What Now Guys? ~ by Andrew Middlemore

Wow. As it is now tradition to have a “gate” each year in F1 I really did wonder what we would have this year. I also can say I was wrong, very very wrong. Because I had thought that any “gate” would this year involve Bernie and thought (make that prayed) it had nothing to do with sex. I also thought it would kick off between the 6th to 8th rounds of the world title and carry on from then on.

To be sitting here after round 1 with all this in the headlines has me to use a quote “surprised and disappointed”, Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton involved in this? What again? Why are they hogging all the WMSC limelight? Don’t these guys realise there are other teams that can upset the FIA? We can’t even decide on what a 2009 diffuser is at the moment so please couldn’t you of just behaved for a while?

Seriously though what can I add to the frenzy of arguments counter arguments conspiracy theories and in complete honesty some complete rubbish being said at the moment? As some of you know I am a Ferrari fan and that may put you off reading this anymore. But please note what I’m about to write and you are to read is what I believe in my heart of hearts. Not only that but what questions remain and may never be answered. This is not about rumour getting one up on a rival or jumping on any bandwagon whatever side that may be on. What I will use here is facts and questions but also opinion on the aftermath if not the present situation. It would be best for everyone to perhaps take a step back, forget team alliances or dislike of the FIA and take this article from a casual fans perspective.

“We can find no justifiable reason for the driver to have braked with such undue, excessive and unusual pressure at this part of the circuit and are therefore left with no alternative but to conclude that the driver deliberately stopped his car on the circuit in the last few minutes of qualifying at a time at which he had thus far set the fastest lap time”

Whats this from? Why is it here? Well you probably already know what it is and that is the stewards ruling form Monaco 2006 qualifying on Schumacher’s “Rascasse-gate” But why? Well this is probably as close to a comparison of what has happened with Lewis. Simply because by all means the stewards whilst not saying the words “He lied” basically implied that Schumacher had no intention of making the corner and did it on purpose. The trouble is this is still not that close to what went on in Melbourne because whilst most including myself believe he did do it on purposed (if not more in a stupid panic than being premeditated) we did not have the kind of situation we have now. It was Schumacher on his own where as Mclarens problem is of the team and driver seem to have if lack of a better word conspired to do what they did where as Schumacher did not discuss on the radio with Brawn or Todt about how he was going to take the last corner. The thing both have in common is the media backlash was huge. But that is getting ahead of ourselves here.

Schumacher had to deal with the consequences of his actions, Keke Rosberg said “If he had admitted what he did, the thing would have been forgotten.” Rosberg also added “It was very low class. He’s a cheap cheat. It is a disgrace and he must think we are all fools and idiots.” Not one to mix his words really.

The consequences of Lewis’s actions though are different this was Lewis and the team with the team seemingly throwing themselves on as many swords as possible to avoid the FIA possibly costing them more than just a race ban or fine. What the FIA decide to do with Mclaren is one thing and the wrongs and right of that decision is a completely different subject that we could go on for forever (ill cover it in another time.) Yet after the punishments and incriminations have passed what of Lewis and what of Mclaren itself?

For me I find it hard to see how Lewis has let himself get in the situation in the first place. I was listening to Anthony Davidson’s defense trying to defend Lewis’s actions in the whole affair and personally I found his excuse to be pretty weak. Ant went on about how you work for the “team” and that you are part of a “team” and have no choice but to do anything but what the team wants. Well no I find that it was more one guy (If the story is true) in the backrooms just before going into the stewards meeting telling Lewis to lie then I really don’t think that counts as “team” pressure. If you discount the fact that Lewis had already told the media he had been asked to let Trulli through how A) He thought the stewards wouldn’t pick up on that and B) why he didn’t point that out to Dave Ryan that it wouldn’t work is beyond me. What is the problem is like it or not Lewis chose to lie, he went with it and for him to sit in front of the media at Malaysia and say sorry whilst also saying Dave Ryan told me to do it is not the way I expect Lewis to act. Yes his apology was brave to do as the media looked at him but to me it also screamed of passing the buck to Dave Ryan. (Now I’m not sure who else noticed but Mclaren seem to miss the irony that Ryan was the sporting director of the team, not exactly sporting was it? In the same way that at Mclarens new motor home in 2007 just as spy gate had broken cover Mclaren served the best wine from a place called “spy valley” its as funny as a Monty Python sketch.)

This whole thing has highlighted another nail in the coffin of the driver just being a cog in the machine rather than the stand out guy of course the casual fan would have known about Lewis and who he is but Dave who? Yet if Anthony Davidson’s argument holds water then it is to accept that whilst a driver of modern F1 signs the autograph and stars in the advert selling product X he does not have the will and power to say no way am I going to do this as it will hurt my name? Could you imagine a Senna, Lauda, Hunt or Piquet doing this if they did not want to? They would of told Dave Ryan to do something with himself or go along with it if they did so want to. I highly doubt they would have been pressured into it because the “team” needed him too.

Now before you all send me hate mail (frantic@theparcferme.com) I really am not on an anti Mclaren Lewis rant here. I think the problem is for me is now what has Lewis learned? It is a worry that he says he is learning from the whole experience of not to do that. What not to lie? That’s a pretty easy lesson for some one in there mid 20’s that prides himself on “rising above” and “integrity” or is that just me? I expect him to not do that in the first place and as Lewis’s whole career pushing point thus far has been “living the dream” and also being a role model it is a let down to me that he went along with this. I just expected more from him. Now you may think that naïve from me but I apologize whole-heartedly for expecting something from our sportsmen and women. I just wonder what would have happened if somehow Lewis had got away with it. Lets not forgot what they did this over was a point and if you check you records for the past 2 championships have been decided by 1 point. How would Lewis inside of felt about the title knowing the point that he won it by a point that was won unfairly?

Yes I know it’s a dog eat dog world but here is the whole problem. As mad as it seems the reason the stewards took the word of Ryan and Hamilton before checking out any radio was that the FIA and teams worked on a basis of good faith and fair play. Now I know you think I have lost it now but seriously they did and I didn’t know that until I read it in the latest F1 racing magazine, the quote comes from the section talking about how they go about scrutineering,

“The answer (to the FIA’s way of policing the budget cap) could be for the FIA to use the same kind of policy as they do with technical compliance: to work on the assumption of the teams honesty, enforced by random checks through “scruitineering” to check adherence to the regulations.”

What? Really? That blows my mind. Yet whilst that quote refers to the cars technical compliance the fact being that there is an understanding of honesty between teams and the FIA. Or was. That maybe is the greatest tragedy of all this, yes now hopefully checks by the stewards will now be tight and through in getting evidence and establishing facts will avoid things like this but what now has seemingly happened it that one of the last remaining “gentlemen’s agreements” died that day in Melbourne. I have been watching the documentaries on Graham Hill and Jim Clark the level of integrity those guys operated at was defiantly another era. When the stakes weren’t so high financially but then you had a feeling that a reputation was worth much more than anything else be it a point or a title. As I’ve said I know you can say get a grip it’s a big business and its winners not losers but to that I say I don’t care. If its wrong to expect integrity off some one who claims to have so much of it and its wrong to be disappointed in a driver that built his reputation on living the dream coming from nothing to stardom as an inspiration to all then fine I’m guilty as charged. But it would be wrong to just let it past without giving a thought of the cost of this. After Monaco 06 Schumacher got on and drove said nothing and by the end of the season won people back by some amazing driving in China and Brazil whilst in between showing great strength in Suzuka as his title hope went with his Ferrari engine. His reputation had been bruised by the incident in Monaco as well his collision at Jerez 97 which damaged his claim as greatest ever, but everyone agreed by the end he was still one hell of a driver. Lewis needs to do exactly the same and just drive he is only in the 3rd year of his F1 career and has already been in several incidents not always self made agreed but a lot for a driver so early F1. Lewis must simply now just drive and become be honest if he is then done by the FIA then at least then he can play the role of a hero fighting against the establishment rather than a Dick Dastardly of the pit lane.

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