver and team owner contributes more to motorsport in Japan in one week of mundane day-to-day operations as president of Impul than you ever have in your entire career, had nothing but praise for Mardenborough’s confidence and driving ability in his first Super Formula test in November – in which the only driver who was consistently quicker than him was Kamui Kobayashi.
What today’s tragedy was at the Nurburgring was nothing more or less than an unthinkable tragedy, and a freak accident which can leave a young driver with long-lasting trauma, knowing that he could not control his airborne car as it plunged into the embankment lining the Nordschliefe like a missile, killing a fan who was a passionate follower of the sport, maybe even more heartbreakingly someone who was a fan of his – we don’t know about this deceased spectator other than that they are gone in a tragic accident, and their family and friends will never see or speak to them again.
But for you, Mr. Inoue, to take a shot at Mardenborough over Twitter in one of the darkest and most difficult moments of his young life goes beyond being just a crass idiot on Twitter. It is a despicable, unforgivable, and repulsive act of childish stupidity. And if it was meant as a joke, then it is as tasteless an attempt at humor as any I have seen in the realm of auto racing.
And this is not from some boorish idiot whose closest encounter to driving a race car was at his local arcade playing a game of Daytona USA. This is coming from a former professional racing driver that participated in the top category in all of auto racing at one point in his life – who, hopefully, somewhere in the recesses of his scattered brain, remembers that every racing driver, even the ones who pay their way into a seat, takes a fatal risk every time they drive a car in anger around a closed circuit.
In mere hours after the accident happened and the confirmation of a spectator fatality was handed down, Jann Mardenborough has already had the global reassurance and encouragement of the entire racing community who recognize him as a genuinely great driver and an even better young man. But he may still need some time to cope, maybe if it comes to it, a bit of counseling, to overcome something that many drivers are lucky to never experience – to walk away from an accident that has claimed the life of an innocent spectator. And you sit there, far removed from that fatal risk, in a cozy apartment in Monaco, to mock and insult him as if you have any credentials to do so, while doing the bare minimum to even acknowledge the tragic loss of life in this accident.
Language barrier? Even if at least one other knuckle-headed F1 twitterer rushed to your defense as blindly as the prophet Tiresias himself, nobody else in the racing community is buying that as an excuse. How can anyone interpret what you’ve said as anything other than a blatant disrespect to a driver already in grief? The massive backlash from those who once considered you to be an upright man in the motor racing fraternity has already been swift, led by drivers and fans who actually give something back to the sport, and much like the violent outburst that will leave Jeremy Clarkson out of his role as lead presenter of Top Gear after twenty-five years as a TV personality at the BBC it is all your fault for choosing this time to chirp.
You continued to disrespect members of the driving fraternity for several months, today you disrespected the racing fraternity as a whole. And for that, Mr. Inoue, I no longer have any respect for you, your greasy stick, your dog’s posterior, any of your other cheap gimmicks or anything to do with you as a driver, manager, or professional of any kind. And I would hope that after today that many other people feel comfortable in agreeing with me.
I planned on signing off with a very succinct two word phrase. I’ve decided against my first choice of two-word exclamations, out of fear that I would reduce myself to your level. Plus, “Go away” works just as well, so, in closing…
Go away, Mr. Inoue.