Formula 1 teams have been warned by the FIA that drivers swearing during media activities during grand prix weekends is not acceptable.
The FIA made the decision to write a letter to the teams after both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel both uttered expletives during interviews with TV commentator David Coulthard on the podium after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The FIA made the decision to send out the letter in the wake of the incidents and that it was not simply reacting to complaints from broadcasters. Britain's BBC network confirmed that it received 22 telephone calls complaining about the swearing.
The new podium interview procedure, which replaced that unilateral TV press conference that was traditionally held shortly after, was introduced at Silverstone. The FIA says that this incident proved the need to remind drivers about their conduct, particularly so soon after the end of the race and during the emotional high of the podium.
Vettel has accepted that the language he used on the podium was potentially offensive and posted an apology on his website.
"I'm terribly sorry for using the wrong word on the podium today and I'm sorry if I have offended anyone who was watching," said Vettel. "In the heat of the moment, I didn't use the right words and I apologise. I'll do better next time."
OPINION: A timely reminder
It's easy to dismiss the FIA's warning about swearing as a trivial, petty over-reaction. After all, there are far worse offenses in the world than bad language, which seems to attract disproportionate opprobrium. But that misses the point.
The fact is that Formula 1 is a corporate sport and it's essential that drivers conduct themselves in the right way. It's particularly relevant with the United States Grand Prix coming up.
After the race in Abu Dhabi, one F1 paddock regular with great experience of working in the U.S., pointed out that to have drivers swearing on the podium in Austin would be headline news there. After all, this is a country with a very low tolerance even for what would pass as "mildly bad" language on British or European television.
It does no harm to remind the drivers of this, especially those for whom English is not a first language and don't necessarily know the impact of their words. Vettel's classy apology proves that he recognized the mistake immediately and accepted the need to be more careful in the future.
All credit to the FIA for realizing that and taking prompt action, and for interviewer Coulthard for easing the blow by apologizing after it happened.
This is not about drivers being rendered as nothing more than wooden corporate caricatures, it's about the sport conducting itself in the right way for mass consumption.
-Edd Straw, AUTOSPORT F1 Editor