While the Formula 1 world waited on news from Jerez on Friday, where Lotus were running the E22 for the first time, nothing emerged – instead the team got embroiled in a storm surrounding a Twitter, Facebook and website post which highlighted gay rights (or rather lack thereof) in Russia on the occasion of the opening day of the Sochi winter Olympics.
What was perhaps a well intentioned message accompanied by a photo showing two hunky gay men embracing and kissing, was soon removed from Lotus’ social media platforms as it immediately went viral and caused an immediate stir in the process with some fans praising the boldness of the statement while others decrying it for being politically incorrect.
This was followed by a host of disparaging remarks when the daring posts were removed from the team’s Twitter, Facebook and website home pages.
The message appeared around 14:00 pm (GMT) but was removed a few hours later, followed by a tweet: “We would like to sincerely apologise for an unauthorized message posted on our Twitter account today & will ensure that this cannot happen again”
The tweet from the team suggested that this was not done in official capacity, and hinted at some form of hack. However there was no response when the media department was asked for a more detailed explanation of why the messages were removed.
At first glance a GP247 colleague thought that the photo was a spoof showing Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean in a bonding session, until closer inspection revealed that it was neither of the team’s drivers.
Famously, last year, the team posted a photo of two rabbits mating when it was announced that Kimi Raikkonen would move from Lotus to Ferrari. The team’s social media crew are known to be edgy and inventive in their approach to interacting with their fans.
Below is a selection of reactions to the latest furore caused by Lotus on Twitter:
- Sturdevant: You should lose more respect for apologizing than tweeting it. No honor in the apology.
- Tim: What’s wrong with that?
- Luis Duraes: You guys, are pure entertainers
- Fake Charlie Whiting: I dunno about everyone else, but 2 blokes kissing is less shocking than that bunny photo you posted last season.
- Matt: Dunno why an apology for that kind of thing is necessary in 2014…
- Overrated Outcast: F*CKING COWARDS!
- Katie:I had so much more respect for you guys when it was real…
- joaopapa: You should not apologize for something good. It was brave, and now it’s douche. Shame on you, retards.
- The F1 Times: It was simply a message wishing all athletes well in Sochi and a photo of two rather manly men kissing.
- joaopapa: A picture of two guys kissing and a good luck wish to everyone on Russian Winter Olympics.
- Sean: That’s rather funny, really! 😛
- Peter: I’m seriously disappointed in your apology.
- Roshni: Can’t believe they apologised. They’ve always been cheeky.
- Oculus: Communist countries hate it when men kiss each other.
- Jason Smith: What happened to the gay boys. You can’t just remove that. You make the call to post something controversial then stand by it! You could have made the international news in another day or two.
BBC report that the tweet also upset top management and shareholders of the team, who are owned by the investment group Genii Capital, because it was causing problems for their business.
Genii has billions in investments around the globe, including significant interests in Russia and now Lotus have a new Russian backer, mobile phone company Yotaphone. Its parent company Yota Devices is on the verge of buying a 10% stake in the team.
As for the ‘promotional event’ at Jerez, nothing was forthcoming from Lotus or Renault on what transpired on a day when the French engine manufacturer were running their revised V6 turbo, in the aftermath of the first test debacle.
On hand to observe proceedings were representatives from Renault powered teams Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham.
Lotus are expected to use up their second and final ‘promotional event’ 100 km allowance at Jerez on today [Saturday]. (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.