Insight: What is the Finnish word for ‘exciting’? F1 drivers let the shackles off
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Apr 2017   |  11:14 am GMT  |  44 comments

One of the things that has characterised these early Grand Prix weekends of 2017 has been the greater sense of freedom among the F1 drivers to express themselves and to present a lighter face.

This has come through the freedom that has been granted to them by F1’s new owners Liberty Media, who have allowed them a freer rein to use video and other assets in their social media at the circuit. Liberty want to build the new F1 on the personalities of the drivers, both as heroes, but also as young guys with whom fans can identify and interact.

This has also had a knock-on effect in the FIA Press Conferences, which were criticised last year by Lewis Hamilton for being sterile, but which have been re-imagined this year with smaller, more dynamic panels. Hamilton has certainly embraced it and has been funny all weekend, even after losing the pole on Saturday to his team mate (photo below); hard to imagine last year! Rosberg’s departure has certainly contributed to that mood, but he also seems to have taken responsibility for leading on how the drivers should present themselves in this very different new environment.

His outreach to Chinese fans in the grandstands during the rained off Shanghai practice session was another good example of that.

Lewis Hamilton

The effect has been that the drivers now interact with each other mch more in the press conferences – which are after all not an entertainment but a working tool for the 200+ journalists from around the world who attend the races – and have fun and yesterday was a great example after Valtteri Bottas scored his first F1 pole position.

Sebastian Vettel has always been happy to use some wry humour and a sardonic grin is never far from his lips (apart from when his car is under performing)

Yesterday he kicked off some great banter between drivers that had all three of them and the whole press conference room laughing in the aisles

“Today is the day for Finland and Formula One. Keeping it Finnish!” he said.

Finnish journalist Heikki Kulta always takes immense pride when a Finn achieves something in F1 and always gushes with questions in the press conference. Yesterday he was straight in there complimenting Bottas on being the first Finn on pole for 168 Grands Prix, then asked a hilarious question,

“Lewis.. the last time you lost the pole to a Finnish driver was 2008; do you still remember how that felt? Does it feel the same as now?”

Hamilton: “Cold! Yeah, I remember 2008, Silverstone, I remember it very very clearly. Heikki (Kovalainen, his McLaren team mate that year) did a fantastic job. He was quicker throughout the weekend..

“You know, when you asked the first question I had a really crazy thought: I’m sure at home he (Heikki Kulta) has like a wall and every day he goes home and he ticks off – ‘damn, it’s another race that (no Finn is on pole)…’ He’s got a whole wall..whatever it is, 168 crosses so I’m sure on Monday you’re going to be repainting the wall, a nice clean one!

Vettel chimed in, “Does the word ‘excited’ exist in Finnish?”

Bottas replied, “Kind of.”

Hamilton joined in, “It’s probably something really simple. What is ‘exciting’ in Finnish?”

Bottas looked blank.

Vettel: See! It doesn’t exist!

Hamilton: It’s not one that’s really used much in the vocabulary.

Bottas: I don’t know really. *

F1 press conference

Here’s another exchange; Heikki Kulta asked, “Valtteri, congratulations, I counted that is has been 168 races without a Finn in the pole. How important is it for you to put Finland back in the polesitters group?”

Bottas: “Thank you Heikki, and congratulations to you as well! Sure, it feels good. I didn’t even realise it’s that long – nearly ten years.

Vettel: Who? Where? [Heikki Kovalainen, Silverstone] Oh.

Bottas: It’s good to break that, it’s a lot of races without a Finn on pole so that is good and obviously very proud always to drive for Finland, for my country and very glad for all the support I’ve got from there. So yeah, happy.

Vettel: Where were you in 2008. F3?

Bottas: Formula Renault!


There have been other examples this weekend, but the point to the same thing, which is the F1 drivers realising that the future of this sport lies not just in their continued greatness and high standards behind the wheel but also in how they present themselves as personalities. The new F1 Management want to encourage that as much as possible, as it is the way to penetrate into new audiences as well as to provide existing fans much more frequent and rewarding touch points with the sport.

F1 drivers on the whole are intelligent, bright people. They are now starting to let the shackles off and as the younger ones see the older more famous ones doing it, they will start doing it too.

It should be an enjoyable year off track as well as on it, this year.

* The Finnish word for ‘exciting’ is INNOSTONUT

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Gee, maybe they’ll let Vettel change the design of his helmet throughout the year again. (Some of us can tell from the T-bar and the car’s number who is driving it. I guess some of the older f1 & FIA officials aren’t so skilled.)

Tornillo Amarillo

But body language after the race, in the room, Hamilton showed his back to Bottas for long time. When points are important (and it is not in qualy) the relationship between drivers is going to get colder I guess.


I wouldn’t necessarily link the new ownership to the dynamics that we are witnessing this season, though I do feel like the sport is having a much needed breath of life blasted into it and that IS exciting.
Like others have mentioned, I think that the departure of Rosberg has taken away an ugly and bitter inter-team rivalry and Ferrari finally matching Mercedes for performance has added a renewed excitement. I think it’s great to see Hamilton’s attitude improve, though I think he may be in a honeymoon period as he enjoys the fight with a strong rival from outside the team (different cars and no data sharing with Vettel) but Bottas is already making significant progress and the loving glances and embraces with Vettel will no doubt sour if Vettel begins to scamper away…

Ultimately I think the real shackles for the drivers come in the form of the mighty dollar, politics and the self censorship that these encourage…
Drivers don’t want to rock the boat by saying something that potentially sees them miss out on a possible contract or lose a drive and/or sponsors. It seems that unless you have Senna or Schumacher like abilities (not only behind the wheel), it is incredibly difficult to speak your mind and maintain a drive. It seems to be the same across most sports or professional fields – as soon as it becomes more lucrative and professional it becomes a lot more PC. Self censorship takes away a lot of the side show.
While there still are occasional glimmers of what the drivers are really thinking, the off track drama is an element that could be improved as it allows us to enjoy the human element of the sport. Though I’m not sure within the constraints I mentioned above, how you foster this freedom for drivers characters to be expressed. I’ve been hoping for refreshing drivers who can dance the dance of politics and self expression, but they are few and far between. Currently though, there is some promise with Alonso and Vettel seemingly capable of speaking their minds (backed by WDC success) and Ricciardo and Max are doing a decent job of it (Red Bull help out with there more relaxed approach which is an element of their brand)
To use a racing analogy, you need the right balance. Hopefully Liberty’s approach to allow more social media freedom will help the brands to lighten up a little and go someway to finding this balance.


Let me preface this by saying that everyone’s opinion is important and valid. But as I read these comments about something that is a good thing for our sport many seem negative suggesting it will go backwards.

Our natural response to win, loss, errors are different every time and pressure does change people so yes it will happen. But that does not mean we need to keep talking about how it will turn bad again. I like the direction this sport is taking under the new leadership which is not just about Liberty but Alonso doing the 500, Hulkenberg doing Le mans a few years back, videos on twitter of cars leaving the pits in testing. All pointing to improvements that we as fans will all benefit from.

I hope that these drivers keep showing emotions both happy, sad and pissed, it just shows them as human hero’s, closer to us as fans with young fans thinking that could be racers of the future.

Finally I a want a -1 option on these comments to so I disagree with responses. Full respect to every comment as I said but this change is a good thing one which we should not be expecting to change negatively but encourage positively the honesty to continue.


Good to watch & good for F1
Just goes to show how important leadership is & in the case of F1 a change was overdue. No 80 year old can lead a global sport/ business at the level required.


Did you on purpose cut from text Lewis’ comment: “Back then you divided the cars by two laps of fuel and often I would have… sometimes I would have the lighter fuel load; on that weekend, he was just quicker and we needed as a team to be at the front so he ended up having the lighter fuel load and did a great job but obviously I got a great start in the race.”
We Finns know that Lewis was McLarens favorite then. Silverstone 2008 was the only race when Heikki Kovalainen got lighter car. On racing day rain was expected and Lewis’ car had vet weather setup. Pity for Heikki and his spoiled career.


Hmmm…. Heikki wasn’t a great competitor. A good driver certainly, but not one with the mental strength needed to win in F1. There is an article here where he talks about is Macca season.


1. Making fun at the press conference is nothing new.
2. Absence of the freezecold tension between Nico and Lewis is new.
3. Don’t be mistaking, the lighthearted banter serves an underlying purpose: establishing and confirming the picking order. The dominating specimens (the two multiple WDCs) team up for the occasion and tease the new polesitter to such an extent he can’t remember the Finnish word for ‘exciting’. All in good jest of course, but meanwhile he is warned off not to challenge the top dogs.
The next day, Bottas complied neatly. Twice. Back into your doggy bed, Valtteri, good dog. GOOD DOG, good dog. That’s my boy.


I don’t think Bottas reacted in the way you suggest. However, if a driver allows their competitors to pysch them into submission, then they were not a competitor at all.


Interesting comments all around. I’m pretty sure Bernie , being the geriatric he is was all for controlling the Drivers, as it would seem were the British media. For Example, Seb Vettel has always had a wicked sense of humour that came through more often that not. He is by nature a happy go lucky guy, who wears his feelings on his sleeve and expresses them . How many times he has been criticized by (British) commentators and contributors to various sites for expressing himself can be measured in the thousands.. I really like the fact the Drivers are now allowed to be people, and not Robots. Even LH has lighten up, and Alonso surely has a great sense of very wry humour he is allowed to express.. Keep it up and don’t stifle the new approach..


Bottas never used the world INNOSTONUT?
Not even talking to his waifu?
Or driving a F1?


Mika H was a very dull person initially but slowly he became such an exciting personality! Bottas still has a chance I think


Mika is deap pan minimalist funny. Take 10 mins to check out Mika teaching James May about sisu and scandanavian flicks…


It is interesting how SKY has invested its Video Capabilities to go scan FERRARI and what could be potential exploitation of loop holes with thier car design. More interesting is how TED says HE went and had a chat with Charlie Whiting who said he will look into the footage! 🙂

I am not sure I have a specific feeling for the way he said “he told Charlie about it”. Good Teachers PET’s these Sky people, the TEACHER being LEWIS 😀

More bonus for Ted I Guess.


@ Nomad….I happened to have heard that comment by Kravitz as well and then also heard Symmonds try to back track from his previous comments re ‘legality’. Here we have two brits looking for something, anything to create aggravation to the team that threatens to derail the mighty Mercedes and their driver.



I really wish if my comment above could be deleted.


I’m not so sure, if the press conference banter and humour is related to the recent “more liberal F1 environment”.

So far, Bottas’ story has a “feel-good” factor to it. I’m sure that a lot of fans and journalist would not have predicted that by race 3, he would out-qualify Hamilton in a direct fight without the intervention of reliability.

But, wait and watch as the title battle gets more intense, and indeed if Bottas regularly manages to out-qualify Hamilton, then you will see the jolly Hamilton turn into
“Something or someone doesn’t want me to win this year” fame HAMILTON.!!

Off course, that someone being “the higher upper force”, if you know what I mean .

And wait and watch, how a certain section of media will then, start the demonization of Bottas !!

I have seen that script play out in recent years. I won’t be surprised if it gets repeated, but then again, it all depends on Bottas being able to match Hamilton (which I don’t think will happen on consistent enough basis to ruffle Hamilton.)


Do you mean like your demonisation of Hamilton?


Finnish word for exciting is really “pole”.


Excited = innostunut, innoissaan.


James, with respect, it is not in social media or in banter between drivers that we the fans look for heros. It is on the track and only on the track.
Liberty M would do well to bear this in mind.


That’s pure BS. We are human beings and most of us prefer our heroes to have a personality, than you very much. Why bother even following a driver otherwise? Why not just have robotic cars that race each other?

“Wow, Vehicle Control System Number 243 is such a great driver! My Hero!”


Sorry James I don’t agree with some of your sentiments on this matter – but understand you have a job to do. Your response on Australia TV about drivers obligation to provide answers to questions was way off.

Don’t care how much drivers get paid no one can expect an honest, open and interesting response from them if they are hammered with the SAME questions 50 times over a 4 day period – or if a journal asks a question in a loaded fashion.

Journos seem to be confused with there place in the pecking order of things – and in F1 its even worse.

F1’s massive corporate money backing setup places all sorts of controls on what drivers can say to the press/fans with the drivers having to be trained how to deal with journos. The results are the fans have to put up with rubbish and disinterested answers from the drivers because journos are lazy at their jobs, manipulative with the questions, damn right rude to the drivers, and simply misquote/fabricate information.

Reduce the number of Journos to a few whom really know a thing or two about F1, who get the drivers on side so they open up to provide incites to fans without repercussions, and control the number of interviews drivers do over a race weekend – they can spent more time with meeting fans one on one.


If this is what the ‘Americanisation’ of F1 leads to then I’m all for it! Great to see the real personalities of the drivers that we have only really got a glimpse of before.

Reminds me of the comparison between football and rugby: football is all hyper-serious with over-analysation and bitter rivalries between fans. Rugby is 80 mins of all-out war on the pitch but as soon as the final whistle blows everyone, players and fans, congratulate each other on a good game and go for a drink afterwards. Bernie-era F1 was a bit like football, all analysis and hyper-rivalries with no real personality. If Liberty-era F1 can move towards the rugby style of fierce competition on the track followed by fun and companionship off-track then it’s going to only get better.


I don’t think I’ve read or seen anything anywhere that has suggested the sport was better under the control of Bernie.
I don’t think he had done anything positive for f1 in at least a decade


He made a few rich guys a lot richer, and started with himself

Ricciardo Aficionado

Who shackled them in the first place?


The prevailing culture meant they kept it pretty buttoned up


And the new lack of childish behaviour now Rosberg has gone ,like you said. Both Hamilton and Rosberg were responsible for it and they had the best car. Still confuses me. Sad in hindsight.


The ‘Button’ is returning…

I’ll take me coat


We’re seeing huge changes in how F1 is being run within months of LM taking over. It just goes to show that those who claim the previous owner was good for the sport were completely wrong. The difference is like a light has been switched on, a lead weight taken away. One can only wonder what F1 could have achieved if there had been more informed people running the sport 10 or 20 years ago.


@ Rodger R….what are these ‘huge changes’ ? Some minor alterations to the status quo re driver comments etc does not constitute ‘huge changes’ to me. What i consider huge will be when we have ‘total freedom’ for teams to choose whatever tyres they want to race on from whatever supplier they choose…scrap this ridiculous rule that Q2 tyres must be used for the top ten placegetters. Return to FTA for those who desperately want to watch and support F1 but cannot afford the extremely high rates charged by the ‘paywall operators’ These are the things that are huge IMO…..let’s not get carried away the minute there is a bit of edge tinkering.


The recent meeting between FOM, FIA, the teams and engine manufacturers passed you by, did it? LM have taken the shackles off, it’ll take more than a few weeks to shake off the rust and dust attached to them.


Nothing really to do with F1 really, but I caught a bit of Ron Howard’s Beatles’ movie, Eight Days A Week, the other day, and I realised that a huge part of their appeal had nothing to do with their musicianship, it was their charisma and wit that made them what they were.

If they’d been all dull and technical, “well, we decided to go write that one in Gm instead of G major because…” they’d have gone nowhere.

Er, so, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this… I’ll just say that I think punters want to see big characters, charisma, and candour. Stats and a willingness to toe the corporate line pleases no one, except those corporations.

I think it’s safe to say that Liberty are definitely changing the sport for the better.


Great point. I agree with your first para 100%


the press conferences you chaired yesterday with the team principles and then engineers were certainly not very “exciting”


One step at a time..


Good stuff 🙂


Hilarious that Bottas couldn’t recall the Finnish word for ‘exciting’. Funny also about that Finnish journalist.


I may be wrong but I don’t think it’s the new freedom from the new owners that has allowed this rather Rosberg retiring!

The animosity and disdain Hamilton showed towards Rosberg and members of the press corps choosing lines that inflamed the situation through insinuations as well.

When Rosberg outqualifies Hamilton it’s because he had some problem or missed an apex well thats what pressure is all about, and Lewis would have had some backhanded comment to make and you have Vettel sitting there trying to lighten the mood circa 2015.
Hamilton forces Rosberg of the track, he’s showing him who is boss, reverse the situation it’s made out as Rosberg is a dirty driver.
This fun and games will end quickly should Bottas keep besting him or standing his ground in a wheel to wheel battle.


Not far away when Hamilton wears big sun glasses for a press meet


Very exciting start to the season so far…no idea who is going to win tomorrow.


Exciting indeed. Fun example about finns and their personality:

Menen tapaamaan hänet = I’m going to meet him
Menen tappamaan hänet = I’m going to kill him

(hänet = her/him)


How can you tell a Finnsh extrovert? When he talks to you, he stares at YOUR shoes.

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