Formula 1: Max Verstappen should boycott Sky Sports (again)

Sky Sports' one-sided Formula 1 coverage led to a Max Verstappen boycott before. At this point, no one would blame him for boycotting the network again.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 / Mark Thompson/GettyImages

Anybody and everybody who watches Formula 1 knows that three-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen is not exactly Sky Sports' favorite driver. But there's not always much they can do about it when he wins race after race, as he has done for the last two and a half seasons.

But in rare yet seemingly more common instances this season, Verstappen has not been running away with Grand Prix victories, and that has led to Sky Sports' true colors being on display more often than it has been in recent years.

Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix brought that bias to a head, as Verstappen and British driver Lando Norris collided when battling for the race lead.

Norris had been attempting unsuccessful divebomb after unsuccessful divebomb to get around Verstappen, and while Verstappen was criticized for "defensive driving", he, on multiple occasions, needed to take evasive action to avoid contact from the out-of-control McLaren.

The duo finally made contact in turn three of the 10-turn, 2.683-mile (4.318-kilometer) road course in Spielberg, Styria, Austria when Norris made a late lunge to Verstappen's outside, effectively giving himself nowhere to go as the corner approached.

The narrative has been that Verstappen veered left into Norris to run him off the road, and though Verstappen's car was inarguably angled toward the left, his steering was no different than any other lap in terms of him taking the racing line into the awkward tight, uphill corner.

But with Sky Sports in control of that narrative, Norris, of course, could do no wrong, and it was all Verstappen's fault, because he obviously slammed into him on purpose.

Several other outlets have fallen in line with that narrative, having been waiting for years and years for the opportunity to make laughable and completely unprofessional claims like "Verstappen hasn't matured".

Though it's certainly not exclusively a Sky Sports issue, it would be hard to blame Verstappen for abandoning Sky Sports once again.

It's not as far-fetched as it seems. He temporarily boycotted the network late in 2022 due to one particular individual's obsession with implying that he was not actually the 2021 world champion.

That boycott ended, as Verstappen said it eventually would, but Sky Sports' bias and disrespect has not stopped.

As one example, after years and years of praising certain drivers for their tire management prowess, Sergio Perez included, that tone magically changed after Verstappen pulled a gap on his teammate, despite starting eight positions behind him, on significantly older tires than Perez in Miami last year.

After everybody hyped up Perez's chances that weekend, and he was actually the betting favorite to take the lead of the world championship, David Croft proceeded to say that “maybe we need just a little bit more pushing and a little less tire saving".

Of course we do, because Verstappen was now the one doing it best (and ironically pushing at the same time). And we can't have that now, can we?

Maybe the sport needs less of Sky Sports trying to push a narrative every single time they go on the air and more of actually covering Formula 1.

The best part about it is, it wasn't like this before 2021. It's clear and obvious why things changed. Before Verstappen proved himself as a threat to Lewis Hamilton, leading more than twice as many laps as the seven-time world champion in a car that fell just shy of the Mercedes in the constructor battle, he wasn't nearly as maligned by the British network.

But the moment he proved himself as a legitimate challenger, much less the moment he actually won the title that year, the hate picked up, and it hasn't slowed down since.

This past weekend simply reaffirmed what we learned three years ago: Max Verstappen singlehandedly broke Sky Sports.

Make no mistake about it. There are still plenty of positives shared about Verstappen by the network, given his utter dominance of Formula 1 since the start of the 2022 season. Whether it's Croft or Martin Brundle or anybody else, they have praised Verstappen on numerous occasions for what he has achieved.

That said, Karun Chandhok hasn't shied away from the opportunity to put a number of his colleagues in their place when they start implying Verstappen's success is only because of his car. To his credit, he has emphasized that the driver makes the difference. The awkward silence when he mentioned it in Australia spoke louder than words.

The fact that Verstappen owns an 81-point lead, more than three full race wins, less than halfway into the season, and his teammate is just points away from sitting in seventh place with less than half of Verstappen's point total, proves it.

But now, once again, we have Verstappen battling with a British driver on a fairly consistent basis. So regardless of what actually happens on the race track, everybody knows exactly how the coverage is going to look.

I understand that certain networks are designed to give slanted coverage due to the composition of their audience, and that's fine. It is, admittedly, how I pick which streams to watch on MLB.TV for baseball games.

But Sky Sports owns the rights to Formula 1 broadcasts internationally. This isn't some local TV network broadcasting races exclusively to the United Kingdom.

Sunday's incident was a classic case of an incident that caused fans to take sides. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But when you have reporters telling Verstappen what happened instead of asking him to speak about it, and then asking nothing but leading questions in an attempt to push a narrative, rather than actually trying to gather information, you have a major problem.

When you have reporters asking Verstappen if he should have just relinquished the lead to the driver in second place in the world championship, simply because he's already leading (not even halfway into the season...), you have a major problem.

It quickly turned from opinionated content into a smear campaign, one that had clearly been brewing for quite some time. They're not worried about what actually happened. They're worried about what they perceive as their first true golden opportunity to push a narrative they've been all-in on for the last four seasons.

They're going to "believe" what they want to "believe", whether or not they truly believe it. If it doesn't align with reality, then reality be darned.

I do want to add that I would be remiss if I didn't mention the performance of Harry Benjamin in just his second race weekend standing in for Croft. His objective coverage in announcing of the race, without trying to push any sort of narrative whenever he got the chance, was a breath of fresh air.

Next. Formula 1: Sergio Perez situation takes a disastrous turn. Formula 1: Sergio Perez situation takes a disastrous turn. dark

As for another boycott, I doubt Verstappen will do it, because he has consistently demonstrated that he really doesn't care about all the nonsense that gets written about him. None of that changes anything that happens on the race track. But amid the nonstop disrespect, it would be hard to blame him if he did.