By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Teams & sponsors are not to blame if modern Formula One drivers mask their personalities & behave like robots, Lotus deputy principal Federico Gastaldi said on Friday.
Brazil's retired world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, who won titles in 1972 & 1974, said this week that drivers were becoming 'robots' as teams & sponsors sought to prevent them being themselves.
"If you drive for Ferrari, for example, before the press conference you will be told 'you cannot say this' or 'you should not say that'," Fittipaldi told motorsport.com.
"Am I a robot? Or am I a personality? That's what is missing."
Gastaldi, hitting back in a team preview for next week's Hungarian Grand Prix, denied putting any pressure on his Lotus drivers — Frenchman Romain Grosjean & Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
"I understand what Emersonâ€™s saying yet I know that we as a team donâ€™t do anything proactive to stop our drivers from saying what they think," he said.
"The drivers themselves are free to decide to say what they think, yet they are talking in a very different world from when Emerson was a driver.
"Now if you say anything even slightly out of the normal itâ€™s repeated, misreported, analyzed & regurgitated across all forms of media & I think many drivers have taken a wise approach to this."
Gastaldi said if some drivers sounded "like politicians" then it was because they wanted to avoid controversy & drawing ever more questions.
"They want to drive, not spend hours discussing their opinions on whether Kim Kardashian should appear on the front of Rolling Stone magazine," he added.
A recent survey carried out in conjunction with the Grand Prix Drivers Association found that 86 percent of respondents wanted drivers to be open & honest with fans.
Mercedes' reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is likely to have an opinion on the Rolling Stone cover after spending time with Kardashian family members, said last month commercial realities sometimes made it complex for drivers.
"It is very difficult for us drivers to say certain things, because we have sponsorship deals, partners, weâ€™ve received to represent the sport in a certain way," he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)