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Red Mist: The FIA, the Hand of God, Ferrari and much more

What is Formula 1 without controversy? Never mind anything else without a scandal?

Think about it — drama is what makes the world go round — without it there just wouldn’t be any news. Take coronavirus, worrying whether Greece would help if Syria took Turkey from the rear, or Sanders, Biden, Bloomberg and the Democratic primaries. Our lives would be so much less interesting, no?

Same goes for FIA-Ferrarigate — is it a storm in a teacup or is that poison in the tea? Some will say yay, others nay, chat rooms and facebook groups will buzz for a day or two, some of you will rush to the footer and scribble up your view, your mate his, you will all snarl and wince.

And then, suddenly, it will be all done — the next big thing will take over and the handbags will be smashing the proverbial heads for something else altogether.

Not that it’s at all new, our old friend racing controversy. Think about it — whether it was Senna taking Prost out (twice), Schumacher doing likewise to Hill and Villeneuve; Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes teammates clashing (there’s a story in that — just consider who was involved in all of those?) or Piquet junior just taking himself out; Spygate, Stepneygate, Max and the whores or Bernie just saying anything over the years, controversy is it.

And for goodness sake, don’t mention the war — the FISA-FOCA War!

It’s not just in racing either — nor is sporting controversy new. Baseball’s 1919 World Series ‘Black Sox Scandal’ for instance saw the White Sox playing the Cincinnati Reds in a game featuring eight players banned for life by MLB for purposely losing World Series games to the benefit of significant amounts of money. A technique Cronje, Pakistan and the cricket world have also perfected over time since.

Another baseball classic was 2001 Little League sensation Danny Almonte, who turned out to be three years older than he said he was. Cycling is another hornets nest full of scandal — from triple testosterone Floyd Landis to seven-time TDF winner Lance Armstrong, how many millions of tons of paper and litres of ink did that sell? A wise man once warned me to never argue with a man who orders ink by the barrel.

The rot spreads far and wide — like coronavirus, I suppose — even in figure skating where Tonya Harding’s (now ex) husband and bodyguard hired a man to quite literally break arch-rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg. Ha — and did you hear the one about the 2010 Spanish Paralympic team’s mentally disabled basketball squad? Well, ten of those twelve proved perfectly mentally able — Spain just wanted a gold medal!

Rugby isn’t exempt from sporting scandal either — like when club player Tom Williams started bleeding from his mouth in a match, it would transpire that he’d taken a blood capsule from his sock, bitten it and played hurt at a critical point in his teams defence! Never mind all those Soccer World Cup, Olympic or other bid scandals, Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’, Tiger Woods’ twelve mistresses or OJ Simpson…

The sporting world is, has and always will somehow be dragged into scandal. But then that same wise man also told me that all news is good news, so what’s really wrong with a good old controversy? But I have digressed, so let’s get back to the point — FIA-Ferrarigate.

Ferrari clearly was doing something odd — allegedly around the fuel-flow through the FIA’s meters on its cars. The FIA investigated, pondered and following a rather pregnant pause (someone also told me that you can’t be half-pregnant), the governing body announced that it and the team in question had agreed to disagree, wrists were slapped and the situation sorted, but please don’t ask any more questions.

Trouble is Toto and the gang now have pointed heads and are asking plenty questions — how dare the FIA keep its findings secret? How dare it keep on protecting its sacred cow? Probably because Ferrari is the FIA’s sacred cow. Get over it…

Still, the prejudiced seven hobbled into a pack, grunted, squeaked and nodded a lot before one of them scribbled up a great big letter full of legal hocus-pocus and posted it to the whole world. Only five words of it are really relevant — how they will ‘pursue full and proper disclosure’.

The interesting bit is how the seven will exactly pluck this ‘full and proper disclosure’ out of the FIA?

See, it’s already far too late for them to lodge an official protest, never mind request a right of review because the FIA’s International Sporting Code implies strict time limits on incident reports, protests, appeals and all the other regular rights competitors have to post race posturing.

In F1 they had 14 days from those results being posted, or four days prior to the FIA prize-giving, to launch a right of review. Both of those deadlines were long pre-Coronavirus.

The prejudiced may however still petition the FIA International Tribunal to launch a disciplinary inquiry on its suspicions that rules have been broken. But hang on a minute — has the FIA not just completed its own enquiry into that shady Ferrari fuel flow fiasco?  And does its report not suggest that the FIA cannot prove Ferrari indeed acted outside the regulations? The team insists it did not.

Item 2.7 of F1’s technical regulations also compels the competitor to satisfy the FIA that its car complies with the regulations and reading the FIA report, it is clear that Ferrari has done precisely that.

Which in my opinion leaves the aggrieved with little else to do than go to a higher court. And that authority will probably refer them back to the rules that bind them within the game they play, which the FIA has delivered-on to the letter anyway.

It all sounds a bit like old Donald’s impeachment. Remember that? It only happened a month ago and wasn’t that just a juicy old scandal!

Us all forgetting things so quickly also reminds me of that other huge FIA precedent — McLaren’s hundred-million dollar penalty for stealing all that Ferrari intellectual property. Surely the FIA opening its latest findings for everyone to see will once again render Ferrari’s IP compromised? Just asking…

All considered methinks like every other scandal, this one will soon blow over too.

Oh yes — one more thing — that wise man also told me to never let the facts interfere with a good story. I’ve always adhered to two of his tenets, just don’t ask which!