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Brundle hits back

NEWS STORY
09/12/2007

There are many within F1 who feel that in recent times the FIA under Max Mosley has become much like New Labour under Tony Blair.

In much the same way that Blair's spin machine - led by the insidious Alistair Campbell - bullied and cajoled, with its 'you're either with us or against us' attitude, so many within F1 feel afraid to speak out for fear of retribution.

When it comes to the media, anyone perceived as not toeing the party line faces the withdrawal of their all-important accreditation. Consequently, many within the media feel the need to suck up to the FIA, resulting in journalistic integrity flying out the window.

Depending on how serious the FIA perceives a journalist's misdemeanour, the punishment can range from being ignored to having all requests for accreditation refused - as happened a couple of years back when a leading British magazine faced such punishment because one of its journalists, a highly respected writer who has attended hundreds of GPs, was adjudged to have criticized the sport's governing body.

Following the announcement last week that the FIA is to sue the Sunday Times, following an article by former F1 driver, turned commentator, Martin Brundle, in which he opined that the FIA's treatment of McLaren with regards the spy saga was like a "witch-hunt", the Englishman has launched a scathing attack on the sport's governing body.

"As a result of my Sunday Times column we have received a French writ from Max Mosley and the FIA with regard to comments I made in September about the so-called Ferrari and McLaren spy scandal and the ensuing $100m fine for McLaren," he writes in this week's column. "We even appeared on the impressively named World Motor Sport Council's agenda approving the use of the FIA's money to pursue us. I had previously debated the energetic manner in which Mosley was apparently pursuing McLaren.

"As a former Formula One driver, I have earnt the right to have an opinion about the sport," he continues, "and probably know as much about it as anybody else. I have attended approaching 400 grands prix, 158 as a driver. I have spilt blood, broken bones, shed tears, generated tanker loads of sweat, tasted the champagne glories and plumbed the depths of misery. I have never been more passionate about F1 and will always share my opinions in an honest and open way, knowing readers will make up their own minds.

"The timing of the writ is significant, in my view, given the FIA's decision to find Renault guilty of having significant McLaren designs and information within their systems, but not administering any penalty. It is a warning sign to other journalists and publications to choose their words carefully over that decision. I'm tired of what I perceive as the "spin" and tactics of the FIA press office, as are many other journalists. I expect my accreditation pass for next year will be hindered in some way to make my coverage of F1 more difficult and to punish me. Or they will write to ITV again to say that my commentary is not up to standard despite my unprecedented six Royal Television Society Awards for sports broadcasting. So be it.

"This past couple of weeks I have attended many functions where I have met high-level F1 people, among many others. The discussion always moves to "how will the FIA get themselves out of this corner by not punishing Renault despite the outcome of the McLaren case". That was the perception of many, and remains the billion-dollar question."

No doubt Martin will receive countless e-mails and phones calls over the next few days, congratulating him on his stance, though few - mindful of reprisals from the FIA - will dare go public.

Although we have not always agreed with Martin, and have a particular problem with his obvious bias towards some drivers and teams, and against others, we applaud his courage to speak out on this issue. Indeed, we hope that others give him their public support.

The FIA boats of its transparency and its desire to be seen as totally impartial, yet at times it has all the hallmarks of the dark days of the KGB.

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