Round The Bend – A Finger of Fun

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F1 drivers do it, footballers do it, even Frankie Dettori does it – so why don’t karters celebrate in style?

Formula One World Championship
Sebastian Vettel with his famous finger

Where do you stand on the finger? No, I don’t mean what Americans like to call ‘the bird,’ but Sebastian Vettel’s pointy celebration, usually aired immediately after setting pole position or winning a race.

It became particularly obvious to me after he’d stuck his RB6 on pole at the Australian Grand Prix back in March. As he climbed out of the car, Seb went into a frenzy of jabbing his finger skyward. It’s clearly designed to combine an expression of sheer, unalloyed joy with a clear, gesticulatory statement that says ‘Ich bin die nummer eins.’

Vettel’s ramrod straight digit first appeared when he won the 2008 Monza GP, where he combined it with more traditional air-punching gestures. Last season, he was able to pull his finger out eight times after setting pole and then winning at Shanghai, Silverstone, Suzuka and Abu Dhabi.

At first it all looked quite fun and combined well with his boyish grin, English sense of humour and natural exuberance. Now into its third season though, I’m becoming less sure. Mrs. Jones finds it a little arrogant and overly pointy, while I sometimes like to imagine he’s trying to get rid of an invisible bee – or flick away something from up his nose, after a mid-race rummage. But fair play to Vettel, he’s developed a celebration that is clearly his own – although others are now trying to copy it.

Formula Three star and Red Bull Junior driver, Jean-Eric Vergne appropriated it for his celebrations at Oulton Park recently – as did British GT race-winner Duncan Cameron at the same circuit. However, Craig Dolby took the Vettel Finger Point in a new direction when he combined it with the famous Schumacher Star Jump after his maiden Superleague Formula win.

Fernando Alonso likes to do a version of it, but his looks more like he’s telling a naughty puppy or child (Vettel perhaps?) not to wee on the floor or eat his Albondigas. Jenson Button likes to demonstrate his characteristically less haughty, but double-handed finger point (Which Mrs. Jones finds charming…)

Unfortunately, his team-mate Lewis has yet to develop, his own hand-based celebration, preferring instead the sporno approach. Kimi Raikkonen is also a fan – see and you’ll get my, er, point.

Talking of Hamilton, some celebrations can go too far. Ironically, just a week before the McLaren ace was caught ‘hooning’ by the Melbourne fuzz, Cian Fothergill had been forced to issue a somewhat grovelling apology for his ‘inappropriate actions’ after the opening round of the CIK Stars of Karting Series at Newcastle in New South Wales. He had crossed the line with both hands and feet off the controls of his kart – something the Nick Neri has made his signature move in the USA.

In football, goal-scoring celebrations are part and parcel of the game and have moved on from the classic ‘bundle’ and Alan Shearer’s terminally-dull method of sprinting back to his own half with his right hand in the air. Such was the Geordie maestro’s special brand of excitement that his team-mates at Southampton nicknamed him ‘Chicken and Beans,’ after the then teenage goal-hanger’s favourite meal. For me, Jimmy Bullard’s now legendary finger-wagging at a circle of his Hull City colleagues in a light-hearted re-enactment of the half-time roasting Phil Brown delivered to his team the previous season is the wittiest ever. Probably because it involved some comedic Vetteling.

Unfortunately, karting in the UK and Europe is sadly lacking drivers who like to unveil inventive, pre-rehearsed routines involving their team after each new victory, or who have, like Vettel, begun to experiment with the use of regular gestures. Trust me, I’ve searched high and low. I have a framed poster in my office from the 2008 World Championships, featuring Marco Ardigo crossing the line to win the title. He simply has both arms fully outstretched, hands clenched, punching the air. Yawn. In the same year, Robert Foster-Jones had celebrated his Winter Cup victory by recalling John Travolta’s classic Saturday Night Fever pose, but also liked to temper his other triumphal celebrations with the classic – but rather lacking creativity – clenched fist. Now a Formula Renault UK star, Will Stevens would celebrate his kart wins with a range of celebrations; including admirably applauding his mechanics on the sidelines.

However, Will joins reigning WSK KF2 champion Ben Cooper and 2005 World champion Oli Oakes in sharing the ‘Pointing at the Heavens with Both Hands’. Surely these fine drivers could have planned more exciting hand signals? I know a lot of people worship Valentino Rossi, whose post-race revelries have become almost as exciting and famous as the victories that sparked them, but he has so far failed to inspire similar antics in karting.

In the words of the Tories, it’s time for change, so I’m prepared to offer a prize for the photo or video clip featuring the most creative and original podium or finishing-line celebration. Send your entry to insert address …    

You never know, I might even see if I can persuade Seb to add it to his repertoire.