For the unenlightened Ronspeak is a dialect of the English language that evolved over decades in Formula 1 started by former McLaren supremo Ron Dennis, which over the years has become entrenched in the sport at the highest level.
Wikipedia describes Ronspeak as: “The term coined for the style of speech used by Dennis and has become a well-used phrase in the F1 paddock to describe sentences of unneeded complexity.”
Fine examples of Ronspeak include:
“Focus is thought to be good, obsession is thought to be bad. But basically, they’re the same thing. And then there’s ego. Ego is a core ingredient of ambition. Ambition and ego are close bedfellows. And, like everybody I suppose, I seek happiness. It’s an uncomplicated objective. I don’t see happiness as laughing or clapping your hands. I see it as the opposite of unhappiness, the opposite of anger, of depression. If you can get into that state of mind, you’re going to be far more productive.”
Meaning: I’m only happy when we’re winning.
“Surprisingly for us, the psychological blow of it raining halfway through qualifying in Australia was much greater than we anticipated.”
Meaning: Rain ruined our race.
“I wish Lewis really, really well. He’s been nurtured well through his career and I feel none of the emotions that attribute to me.”
Meaning: Bye-bye Lewis
“Life isn’t about one person deciding anything. It’s never that way. It’s about circumstances. Everybody says: Am I bitterly this or bitterly that? What? I’m a realist.”
Meaning: Get real.
“First of all our shareholders have a position, then the board has a position and then Martin [Whitmarsh] has to handle what that position is. It would be totally inappropriate for me to say anything that would undermine Martin’s position.”
Meaning: I am the boss
“I hate shopping. I don’t shop, at all. Fortunately, my creditworthiness allows for a shop to release quantities of product so I can choose at home.”
Meaning: I am very rich.
“From our perspective, and ours is more qualified because we are not hiding from our inadequacies, it is statistically not borne out that we have huge reliability problems.
Meaning: Our car is rubbish
“Inevitably you have a greater interest in seeing what he says and how he says it. I am more impressed when it is a pure quote rather than something he is reputed to have said. He is very well put together in the mind.”
Meaning: I like this guy
“I used to go to bed with the vacuum cleaner going because my mum wanted the house immaculate when she got up. That’s the ethos I grew up with, everything had to be perfect all the time. That’s why I am such a pain to live with. I don’t want chaos; my homes are my tranquillity bases.”
Meaning: I have mysophobia.
“I am very driven by aesthetics. When I look at our cars, my own enthusiasms, therefore, tend to be a little more influenced by aesthetics than you might expect. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in the adage that form follows function – or, to put it another way, a fast racing car is surprisingly often a beautiful racing car.”
Meaning: McLaren makes pretty race cars.
“So, to revert to the specificity of your question, I’m not going to hypothesise about what might have happened had we done things differently, because I don’t think there’s anything specifically wrong with the way we’ve done things.”
Meaning: We are not as bad as you make out
More recently, the purveyor in chief of modern Ronspeak is unsurprisingly Eric Boullier who has embraced the dialect that his former boss introduced to the sport.
The McLaren sporting director’s three years of press releases explaining the woeful performances of his team with Honda power could fill a book with Ronspeak. His verbose reasoning, after each session in which his cars were woefully outperformed, is the stuff of legend.
And this season his Ronspeak is again in full swing as again he is forced to verbalise his team’s shortcomings:
“The car has matched all the targets, so maybe that means the targets were not the right ones and we need to revise in terms of ambitions what we need to achieve.”
Meaning: We messed up
“We know there’s a lot of work to do and we’re working hard, day and night, to bring more performance to the car each time we hit the track. Our biggest deficit is our qualifying performance and addressing this is our priority.”
Meaning: We are very slow still
“We can’t take anything for granted and we know that despite a stronger performance than we’ve seen in recent months, we also benefitted from circumstances around us.”
Meaning: We were lucky
This is obviously one of the issues but it’s not the only one. If it were a question of just drag in the car it would be easy to fix so we have to address – I’m going to use the word fundamentally – all aspects of the car to make sure we are where we should be.
Meaning: Our car is shite
What prompted this piece on Ronspeak was the classic Christian Horner explanations for Max Verstappen’s recent shenanigans:
“It wasn’t a stuck throttle. I think when Max got high on the kerb there was an oscillation on the foot. It was fairly obvious.”
Meaning: Max stepped on the loud pedal too hard.
“I’m fully confident that he’s a phenomenal talent and he’s smart enough to recognise areas that he needs to work on. I have no doubt that he will address it. We’ve already discussed it.”
Meaning: Max got a bollocking
Ferrari capo Sergio Marchionne tends to call a spade a spade, but occasionally he too has his Ronspeak moments:
“I did not say we were leaving Formula 1 in 2020, but that if we cannot reconcile our differences then we will leave. We’ve raced in Formula the longest of anyone. We understand the sport. It’s definitely hard to imagine F1 without Ferrari, so I sincerely hope we can go through.”
Meaning: We will leave F1 if we don’t get everything we want.
Toto Wolff is also embracing the lingo:
“Lewis did nothing wrong. It was down to a software bug or an algorithm that was simply wrong. The team chief referring to software that the F1 world champion team has been using with good effect for the past four seasons, but this time out in the heat of the race, glitched out at a very inopportune moment for the team and in the end cost them victory.”
Meaning: We messed up.
When talking about Red Bull, Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has a tendency to slip into Ronspeak:
“We’ve always said that to be an engine supplier is a very bad business.”
Meaning: I hate Red Bull.
Even drivers also have a tendency to go into Ronspeak mode when need be, as Lewis Hamilton tends to do from time to time:
“I really wanted to make sure that when I came to the sport I wanted to experience being at two different teams, and to win at two different teams. People were like: you’ve won with McLaren, but can you do it with another? So I’m glad I did that. I’m a big fan of Ferrari, it’s a fantastic team, but I love where I am.”
Meaning: Come on Toto show me some real money!
“I was in no man’s land today. I had no pace so was just trying to hold on to whatever I had. Saturday and Sunday felt like a disaster from my side. I just haven’t had the pace since qualifying and I struggled with the car.”
Meaning: I am addicted to Candy Crush and did not get enough sleep.
Since his return to McLaren, Fernando Alonso has become a fluent Ronspeaker:
“Our car showed a lot of potential in winter testing. And although we know we still have a lot to work on, we’ve already learned a lot about the package and how all the new elements to this year’s car work together.”
Meaning: Our car is shite
Young Max Verstappen is learning Ronspeak:
“I went on the outside with Hamilton, but there were a lot of marbles, which made me slightly lose control of the car. That was a shame, but nevertheless, there were still a lot of possibilities. This is definitely not what I want. Again I think it is a life lesson.”
Meaning: My bad…
Sebastian Vettel has had his moments too:
“I didn’t see Max until very late, so I left a little bit of room as well. To be honest I was expecting him to come earlier. I had no intention to resist because it was clear with Daniel [Ricciardo] as well that there was no point doing so as they were just too fast on the fresh tyres. But then obviously he did a mistake, he locked up, which happens. We had a tailwind down that straight the whole race, so I guess he misjudged and compromised both of our results.”
Meaning: Max you idiot!
Indeed Ronspeak that prevails and thrives in the current Formula 1 landscape often hides the true message without being deceitful and requires some shrewd interpretation to get to the crux of what is actually being said. Tough job being a journo!
Big Question: Please provide appropriate examples of the most eloquent and elaborate Ronspeak moments in time that have impressed and/or entertained you. Examples that convey without swaying the principles of the dialect to the inquisitive masses that follow our beloved sport, which is packed with passion, love, hate and pure adrenaline instigating rushes that make this sport what it is today.
Meaning: What are your favourite Ronspeak quotes?