F1 and the FIA: Of Monarchs, Despots and Dodgy Stewarding Decisions

Ian SheaverCorrespondent INovember 16, 2008

I have finally figured out why the UK has gone to the dogs. It’s taken 41 years, endless hours of painstaking research and a not inconsiderable amount of constipated cogitation, but I finally have the answer.

It’s the Queen’s fault.

Yes, the wicked witch of Windsor, that Satan in a sun hat, is responsible for all our nation’s ills. And I’ll explain why.

Before she began her reign of terror, we’d just won World War II. The Third Reich had been vanquished forever and we could look forward with pride to a glorious future. Britain would once again be the world’s foremost superpower.

Okay, the country was essentially bankrupt and poverty was worse after the war than it had been during the conflict, but these things were bound to happen.

Then, in 1952, this heinous woman was swept into power. And that’s when it all started to go a bit pear-shaped. Mods & Rockers would pile down to Brighton and imaginatively redesign the seafront (usually with baseball bats and a length of sturdy chain) whilst simultaneously kicking the crap out of each other, before jumping back on their Vespas and trundling back to London.

The teenager was born.

With Britain’s youth out of control, the Queen took decisive action: she went on a cruise.

In the 1970s, with the economy in tatters, our automotive industry the laughing stock of the world and the winter of discontent looming, she just had to do something …

So she went on another cruise.

Then things really started to turn nasty. Prince Charles, heir to the throne, decided it was time to stop cavorting on beaches with nubile young native girls in grass skirts and got married. Then he got divorced.

Prince Andrew got married, found his wife having her toes sucked on a sun lounger, and promptly got divorced.

Princess Anne got married, turned into a horse, and got divorced.

The Queen gave a speech, something about a horrible anus, and flew to Australia. After 50 years she had finally realised that you could get away from Britain far more quickly by plane than by boat.

So you see, the Queen’s the problem. All these things have happened on her watch. Thank goodness the British parliament has been there to keep her in check.

I say we get rid of her. Who’s with me?

I’m not talking about regicide; that would be a bit extreme. But we could become a republic. It’s been done before by Oliver Cromwell, and Charles I didn’t do too badly out of it...right up until that unfortunate incident with an axe, when his head and shoulders decided to part company.

France is a republic and there’s never been any problem there. Okay, I know that Corsican megalomaniac with height issues declared himself emperor and tried to take over the world, but that was just bad luck.

Then you have the Democratic Republic of Congo. There aren’t any problems there, are there? Ah, civil war and genocide. Good point, well made. So what about Afghanistan, that’s a republic? Sudan? (Sigh).

Well, maybe the Queen hasn’t done too badly after all. Perhaps it’s because we do have a parliament separate from the Monarchy. Could this system of checks and balances work elsewhere?

Which brings me nicely on to the FIA.

The last couple of seasons have been quite a hectic period for Max Mosley and his colleagues at Place de la Concorde. After a year of controversy in 2007, with the ‘spygate’ scandal and accusations of a "witch hunt," we were looking forward to starting this past season with a clean slate.

Instead, we started the year with "spankygate," as Max’s proclivity for a spot of S&M hanky panky with five prostitutes hit the headlines.

When it went to court, Max won his privacy case against the News of the World. He also won the confidence vote at the FIA. Well, he designed the voting system in the first place, so it’s hardly surprising.

A lot of people were disappointed by these outcomes, but few were surprised. Max Mosley has always been extremely adept at manipulating people and situations.

Apparently it’s perfectly normal behaviour to hire five hookers, dress them up as prisoners and whip them while barking out orders in German. Nothing odd about that.

“Ah,” said Max imperiously, “she needs more of zee punishment.” Course she does.

And as a final twist, it turned out that one of these ladies was the wife of an MI5 agent. You really couldn’t make it up!

And then we had the F1 stewards. Ah, bless ‘em. They’ve certainly been up to some mischief this year. 2008 has seen some of the most bizarre stewarding decisions in the sport’s history.

For example: In Australia, Felipe Massa was released from his pit into the path of another car. No action was taken.

In Valencia, the same thing happened, and he received a 10,000-euro fine.

The same thing happened for a third time in Singapore, and he received a drive-through penalty.

The same thing happens to the same driver in three different races, yet he receives three different stewards’ decisions. Not surprisingly, people started asking questions over the consistency of race stewards’ decisions.

Then we had "chicanegate" at Spa-Francorchamps, where Lewis Hamilton gained a place (from Kimi Raikkonen) by cutting the chicane, gave the place back, then retook the place at the next corner after going right around the back of Raikkonen.

Even though race director Charlie Whiting twice told McLaren that the move was acceptable, Hamilton was given a post-race 25-second penalty.

Everyone other than Ferrari and the FIA were up in arms over this decision, but even after an FIA hearing, the penalty stood.

I say everyone, but most of the drivers agreed with it. Envy is a terrible thing. Fernando Alonso even said post-race that he thought it was a fair punishment, even though he didn’t know what the offence was.

The Japanese Grand Prix took stewarding incompetence to new levels, though. Hamilton was given a drive-through for forcing Raikkonen off the track at the start, even though, if they’d bothered to look carefully enough, it was Kovalainen who forced his fellow Finn to go wide. This was the first instance of a first-corner incident warranting a penalty in the sport’s history.

And then, the icing on the cake was a penalty against poor old Sebastien Bourdais for having the temerity to be in Massa’s way as he exited the pits. Shocking.

So, following these, and other dubious decisions, many inside and outside the sport have called for greater consistency in the administering of penalties.

In particular, there were calls for the same stewards to officiate at every grand prix, one of them being a former driver.

The FIA carefully listened to these suggestions …

… and promptly ignored them.

Instead, they’ve made some amendments to the rules regarding stewards.

New stewards will have to observe at least one grand prix prior to becoming a steward. One. ONE? I’ve just worked out that I must have "observed" around 400 grands prix. So where do I sign up?

The race stewards’ CVs will be published before a grand prix. That doesn’t mean anything. My CV says that I’ve been an astronaut, a race driver (obviously) and an Alaskan cod farmer. Everyone lies on their CVs, don’t they?

Written explanations of stewarding decisions will be published after the race, and video evidence used will be made public. Can’t wait for these.

“Car No. 1 recklessly led from pole to flag. 25-second retrospective drive-through penalty. Car Nos. 3 & 4 promoted to first and second.”

Ah, but that brings me to the next point. They can’t do that any more. Decisions have to be made during the race, where possible. Only when further evidence is needed will a decision be deferred.

A step in the right direction, then, without giving anyone exactly what they want. But it should, the FIA hopes, be enough to keep the teams quiet, and stuff the viewing public.

Here is the problem with the Undemocratic Republic of the FIA. There is no balance. No one to say, “No, we can’t do that. What if we compromise and do this?”

What if the president of the FIA were to go mad? What happens then? He may be happy to marry a chicken, discuss philosophy with mushrooms and behead anyone whose team name begins with ‘Mc’ (which, frankly, is being a bit Scottishist), but it also means he has free reign to destroy the sport with his certifiably bonkers ideas. Standardised engines, for instance.

Maybe King Max needs a prime minister. I could do that. I’ve seen loads of races. That probably makes me immediately ineligible. The last thing the FIA wants is someone who knows anything about F1.

So maybe having a monarchy isn’t such a bad idea, after all. It’s worked pretty well for Britain. We haven’t had any despotic megalomaniac leaders lately (not withstanding Margaret Thatcher), no recent civil wars and no genocide that I know of.

If only the FIA could see it my way.

If you have any comments, please address them to:

The Chimp at the Top,

North West Tower

The Tower of London



I think I can hear the axe man sharpening his blade already, so you’d better make it quick.


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