Pulling the cork on the FIA

Champagne FIA
Let us suppose you are Ron Dennis or Gerhard Berger. You would be incandescent over this weekends rulings would you not?Alright, enough of The Fixx-style existentialism, you’re now yourself and sitting quietly at home enjoying the soothing sounds of Brian Eno’s Apollo CD on your 7.1 surround system while partaking of small pastries with tiny umbrellas and a garnish made of shaved lemon peels when it hits you like a two-ton heavy thing. You set your flute of Sourire de Reims down for a moment and flip through the dog-eared pages of Formula1blog.com in search of a story you recall from January 2008. Yes, there it is. Grace made a small entry on part of F1B regarding Max’s master plan of a Steward overhaul process whereby three random race stewards were to be teamed with Alan Donnelly, Max’s proxy or man-on-the-spot. To make room for this, Tony Scott-Andrews stepped down. Yes, that Tony Scott-Andrews…the one who Charlie Whiting threw under the bus regarding the Belgian Grand Prix penalty on Lewis.

You recall doing some due diligence on the story because you are a right determined pain in the Arse when it comes to F1 and find that Max proffered this new concept to speed the decision making process up and make the system better. You also recall thinking little of it when it broke and wondered what in the world Max would do now with all his free time after making such an amazing decision to improve F1. You later realized part of that reality as it was seared into your brain (whips, paddles and all). The other part has remained an enigma, if you will, and is only now bubbling to the surface like the golden orbs in your flute of Sourire de Reims. “What the hell is going on!” you yell being, sure to prominently vocalize the fricative consonants.

You ring good friend and business endorsement mentor Jackie Stewart who proceeds to put his glass of Moet & Chandon down to wax poetic about his call for permanent race stewards months ago and how his time as a British trap shooting champion taught him many things least of which is that all competition should be fairly judged and efficiently executed. Mostly agreeing with him, you ask in parting; are you actually certified or is that just Max taking the piss out of you. Jackie, astutely, hangs up.

A long and lasting sip and you’re back on the phone with none other than long-time friend and Steve Matchett mentor Nigel Stepney. You ask Nige how things are going now that his professional F1 life is ruined and if he needs any dosh to help make ends meet. He very politely refuses (Jackie has already called apparently).

“Oh fine Nige, you know how it goes in the life of an F1 fan…all piss and no toilet. Thanks for asking mate.”

“Say, listen, didn’t you tell me that Alan Donnelly had Ferrari as a client as well as FOM?” you ask quietly…almost confidently.

Nigel refuses to tell you over the phone but insists on texting you the answer. 3 minutes later you receive a text message that vibrates your iPhone off the table. It simply reads “yes”. You reply back…’ok”.

You now start to wonder if there isn’t something to this whole Ferrari, Red Car Rule thing. Let’s face it, Luca Di Blah, Blah, Blah did support Max during the Spank-fest 2008 debacle and along with African car clubs managed to give Max the empirical evidence he needed to actually say that people want him to stay. Pondering…Naaah. That can’t be right. The FIA would never stoop low enough to coerce a series through managed Stewards decisions and favor one team over the other. You then recall Sir Frank abstaining from any Max-bashing and also supporting Max during his Tea & Teet party and recall that Nico had 11 laps to put the hammer down in Singapore after clearly pitting, refueling and exiting the pit lane when it was closed. You were wondering then if there wasn’t something wrong as 11 laps seemed a long time to let Nico ratchet up a lead which would be hard to break. You convinced yourself that the delay was because the Stewards were busy trying to decipher the Dog & Pony Show circus of a pit stop by Ferrari and determining the penalty due Felipe for an infernal light gantry system that has proven to save time by not requiring any of those special decals to be made that go on the Lollipop sign.

So Alan worked for Ferrari and the FOM. At the time you recall thinking, I wonder if that is a conflict of interest for a permanent Steward in the sport but trusting Max, and why wouldn’t you, you decided that you were throwing up straw man arguments and move about your life in oblivious out-of-body relationship to F1. Cy Curnin would have been proud of you.

You call your Taittinger-sipping buddy Richard Cregan and you say; “Hey Dick, since your short-timing this sucker, how about shedding some light on this deal on your way out the door. Is Max on the take and are the Stewards really just shilling for Max in a macabre dance of power plays and money and greed? Tell me that this is just circumstantial and that there is veracity in the steward process and the FIA’s governance.” Richard astutely hangs up as he is going to the Middle East to wear a Burka and shill for the Arabs.

Now it has all, like everything Max seems to do lately, come home to roost in the most unsavory position of all. Your living room. As you sit back and bathe in the Cathode rays (plasma or Liquid Cyrstal rays depending on your level of sophistication) of the F1 race, you become harassed by the notion that Max was supposed to have fixed this damn thing in January and here we are ten months later with nothing but micromanaged outcomes and a joke of a season due to Steward decisions and the lack of efficiency and timeliness in which they are called. You wonder why you are the only one who sees Max’s utter depravity and incompetence as a glaring light that prevents you from actually enjoying the series you have followed for decades. Oh sure, Bernie is now calling for Max’s retention which made his calling for Max’s resignation as ephemeral as his compliments of Kimi Raikkonen. Max has already dropped wolf bait all over the notion that he will step down this October which makes his promises as ephemeral as Kimi Raikkonen’s Sponsor Days at Ferrari or Jean Todt’s Ferrari Jumper appearances since leaving Ferrari. In short, nonexistent.

Friends I don’t know how to explain this any more than I already have but your trenchant position on Ferrari conspiracies, Lewis-bashing, Bernie hating, inconsistent stewards frustration, hair-pulling and name calling is really spent energy unwisely used. You want real change in F1? You want a series you can be proud of again? You want the sport to be the reason and not the means? You want to feel engaged and assured of consistent, defined regulations and a system less permeated by politics and scandals? I suggest asking for Max’s resignation this October, overhauling the FIA or finding another governing body (or create one yourself…I’m looking at you FOTA).

Max’s big improvement plan for the stewards has been an unmitigated failure. His pragmatic actions on behalf of F1 have created a sport so out of touch with its fan base that it will shock me if it doesn’t implode within three years. The FIA’s ‘Green’ initiative, while novel in concept is now lagging behind the ALMS initiatives and they have pennies to F1 dollars. Max’s cost cutting ideas have reduced F1 to a vapor lock position incapable of re-signing the Concorde Agreement, threats, hints and allegations with competing feeder series and scandals that rival McLaren’s unfortunate Stepney-gate. His leadership and judgment are at their weakest points in the history of his reign and like Jean-Marie Balestre before him; I think it is time for him to go.

You may consider these steward’s calls as Ferrari favoring or nonsensical but remember that Max runs the governing body and can change this at any time to improve the series. He has chosen not to. He has chosen to call McLaren fans ‘stupid’ for questioning the Red Car rule or Max’s governing body. The Belgian appeal has taught us one thing; that not even litigation can affect the outcome of Max’s empire, no this Star Chamber is the definitive word on F1 and I think it is time for a change. I don’t subscribe to the Ferrari conspiracy or Red Car Rule but I can see the concern and can’t marginalize it given Max’s recent track record. F1 is in need of change and I do not believe Max is the man to bring it. With all due respect to Max, he has passed his sell-by-date. He is becoming F1’s version of the Andy Griffith show without Don Knotts…tedious.

Max’s system of regulations for simple things such as cutting a chicane or the first turn incident this weekend has no verbiage detailing what is and what is not acceptable. Read the rules yourself. They are purposely left wide open for interpretation and allowed ample wiggle room. Yes, the rules are more inclusive regarding technical issues as they should be but the sporting regulations are very vague. After all these years at the helm, would it be too much to ask for some more defined, clearly understood positions on prolific events such as chicane cutting, bumping in to others etc?

Picking up your flute of Sourire de Reims, you look for some spare time to send a friendly email to the FIA, Teams, FOM, sponsors and motoring clubs about your desire to have new blood and a new, fresh approach to the governing of Formula 1. You owe it to yourself after all that champagne.

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