Most national leaders wouldn't strap into a tiny car and rocket at 150-plus mph. But then, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin isn't like most leaders.
Apparently determined to prove he's the toughest politician on the planet -- not a high bar to clear, but still -- Putin is engaging in stunt after manly stunt. He's already chased polar bears and whales, dove in submarines and driven across Siberia, and now he's taken to the track in a Formula One Renault.
Putin drove around the Saint Petersburg track for a couple of hours, hitting 240 km/hour and at one point spinning after diving too hard into a corner. But since a politician in a tailspin is not the kind of visual metaphor that government imagemakers like to see, Putin remained on the track and turned some more confident laps.
And image was the theme of the day here. Putin's choice of a Renault was a canny one; Renault has a 25 percent stake in Russia's largest automaker, Avtovaz, and Putin has offered the French company 50 percent. Plus, Russia will be hosting its first Formula One race in 2014.
Putin is also trying to paint himself as a tough guy as Russia's 2012 elections approach, and we sincerely hope that American politicians follow his lead. You want our vote? Prove it by throwing yourself off that bridge, then fighting that grizzly bear!
Still, President Obama probably won't try to emulate Putin's stunt in NASCAR. As last week's elections showed, making fast left turns isn't exactly in style these days. (Tip your waitresses, everybody!)