The history of Champagne and Formula One

Xtrawine plays host to a large variety of champagnes all of which are ideal for your consumption. As we all know, champagne is generally considered a celebratory drink and is a firm favourite at weddings, however there are plenty of other celebrations where champagne is the drink of choice. For example, anyone who has an interest in the sport of Formula One will be well aware that spraying and consuming champagne on the winner’s podium has become a tradition that has been carried out by practically every driver since the 1950s. In fact, a large part of the fun of a Formula One race is seeing the victory celebrations at the end and the practice had become so widespread that other sports, such as Moto GP, have adopted it.

So how did champagne become the celebratory drink of Formula One? After all, it’s not like the original rules of the race were written up with champagne in mind so it had to be introduced somewhere along the line.

The answer lies in the 1950s. While today it would be odd not to see the winning driver uncork a bottle of champagne, back then the winner simply accepted the plaudits of the crowd and began preparing for the next race.

That is until the legendary Argentinian driver Juan Manuel Fangio was presented with a magnum of champagne following a famous victory at the French Grand Prix which was held in Reims. Unlike today, Mr Fangio did not uncork the bottle and celebrate by spraying the contents amongst his fellow drivers, but simply accepted the gift to be drunk in the privacy of his own home.

It was not until much later than uncorking the bottle to pour then and there became a tradition. In 1966 Jo Siffert won the famed Le Mans 24 hour race, which is a gruelling experience that sees drivers racing for 24 hours solid in an effort to prove who has the best stamina and endurance. After Siffert won he was presented with a bottle of champagne on the podium, however it didn’t last long in his hands. There are a number of theories as to why what happened next actually happened, but the most commonly accepted is that the bottle overheated. Regardless, Siffert accidentally broke the cap of his bottle, which resulted in the contents being sprayed amongst the public, creating an image that was as unintended as it was iconic.

Only a year later Formula One driver Dan Gurney decided to turn the one time fluke into a regular event, celebrating a victory by bathing the crowd in a sea of bubbles once again. This time it was deliberate and this time the customer was here to stay.

For the next 25 years champagne was a mainstay on the podium, with bottle being provided to the winner and top two runners up of every race. The image of a victorious driver showering the crowd, photographers and fellow drivers became a regular occurrence and the perfect act of catharsis following a stressful and tense race. However, as the saying goes, nothing gold can stay and in 1991 Loi Evin meant that the time had come to ban the drink from the podium.

Loi Evin was a law enacted in France by Claude Evin that attempted to curtail the promotion of alcohol and tobacco products. It played a part in the reduction of advertising of tobacco products in F1 until we eventually reached the point where there were none to be seen, however for a short period the law also led to the curtailing of the practice of celebrating a victory with champagne.

The ban lasted for a number of years, with the victory tradition of Formula One being reduced to little more than a token celebration before the inevitable celebrations that would come after. However, something that had become iconic had been lost and the organisers of the races realised it. In 1997, Bernie Ecclestone sent an assistant to purchase a bottle of champagne for the winner of the race at Magny Cors. Suddenly the tradition had sparked back into life and champagne once again became a fixture of the podium.

Today the celebratory champagne is provided by G.H. Mumm, who are quick to point out how they are now associated with the famed institution. Be aware that if you wish to enter their website you will need to verify your age before doing so. However, once you do you will be able to gain access to a wide variety of stories relating to how champagne has become such a fixture of the podium in so many sports.

Interestingly the company are quick to point out that there are cultural issues that need to be considered as well. For example, some cultures do not have a tolerance for alcohol which leads to other drinks being substituted in when races are held in such countries. One prominent example is Bahrain, where law prohibits the sale of alcohol entirely.

In such countries the winner will actually celebrate their victory with a drink that has been specially created for the situation. Name Warrd, it is a unique mixture of locally grown fruits that is then combined with soda water to produce a fizzy juice that can be sprayed in the same way as champagne without breaking any of the laws of the region.

It is likely that, as Formula One continues to expand into other regions, that such cultural differences will increasingly need to be taken into account for the sport to become truly worldwide. However, at least for the time being, champagne continues to be the drink of choice for the winners of the races and is continues to provide an iconic set of imagery that perfectly caps off the end of every race.

Just one last note. There are a number of websites that are devoted to documenting some of the more interesting podium stories around. We fully recommend a visit to http://www.henry-thepodiumist.com/it/ to read up on even more stories. Who knows what you may end up learning?



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