Why the FIA is Killing Formula One

Joe WilliamsCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2008

There are already a number of excellent Bleacher articles detailing the outrageous action of the race stewards at Spa-Francorchamps, who retrospectively handed Lewis Hamilton a 25-second penalty that relegated him from first to third place on the podium. Such material is not reproduced here; rather the attention is focused on the forthcoming decision of the FIA Court of Appeal in regards to McClaren's protest of the penalty.

The sport of Formula One, and with it the FIA, will suffer immensely if McLaren's appeal is not upheld. To begin with, not only did the penalty contravene any concept of "sporting" justice, it also seems to have contravened the letter of the law as well (see Michael Griffin's article for more on this).

In light of the lack of action taken against Felipe Massa for the incident in Valencia earlier this season and the failure to disqualify Raikkonen in Australia last year for running an illegal car, it is hard not to conclude that the hierarchies of F1 have a huge pro-Ferrari bias.

For the governing body of any sport to lose its reputation as a neutral arbiter is a cancerous blight upon that sport and will repel many fans—die hard, casual, and new.

Having already deflated and devalued the sporting experience of the Belgian Grand Prix for spectators (both at the circuit and on TV), the FIA have a chance to salvage a grain of respectability in their handling of the race if they uphold the McLaren appeal. If they stand by their ludicrous decision, the FIA will have robbed supporters at Spa of hundreds of Euros, and those who watched on TV two hours of their lives by making the event utterly meaningless.

The inevitable anger of such fans again highlights the immeasurable damage the FIA will cause itself and the sport if it doesn't reverse the penalty.

There is deep and sickening suspicion amongst F1 fans that the FIA won't even consider upholding the McLaren appeal, for the last thing they are likely to do after committing an act of lunacy is to eat humble pie over it.

This in itself is a hugely damaging perception for the FIA to have against it, as it speaks of a deep arrogance of a body that doesn't care a jot about justice in the sport but only in getting its own way. Yet humble pie it must eat if wants to stop the fans that ultimately sustain the sport from walking away in disgust.

I've been watching Formula One for as long as I can remember. I remember the days of Prost and Senna, Piquet (Sr.) and Mansell, Berger and Alesi. They were exciting days filled with true characters and a spirit of racing sportsmanship. The ensuing domination of Schumacher led to a much more sterile atmosphere, and at some point I became a less-than consistent follower.

Yet the last two years have seen a renaissance for the sport with the rise of a number of supremely talented racers making Formula One a genuinely competitive spectacle again and scintillating viewing once more.

Yet if the FIA do not restore Lewis Hamilton as the victor of Spa-Francorchamps, I, and I'm sure many others, will give up on the sport for the rest of the season, at the very least.

FIA, you have been warned.