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A Treatise on Gossip

Howdy, hi, hello. Welcome to Engine Failure, a culture newsletter that dives into what the fuck is really going on in Formula 1. It’s written by me, Lily Herman.

Welcome back, fellow F1 Lady Whistledowns (and Whistleboys)! We’re still making our way through the sport’s summer break, which means we have plenty of time to talk about things that have nothing to do with race weekends or the collective hope for Helmut Marko’s demise. Much like a Formula 1 WAG, it’s time to slip on your favorite pair of atrocious gladiator sandals, find a great spot to curl up on your yacht, and read along.

Before we get into fashion and Survivor and what not, today’s main feature offers three pieces that are part of the same larger puzzle: A real-time look at how Formula 1 is infiltrating the American zeitgeist in a meaningful and less niche (i.e. sports-driven) way. It’s all about the Gossip Girlies today, folks.

PART I: The Battle of the U.S. Magazine Covers

The day after we talked about Lewis Hamilton’s big September Vanity Fair issue last Monday, the American edition of GQ also dropped its own F1-related September cover and subsequent feature, this time showcasing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. And then, days after that, we got another addition to this Formula 1 magazine party: Daniel Ricciardo was on the back cover (and featured as the model in a fashion spread) in Men’s Health. (Note that he was not on the front of the issue; that honor went to Star Wars actor John Boyega.)

I’m going to focus on the Charles/Carlos cover a bit more, because that feels more significant. (Not to mention, Danny Ric has a long-running relationship with both the American and Australian editions of Men’s Health, so while him taking part in a September issue is definitely noteworthy, his relationship with that particular brand is well-established.)

Onto Michael Kosta’s Handsome Team™, otherwise known as Ferrari: People on the internet had many, many, many, many, maaaaaany thoughts on this profile. While quite a few folks agreed that it captured the essence of Maranello, others took issue with how the team’s two drivers were portrayed. In particular, parts of the piece really painted Charles as the cherubic golden boy and Carlos as the hapless — but still attractive, don’t worry!!!! — number-two on the team. While specific aspects of the dynamic were correct, some of the descriptions of the two seemed a bit…off. (Also, before everybody gets up in arms over writer Tom Lamont’s characterization of the team or its drivers, I’d like to remind folks that a bunch of editors and other higher-ups had to look at this piece and approve it before it ever went to print. So really, if you’ve got issues, take ‘em up with GQ as a whole instead of an individual writer.)

(While I’m talking in a parenthetical, because I can do that sort of thing in my own newsletter and not a single bitch on Earth can stop me, the one element I was not surprised by: Charles and Carlos wore almost exclusively Ferrari’s ugly and super pricey clothing line in their spread. I’ve surmised online ever since Vanity Fair dropped its driver feature at the start of the season that part of why Team Handsome maybe didn’t take part was because Ferrari insisted on dressing them in their own fashion collection if they were to appear, among other things. While there could be complex reasons for their absence, I'm still convinced that a disagreement over this stipulation was one of them.)

Anyway, let's get back to the piece itself and some people feeling like it maybe missed the boat on the particular nuances of Ferrari's situation. One recurring issue we see when anything goes mainstream is that certain aspects of it that its fandom enjoys fall by the wayside to make room for what’ll have more universal appeal. (Um, hello! We’ve seen this with every season of Drive to Survive! The things that F1 diehards care about aren't often the focus of the show, which is largely made for newbies and casual fans.) In this case, GQ has to think of its audience while also ensuring that the article's copy matches the tone of the rest of the magazine and its other properties. I suppose it’s great that we’re all reading this one profile and giving this outlet clicks and money, but the bottom line is simple: We (as in, the intense Formula 1 fandom) aren’t necessarily the primary consideration for GQ; its existing readers and subscribers are. At the end of the day, I think those folks walked away with the general gist of what Ferrari's essence is.

Speaking of people who had Big Thoughts™ on this profile, Carlos Sainz did too apparently, because he has yet to post about it on social media despite almost a week going by. While it’s easy to chalk this up to him being on vacation, keep in mind that these drivers have their own personal management teams (often including someone who runs social media) to help them do everything. If Carlos and his entourage wanted to post this feature, they would have. (In contrast, Charles found plenty of time to do so in between going to the gym, taking thirst traps, and posing with his gf Charlotte Sine on various Mediterranean islands.) I’m not saying Carlos is necessarily in the wrong here; I’m just noting his potential discontent.

I’d also like to point out that as far as outlets go, I’m not shocked that Vanity Fair and GQ (and their parent company Condé Nast) are leading the Formula 1 charge. Lewis’ cover is notably VF’s second major F1 spread in less than six months, and GQ's site and social media platforms have quickly become a great place for American-centered lifestyle coverage of the sport. I’m also not just saying that because they reached out to me to do a primer to the Miami Grand Prix back in May; GQ has been at the forefront of understanding why it’s important to discuss more than just race stats. It was, for example, the first place we ever heard about Esteban Ocon actively looking for a stylist, which is of the utmost importance to me.

This recent Formula 1 frenzy in lifestyle legacy media points to the more institutional side of American culture becoming interested in F1. It also marks an important transition away from just the big news outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal commenting on the sport from a more clinical, business-driven, and macro lens. (Even driver profiles in publications like these can still feel, well, focused on this oft-tired and overplayed “why is America suddenly so obsessed with Formula?!” angle.) With fashion and lifestyle outlets paying attention to F1 more regularly (and not just during U.S.-based race weekends), we’re entering a new era of awareness and hype around the sport here in the States.

That said, as we all know (or at least long suspected), corporate media has faced ongoing questions of relevance and influence in recent years and decades. After all, how much does it really matter that Anna Wintour has anointed F1 (and her pal Lewis Hamilton) worthy of being examined through the parent company she helms? 

All of this leads into part two, which looks at how Formula 1 has infiltrated the American cultural imagination in more informal (but arguably as important) ways.

PART II: Deux Moi Is Making a Play to Cover F1 Drivers

I don’t think we can really talk about F1’s entrance into the American cultural zeitgeist until we discuss what’s happening over at social media-driven gossip platforms like Deux Moi.

First of all, if you’re someone who tends to eye-roll at talk about celebrity gossip, consider that gossip in general has long had gendered, socioeconomic, and racial connotations that are meant to denote certain marginalized communities as “bad” or “immoral” for taking part in it. In reality, not only can it be a helpful intel-gathering, safety-affirming, and community-building tool, but it’s also a crucial lens through which we critique and analyze our society and what’s important to us — as individuals and as a collective. (If you want to learn more about gossip from a more academic perspective, please go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Now that that's settled, let’s get into some talk about Deux Moi and why I think her recent moves to cover F1 have been interesting.

To recap who Deux Moi is (though I've briefly covered her in various newsletters), the American-centric celebrity gossip platform began as an Instagram account that rose to popularity in the pandemic for posting vague celebrity sightings and other tips from anonymous sources. The somewhat anonymous-ish Deux says she doesn’t verify the claims she puts up herself, though it's obvious at this point that she has editorial oversight in what she covers; it’s not like she posts everything she receives. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, she’s been right about quite a few big celebrity news happenings in the past — along with getting more than a few things wrong. (Also, pretty much every major media outlet published a profile or feature on Deux Moi in the past 24 months, in case you too are a biddy who loves examining proximity to power.)

If you’re wondering about Deux's identity, American journalist Brian Feldman alleges to have unearthed hers, and if his reporting is true, she’s kinda exactly who everybody thought she was. At present though, she’s in a bit of a pickle as an entity: There’s a lot of disdain around her upcoming book and TV deals, she’s gotten increasing blowback for how she runs her page, and the subreddit that was initial created to supplement her work has apparently turned against her. (Btw, the Embedded newsletter is one of my favorites for all things internet culture. Please subscribe!)

Here’s where the F1 driver gossip comes into it: Around the time of the 2021 U.S. Grand Prix, Deux casually mentioned on Instagram Stories that she constantly received requests for more Formula 1 news. Aside from an occasional (and often boring) Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, or Pierre Gasly sighting here and there, we typically got nada. (She had one item about Nikita Mazepin last year during the U.S. GP that was suspected of being planted by his team, a fact that she quickly corrected after followers told her.) She also only tended to post a few things around U.S. races, like last October in Austin or this past May in Miami.

However, over the past few days, Deux has suddenly started posting several submissions about F1 drivers, which is interesting given that it’s currently summer break (I’m not sure if she knows that) and the U.S. Grand Prix is still over two months away. In other words, she’s breaking from her usual pattern. It’s not surprising to me that this sudden trend (whether due to more awareness on her part or more requests for gossip on the part of followers) is coinciding with the recent Formula 1 driver cover stories across legacy media outlets. Drivers' profiles are rising here, and folks want real dirt.

That doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing though. Deux’s problems on the F1 front started last week when she posted an item claiming that Max was loved by everyone in the paddock (“especially women,” the submission said) and that Lewis had a weird habit of not letting women use the bathroom on his plane. A second submission soon question the first one, claiming that Deux wasn’t being discerning enough about these items. Soon after, we got a flurry of other posted submissions claiming that drivers make hookups sign NDAs — and it snowballed from there.

F1 isn’t the only sport that Deux has tried to dive into more in recent weeks and months; she got herself into a bit of a kerfuffle when posting about cheating MLB players recently. For her role, Deux Moi claimed she knew nothing about baseball and was ~just the messenger~, therefore attempting to extricate herself from the situation. The same problem is beginning to appear in F1.

The size and scope of a platform like Deux Moi’s is enough of a reason to take her seriously and to see this as a harbinger of large-scale American interest in F1 that goes beyond race weekends. But more crucially, she also represents the way that millions of people consume celebrity gossip and pop culture information nowadays — and her methods aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, tea accounts have already existed on YouTube and TikTok for quite some time, and anonymous accounts in number of other industries (including book publishing and politics) have used her format to spread intel.

Additionally, judging by the number of random new Formula 1 tea accounts that’ve followed me on Instagram and Twitter in the past few weeks and months, it looks like some folks are trying to bypass Deux entirely and create a more niche gossip cottage industry in F1. Will they be as successful? That remains to be seen. Gathering sources, getting tips worthy of posting, and building (and maintaining) an audience is waaaaaay harder than it looks. Plus, keeping famous and/or rich people from suing you is hard work; Deux alleges that she’s worked with many celebrities and their teams in the past in a way that’s kept her account from becoming lawsuit central — for now. I don't know if randos in the F1 universe with a thirst for gossip have the same ability or privilege.

All this to say, there’s a high chance that we’ll see even more Formula 1 gossip coming from Deux Moi and specific F1 tea accounts in the future. But with that comes the higher probability that she — and others — are going to step in it more than once.

Even if you don’t like what that means for Formula 1, one thing’s for sure: Folks on this side of the pond are paying attention — and they want more access than ever before.

Other American-Centric Odds ‘n’ Ends

Since we’re keeping these vibes going, two other tidbits I’m focusing on:

1. While we’re talking about Deux Moi’s influence, look no further than someone posting on Reddit in true Deux fashion that they allegedly saw Harry Styles out ‘n’ about in a Daniel Ricciardo T-shirt from DR's Speedway merch line. I’m a little suspicious of anything like this that suddenly pops up on the internet, but if it is, in fact, one of the biggest musicians on the planet stanning Danny Ric, that’s a BFD.

2. Earlier today, news broke that Alex Albon was joining WME’s Sports division. WME is one of the biggest American talent agencies, and it no doubt makes me curious about what Alex is gonna do next in the U.S. market away from his driving. Out of any team on the grid, Williams has certainly made one of the biggest pushes to embrace American fans, and this could quickly become another dimension of that. (And in case you’re wondering, Alex’s girlfriend Lily He is already a WME Sports signee, so I’m hoping for some collabs here!!!)

(Photo credits: Adrienne Raquel, Jack Bridgland, Deux Moi, Reddit, and Alex Albon.)

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We haven’t done rankings in earnest in a lil’ bit, so below I’ve decided to rank the best fanfic-y parts of Charles and Carlos’ GQ feature. My top five favorites:

P1: Carlos is said to be “doe-eyed, naturally handsome, though not one for mirrors, his hair lazily parted to the side today. He performs routine tasks such as pulling up his jeans or retying his shoes with the precise, considered movements of someone who has spent a lifetime handling crazy-expensive objects that might break.” Hang this paragraph is the Louvre, cowards!!!!

P2: Carlos is written as being “more modest and lightly brushed by melancholy.” This will go down as my personal favorite, seeing I’ll now be very upset if no one ever refers to me as “lightly brushed by melancholy.”

P3: Charles is written as having “famous good looks [that] are sleeker and more polished than those of his teammate. You can easily imagine him as the prioritized singer in a boy band.” This section is only strengthening the argument for the One Directioner-to-F1-fandom pipeline.

P4: Charles is referred to as Ferrari’s “swift racer boy” and a “special favorite.” “Racer boy” sounds like a nickname out of a 2009 AO3 fic, I’m just saying.

P5: Charles is described in the opening section as “an alert and adroit 24-year-old from Monaco.” He’s also later called “boyish, an enthusiast.” I shall be using these phrases (with proper credit to Tom Lamont, of course) from here on out.

(Photo credits: Jack Bridgland.)

We’re still in the throes of silly season, though much of it stabilized this week. Plenty of the unknowns that we talked about in early August as well as last week still remain, but let’s go through the latest highlights, shall we?

In case you were dying to hear my analysis of what we’re seeing: I mostly worry that all of Oscar & co’s hemming and hawing is setting up for a tough first year in F1. There’s a solid chance that Oscar is totally fine and does decently (and maybe has some real flashes of brilliance), but there’s also now a higher-than-previously-thought chance that he breaks under the added pressure. While I don’t root against him, I have no idea what’ll happen! That’s the fun of this sport!

(Photo credits: Daniel Ricciardo and Felix Rosenqvist.)

Summer break means we’re in the land of swimsuits right now. We've got a real array in the mix. A few standouts: Luisa Barosa Oliveira's white one-piece cutout suit is the All for Self Sparkle Swimsuit (which is strangely difficult to track down), while Charlotte Sine's blue, brown, and burnt orange bikini is the Kulani Kinis Bralette Bikini Top in Blue Crush. (The halter version that she's wearing isn't currently available.)

I also got A LOT of questions about some matching couples swimsuit shenanigans that’ve come up during this summer break so far: Both Carmen Montero Mundt/George Russell and Elena Berri/Esteban Ocon were separately spotted wearing the same swimsuit patterns. So far, it looks like they came from two different brands (Carmen/George’s are from Kulani Kinis, which Carmen has repped all summer, while the Es might’ve rocked a Blackbough set, though that’s unconfirmed for now.)

Elsewhere on the fashion grid, a few more WAG outfits I wanted to highlight:

  • I mentioned this on Instagram, but it’s a real shame that Fernando Alonso’s girlfriend Andrea Schlager is contractually obligated to wear AlphaTauri during race weekends, because I’ve had fun seeing her love of prints and patterns away from the track. They might not be my personal style, but they’re different from what virtually every other WAG wears, and I love a little originality.

  • Charles Leclerc’s girlf Charlotte Sine has been having a Kat 2.0 ruffle moment with varying degrees of success. It seems like she’s still in an experimental era with her fashion, where some things really mesh well while others need a little more work.

  • I’ll just say it: Every single outfit that Carmen Montero Mundt wears is a banger. She left the Bottega Mini-Jodie at home for the most part, and she’s THRIVING this vacation season.

  • Max Verstappen’s girlf Kelly Piquet has been relatively MIA during this summer break, but today she posted a ton of her favorite seasonal outfits. They’re very pretty and incredibly summery! (They're also…super out of my price range. But hey, Kelly isn’t dressing on a freelance writer budget!)

(Photo credits: Isa Hernaez, Andrea Schlager, Luisa Barosa Oliveira, Charlotte Sine, Elena Berri, Carmen Montero Mundt, Sandy Dziwiszek, and Kelly Piquet.)

Tiff and Val are spending yet another summer break in ‘Merica doing a bunch of gravel cycling. In fact, Tiff won her classification at her latest race, while Val got fourth overall in his race and won his age group. Look at these two!

Also, Val said in a new interview that this 2022 season is his most enjoyable year of F1 ever in part because he’s not worrying about negotiating a new contract. Glad to see our bucket hat king living it up! (While we’re at it, Val-approved bucket hat collection WHEN???)

(Photo credits: Valtteri Bottas and Tiffany Cromwell.)

Wow, a Tumblr tournament to decide the hottest F1 driver. Which Formula 4 drivers could we see in F1 a few years down the line? DRScoe. All of Sir Lewis Hamilton’s magazine covers. Lucas Di Grassi wants less Formula E hate. Remember when Danny Ric went to Montana? Bring back the FIA safety photoshoots!!! F1 drivers’ current watches. What the hell is up with Jamie Chadwick’s career? Kimi’s in a race car again! Online harassment made Zhou Guanyu feel Big Sad before joining F1. Could Formula 1 become a NASCAR farm system? What do Lando Norris and Christian from Clueless have in common? The F2 series Chasing the Dream is back on YouTube! Behold: An Instagram account that puts shirts back on George Russell. A Formula 1 car is…on the highway? Porsche has literally no subtlety about entering F1. LMAO Haas wants to be more American-focused. You can rent a yacht for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix??? F1 drivers designed their own merch — and a graphic designer made them look better. A whole Financial Times feature on Toto Wolff. Sebastian Vettel is having a different sort of summer break. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton…morphed together?

Thank you to everyone who wrote into last issue’s Conspiracy Corner question: All 20 drivers of the F1 grid are playing Survivor. (The full 39 days plus the traditional tribe swap, merge, and jury stages.) Please pick only ONE (1) of the following four questions and describe your answer:

1. Who’s the first driver voted out of the game and why?

2. Who becomes the first member of the jury and why?

3. Who makes it to the end of the game but is verbally eviscerated by the jury on the way to losing — and why?

4. Who actually wins the game and why?

I can’t stop laughing at the fact that different people wrote down Fernando and Nicky as options for basically all four of these scenarios. (Editor's note: The final two responses contain spoilers for Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains and Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites! I've marked the individual responses as well so folks can skip 'em if they want.)

  • Jolie: Yuki [would be the first driver voted out] because I feel like he couldn’t survive without good food. He’s always talking about his Instagram food videos. He's also uncontrollable sometimes, and the other drivers don’t really have patience for his nonsense.

  • Maya: Nicholas “Goatifi” Latifi is the first member of the jury because he manages to stay so far in the background and so unthreatening to everyone that they don’t really realize he’s around until he almost pulls an upset during the first individual reward challenge and is easy pickings for BOTH tribes to vote on.

  • Manvi: Nando is the first one to get voted out because that’s the only way he’ll leave.

  • Karen: I feel like Fernando has to be first boot? He perfectly fits the classic Survivor trope of the guy who’s older than the rest of the tribe and is so bossy while they’re building the shelter that he gets voted out first. Also over decades in F1, Nando seemingly has yet to form a single alliance.

  • Shaun: As the epitome of a Survivor goat, non-threatening Lance Stroll gets dragged to final tribal but can't string together a coherent case for anything he's done to outwit, outplay, or outlast anyone else. We also learn that his father paid to have an immunity idol delivered to Alonso.

  • Gabrielle: Firstly, as a die-hard Survivor and F1 fan, I feel like I have been waiting for this question my whole life. I think Yuki would be an incredible first boot. He’s shown that he isn’t really interested in training, which is a deficit to the team in some ways (iconic to us non-F1 drivers). In the Survivor world, I think this would translate to him not being willing to help build the shelter, which is a no-no across all seasons. While this is all fine and good, the real reason I chose Yuki is because I think his exit as a first boot would be ICONIC!! I’m talking China- and Philippines-level iconic (IYKYK). A perfectly-timed curse word (or a few) and a reflective final confessional could have him go down in Survivor history as an iconic first boot.

  • Andrea: Lewis actually wins the game. 1. Winning is what Lewis does. 2. All the things he does on the side that people give him the gears for? Well, I would like a vegan to spice up dinners of rice and foraged plants. How does one get the most mileage out of a buff? Lewis can show you. Hard day? Stuck in the rain in a leaky shelter? Lewis will sing you to sleep. The man surfs, sky dives, and runs for enjoyment; no challenge is too challenging. He also would be wayyy better at puzzles than those other hot-headed drivers. And he’s got the politics covered because he’s inspiring, a bit intimidating, and a great leader. I mean, I would spend a miserable time in the wilderness with Lewis for free, so there’s that.

  • Rachel: Esteban would win because he would be quiet the whole game and then be the only one left in the final that didn't cross anyone from the jury.

  • Janis: Lando is the Sole Survivor. He does well in the tribe, and after the merge, he's decent but seldom wins and isn't the sneakiest or smartest, which makes him not a perceived threat to others. He's also all-around ~chill~ and just bumbles along. Crucially, he is up against Charles in the final two, but Charles loses by a small margin because of the Car Curse.

  • Em: Who’s the first driver voted out of the game and why? KMag because "Hulkenberg is right." Sometimes he deserves it and sometimes it's unwarranted, but I feel like all the other drivers have enough of a subconscious bias against Magnussen that no matter what the actual situation was, he would get voted out just because none of the others really wanted to work with him.

  • Jana: Survivor, drop the F, keep the 1! I think that Lewis would make it to the finale. He would be part of a major UK alliance and probably win some challenges. But I bet he's the type of person who would preach loyalty and integrity and lose because of that since he would definitely do some sketchy things (which is okay! It's Survivor after all!) but not own it enough (or at all).

  • Joey: The answer to [who makes it to the end but doesn’t win the game] has to be Nicholas Goatifi (too easy). He’d be a number for the Twitch Quartet alliance as they make it through the merge, and by final six, he’d be a shoo-in for the finale. He would lose in a final three to either George Russell or Bottas. (Bottas beats Lando in the fire-making challenge at final four.)

  • CJ: Fernando was a [Final Tribal Council] goat this whole time and didn’t realize it. Seb passionately gets back at him for his demonstrations in the drivers’ meetings, and Lewis brings up some old beef. Plus the McLaren boys expose him for the mess he left them in Woking. Zero votes at FTC.

  • Houston: Nicholas Latifi [wins F1 Survivor]. It came down to him versus Alonso at the end (after an extremely tearful episode that saw betting pool favorite Bottas eliminated) and the jury voted for Latifi because Alonso screwed over too many of them. 8-2 vote.

  • [SPOILER INCLUDED] Sarah: Fernando wins. He is the Sandra Diaz-Twine of a Survivor: Heroes vs Villains F1 Edition. He’s older, not a challenge beast, and plays Sandra’s iconic “As Long As It Ain’t Me” strategy to perfection. But his reputation and world championship titles do cause some of the more savvy drivers to want him out early in the game. He’s almost voted out in two tribals only to be saved, first by a younger driver’s blind admiration (that driver changes his vote from Fernando at the last minute thinking it will solidify ‘Nando as an ally, but little did the youngin’ know, Fernando put his alliance’s votes on the him and he’s sent home in despair) and second by an epic idol play (where, when the eliminated driver looks back at the castaways, Fernando smirks and gives him a thumbs up).

  • [SPOILER INCLUDED] Lake: Valtteri is voted out first — not because anyone wants him to leave the game, but because he asks everyone to vote for him so he can go home and get back to biking with Tiff, just like Jonny Fairplay's first-round exit in Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites.

Today’s question: You’re sending two F1 couples on the most chaotic double date possible. Which couples do you choose, what bizarre activity are they doing, and what ends up happening? Set the scene!

Submit your answer here.

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