Don’t hate the player, hate the game

ACCORDING TO some, Scott Mclaughlin’s 2019 Supercars Championship win is tainted.

If you believe some of the hype there’s forever going to be an Asterix after his 2019 victory given everything that has gone on within the Shell V-Power Racing squad this year.

The Bathurst drama was then followed by the Bathurst engine drama that saw the team excluded from the results of qualifying on the Mountain, fined more money and sent to the back of the grid for the Sandown 500.

By anyone’s standards, it’s not a good look. It’s not good for the team and it’s not good for a sport that, though their own doing and elements outside of their control as well, have been through the ringer this year.

My question is this: while there’s little doubt the team should be held to account for all the dramas of late, should McLaughlin?

Should his championship be questionable because of elements outside of his control.

Many will say that you win as a team and lose as one too, and this is a truism of course. But the other side of that equation is that Scott is as much an employee of DJR Team Penske as Ryan Story is or as his engineer. He has a job to do and does what the team tells him.

So when car 12 was slowed at Bathurst and Scott was told to push, he pushed.

And when he bashed out his superb shootout lap to grab pole position, he was only doing the job he was paid to do which was to drive car 17 as hard as he could. Not to set the valve clearances in the engine powering him.

The other element to the discussion lately is McLaughlin’s exclusion from Bathurst qualifying should have seen him start the Great Race from the back of the grid. Some say that this adds another question mark to his Bathurst win given he actually started from pole.

But does it? Even starting from the back the raw speed of Car 17 and McLaughlin’s ridiculous ability would have surely seen them in the hunt anyway. Would it have changed the way the race played out? Sure. Would it have changed the result? Impossible to be sure.

The bottom line is this; despite a car advantage at the start of the year and despite the Bathurst issues and the engine issues discovered afterwards, Scott McLaughlin has still been the fastest driver this year.

His comprehensive ability to pull three-tenths on everyone in qualifying means he starts at the front more often than not and then when he gets there in the races, he pulls away.

He’s the class driving act of the field at the moment in the same way that Mark Skaife, Marcos Ambrose and Jamie Whincup were (still is, probably) during their dominant eras.

It’s easy to hate on Scott McLaughlin because of what has occurred with his race team this year and you may feel that using the phrase ‘he’s just doing his job’ is a cop out. I disagree.

There’s an old saying worth remembering in these situations; ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game’.

I think it rings true in this scenario and I think regardless of what happened at Bathurst, Scott McLaughlin deserves to win the championship.

Plus, so far in front of the field was he heading into the great race, a disqualification wouldn’t have cost him anyway.

Put an Asterix over the team element of the 2019 championship if you must. Hate the game if you want (it helps, sometimes!). But don’t hate the player – he’s still the best on the ground by far.

Richard Craill

Working full time in the motorsport industry since 2004, Richard has established himself within the group of Australia’s core motorsport broadcasters, covering the support card at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix for Channel 10, the Bathurst 12 Hour for Channel 7 and RadioLeMans plus Porsche Carrera Cup & Touring Car Masters for FOX Sports’ Supercars coverage. Works a PR bloke for several teams and categories, is an amateur motorsport photographer and owns five cars, most of them Holdens, of varying vintage and state of disrepair.

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