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Formula One drivers told to avoid racy language

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One drivers have been told to mind their language after world champion Sebastian Vettel and race winner Kimi Raikkonen turned the air blue on the podium at last Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

A spokesman for the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on Thursday that a private and 'friendly' letter had been sent to all teams' communications directors about the bad language.

The letter reminded them that it was "very much our collective responsibility to make sure drivers are aware such language has no place during media events."

It added that swearing in broadcast interviews "shines an unwelcome beam of adverse publicity on their teams and sponsors, the sport and FIA."

Raikkonen, whose win for Lotus was the first of his comeback and first by the 2007 world champion since he was at Ferrari in 2009, is well known for his taciturn nature and much of what he says in English can be hard to follow.

He was perfectly intelligible on the Abu Dhabi podium, however, when interviewed by former McLaren team mate turned television pundit David Coulthard.

"Last time you guys was giving me shit because I didn't really smile enough," declared the Finn in his opening remarks on the live televised feed.

Vettel, Red Bull's championship leader who finished third, said in the same podium session that starting from the pit lane was "obviously a chance to fuck it up and we didn't do that."

Both driver comments were retained in the official FIA transcript and were still to be found on the FIA website (www.fia.com) on Thursday.

Coulthard apologized to television viewers afterwards, reminding them that neither driver had been speaking in his mother tongue.

The FIA letter said the governing body understood that "in the 'heat of battle', adrenaline, elation and disappointment make for a dangerous and heady mix.

"But F1 drivers are not the only ones being interviewed in such conditions: I think of boxers, rugby and football players who are routinely interviewed live on television after a grueling sporting effort. They manage to avoid inappropriate language."

The FIA introduced the podium interviews, conducted by a former driver, this season in an effort to give more to fans at the circuit. Drivers had previously only waved and sprayed champagne after the race before being whisked off to talk to the media.

Ironically, teams have been known to encourage drivers to pepper their team radio chat with strong language during the race to ensure their comments will not be chosen for broadcast and heard by rivals.

All radio transmissions during the race are screened by Formula One Management before being given clearance.

Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber said in 2010 that he should have "put some colorful language either side of my radio transmission" after creating a controversy by saying as he crossed the line at Silverstone that the win was "not bad for a number two driver".

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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