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Standing by its word

NEWS STORY
17/04/2008

The F1 world is abuzz with news of FIA members which may or may not be supporting president Max Mosley at its upcoming Extraordinary General Assembly in June. Insiders are predicting the outcome, consequences and some are even going so far as to propose likely replacements for Mosley.

Given the nature of the situation that Mosley finds himself in, there isn't much precedent to consider when trying to guess what the FIA, as a whole, may think. However, there is one case which although much less severe, was similar, and it didn't come out in favour of the subject.

In 1997, Williams' Jacques Villeneuve made an unexpectedly blunt announcement about the FIA's new regulations which introduced grooved tyres and narrower cars the following season. "It was a joke, basically," he said after testing a car to the new specifications, adding "I think it's ridiculous to drive race cars like that."

One month later, on 26 May the Canadian was interviewed in the German magazine Spiegel and is quoted as saying "almost no other driver has the courage to say clearly that the new rules are bluntly shit." This tipped the balance and Villeneuve was hauled before the World Motor Sport Council to explain himself.

Villeneuve was given a reprimand, with a warning that should he commit a similar offence in the future it would be regarded with the utmost severity.

The FIA statement about this released on 11 June said: "the World Motor Sports Council stressed to Jacques Villeneuve that he had not been summoned to appear before the Council because of his opinions but because he had expressed them in offensive terms."

Even Villeneuve could see the problem and admitted that "it's true that the bottom of this is that there are some words you should use at home and some words for the international press."

The problem of course comes when such words, or actions as in Mosley's current predicament, get into the media.

Given that Villeneuve was reprimanded simply for using "offensive terms" it is tough to see how the FIA could support someone whose actions have been considered by much of the world's media to be "offensive" at the very least.

The last thing that the FIA needs is to indicate that it has one rule for drivers and another for itself. Many would say that the credibility of the federation itself is where it should be… in its members' hands.

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