I don’t think anyone would be particularly surprised to learn that even Formula One drivers fell victim to the tyrannical rule of bossman Bernie Ecclestone before Liberty Media bought the series and made everything suck a little bit less. But a new article that’s come out about just how bad that got has come to light. It sounds like trying to run a successful social media account in the Ecclestone era sucked a big one.
The most recent confirmation of that face comes from Race Fans in its report of what 1’s head of digital Frank Arthofer, had to say at a SportsPro OTT summit. Arthofer had plenty of stories to regale the crowds regarding Mercedes driver Hamilton’s plight:
“A great story that Sean Branches, who’s my boss and runs the business at F1 tells, is [about] when Liberty bought the business [and] one of his first meetings was a lunch with Lewis Hamilton,” said Arthofer.
“Lewis brought with him to that lunch a stack of ‘cease and desist’ letters from Bernie Ecclestone because Lewis was taking clips of his onboards and posting them on his Instagram channel. And Lewis Hamilton, as I’m sure most of the audience knows, is arguably the biggest star in the history of the sport and has a huge crossover potential across urban culture, music, lifestyle.”
Yeah. That’s right. Lewis Hamilton, F1 World Champion and arguably the most popular driver on the grid in terms of general cultural outreach, was held to the same stupid restrictions that saw YouTubers’ videos taken down and massive meme purges. Even F1 itself wouldn’t post clips of great racing moments. Everyone was just supposed to exist as F1 fans in an F1-less void.
Hamilton was quite experienced with the whole ‘getting in trouble for using social media’ thing back in the day. On one occasion, he was banned from using Snapchat in the paddock. It was a stupid rule, and Hamilton showed his contempt for it by continuing to use Snapchat in the paddock.
But apparently the problem ran a lot deeper than anyone ever knew. Arthofer didn’t clarify exactly how many cease and desist letters Hamilton received from Ecclestone, but it was, apparently, a lot.
Which seems absurd, honestly. Drivers utilising social media is awesome. The series gets so much free advertising and a lot of attention from social media. Hell, fans voted Lando Norris Rookie of the Year, largely in part because his his social media presence is phenomenal.
One of Liberty Media’s biggest goals when it came into F1 was to loosen those dumb social media restrictions that never let anyone engage in the sport. And while they’re still not perfect, it’s a hell of a lot better nowadays, where F1 teams and drivers don’t have to worry about the series taking legal action against them for posting a paddock selfie.