Oh Bernie

08/07/2009
FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE

I have a friend who is a keen follower of F1, but he gets his information printed on dead trees. Recently, he referred to budget capping. How we all laughed! Wiping away the tears, we explained that budget capping was last Friday and today was Monday so the whoosh on the street was resource restriction. Last Monday the guy referred to Max standing down. When we caught our breath again, it was explained that he was soooo last week.

According to Max, he had always intended not to seek re-election and was miffed when FOTA gave the impression that he was ousted in order to restore peace and stability to F1. Apparently, Max thought he had thrashed out a deal - Max is a man who knows about thrashing things out - and all parties should be cuddly in their public statements. FOTA had broken the agreement particularly with Luca di Montezemolo calling him a dictator.

Mosley turned to the Daily Mail to tell his story and the headline read: 'I'll call liar di Montezemolo's bluff by staying on as FIA president, warns Mosley.' That is not cuddly, that is one huge ego addressing another huge ego, trust fund kids at dawn.

It was the Daily Mail which once ran an editorial headlined 'Hurray For The Blackshirts!'

The longer that Mosley strings this out, the less chance FOTA has of organising a breakaway series in the foreseeable future.

As Chairman of Fiat, di Montezemolo is the nearest thing there is in the Western world to a medieval prince. A week ago there was talk of Jean Todt succeeding Max as President of the FIA. If you can remember that far back, you will recall that Todt did a few useful things for Ferrari in his time, he was actually rather good but, as I understand, he is currently unemployed. I am reminded of a courtier to a medieval prince who outshines his master and that will not do.

Todt was seen as a successor to Mosley and was also seen as being of Mosley's mind. Being of the peasantry. I have no knowledge of the way princes conduct their business, but I suspect that Todt was too accomplished to be around di Montezemolo. I doubt whether Todt would ever be a Mosley puppet, he is way too good for that, but some believe he would be. Medieval princes, trust fund kids to a man, could be capricious and Todt is currently without work.

All that, however, is so last week.

We had all this going on and then Bernie hit the headlines. In an interview with The Times, Bernie defended the idea of a dictator over democracy. I am happy to consider the idea. When Ancient Rome was threatened, the Senate stood down having chosen a dictator whose powers were limitless for a given period. That was a point that Bernie appears to have missed, there was a time limit. Julius Caesar was assassinated because he did not like the time limit.

Bernie has told the German newspaper, Bild, that it was all a misunderstanding and that he was referring to things like road building and the re-booting of the German economy. It was all a misunderstanding. so that's all right, then. If you want to choose analogies from history, be sure to choose the right ones, otherwise you are plain stupid.

Naturally, influential Jewish groups have been upset, but there are plenty of other groups which might take offence, gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses among them, plus citizens of many other countries who were slaughtered as reprisals or forced to work as slaves. I knew a concentration camp survivor who did not belong to a minority. He was a Pole and was one of more than 400 young men from his town who were shipped off to labour camps. Five survived the ordeal.

The first people to be persecuted by the Nazis were Germans. The father of my late mother-in-law, Fritz Sternberg, was a prominent Marxist economist who fled his homeland in 1933. You can Google Fritz Sternberg. who ended up in FDR's kitchen cabinet. A Marxist welcome in the White House, how times change.

My mother-in-law wished to stay on at her boarding school and nobody thought that a child would be harmed. The Gestapo questioned her as to her father's whereabouts. She needed six months in a sanatorium and was partially paralysed for the rest of her life. She was interrogated in 1933. Her hands and feet were broken, as were her arms and legs, and her back. She was aged 13.

Hey Bernie, that is what you call really getting things done? This is not an abstract construct, it is my son's grandmother. There will be readers with worse stories to tell.

German trade unionists were among the first victims of concentration camps. I belonged to a trade union throughout the time I was an employee, I believe in trade unions. Long before the War, there were programmes to exterminate the mentally sub-normal and those with severe physical disabilities, and they were all German citizens. Hitler began on Germans. I had no in-law problems because I did not have in-laws, they had been Jews as well as Germans.

There were occasions like the Night of the Long Knives, when some of Hitler's allies were murdered. There was Kristallnacht and the annexation of Austria. Bernie surely cannot be so ignorant that he can miss all that? Unfortunately, it seems that he is that ignorant.

Bernie said in his interview with The Times that Hitler did not necessarily know what was going on in every case, once the War was on. The most prominent advancer of the argument that Hitler did not know what was going on is the Holocaust-denier, David Irving. This odious man has never found a paper trail which links Adolf to industrial genocide. Irving has therefore been able to make the case that most of the bad, bad, things were carried out by fringe groups beyond the control of Berlin.

When he was a student, Irving seconded the main speaker in a debate on immigration at University College, London. The main speaker was Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley had an inherited title, by the way.

In essence, Bernie was supporting Irving's thesis, but now has been forced to apologise and at least one scheduled meeting in Germany has been cancelled. Bernie has acknowledged that The Times quoted him accurately, 'but it was not what I meant to say.' What a pathetic excuse that is. That is a sentence I never thought I'd write about Bernie, I never thought I'd ever use 'pathetic.

Bernie cannot be excused for not knowing since his good friend, Max Mosley, has spent his entire life living down the fact that his parents were on friendly terms with Adolf and Benito. They sent money to Sir Oswald Mosley's Union of British Fascists and some went into Sir Oswald's back pocket and has subsequently helped to finance Max Mosley's life style.

All things considered, I guess it was unfortunate that Bernie also said that Max would have made a good Prime Minister.

My view is that Bernie has proved himself to be so damaging to motor sport that he must go, at once. The thing is that I am not sure that he can be asked to stand down because he has no official standing in motor sport.

The last time I needed an FIA competition licence I had to join a local motor club. The Bognor Regis Motor Club, as fine a body of people as you could hope to meet, is affiliated to the RAC, and that is the connection to the FIA. I became a member so that I could obtain a licence to be co-driver to Robin Herd in his Metro 6R4 on a rally. We were easily the quickest, but were handicapped down to second place. Before you ask, of course Robin's car was illegal, he owned an F1 team at the time.

Should one of the club's officials do something really dumb, the FIA could take away their right to be an official of the club even though they give their time without charge.

I am not saying that this applies to Bernie. I do not think that he can be charged with bringing the sport into disrepute because I do not think that he has any place within the structure of the FIA, unlike the Hon. Sec. of the Bognor Regis Motor Club.

Readers of Pitpass are lucky because we have Christian Sylt on board and he combines an ability to research with a gift for making complicated issues clear to the layperson. I hope that Chris does not take this the wrong way, but I look forward to the day when we do not need him.

We certainly need him at present. Chris it is who has discovered that all the new teams in 2010 (it was Mosley who introduced the franchise system) have had to sign up to use Cosworth engines, so cutting out the major manufacturers. The list of new teams elicited some surprise since Aston Martin (Prodrive and Dave Richards) and Lola (Martin Birrane) were not on it. Unlike trust fund kid, Max Mosley, Dave Richards and Martin Birrane are both very successful men who made their own way in life. I can sense trouble ahead.

There is also the matter of FIA Chief Steward, Alan Donnelly, touting for business on behalf of Manor Racing two weeks before the FIA list was announced. You have to be really dumb to do that and leave a trail.

Wasn't the fuss about Lewis Hamilton lying at Melbourne and Sepang a steward thing? I guess that the Chief Steward must have been involved. I would like to know what role, if any, Alan Donnelly played in the downfall of Ron Dennis.

I doubt if we will ever know. We have never known if there has been a formal business relationship between Smacks and Bernie.

I recall the first time I interviewed Max. The meeting took place in an office in Alembic House which is on London's Albert Embankment. There was a penthouse created from the top two stories of what was otherwise a business property. That had a view which included St. Paul's cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. It was the sort of view you see as a backdrop in movies just like when Paris is represented, and you get that bloody annoying accordion. I do not know why the owner of the block needed to make his penthouse from two floors of the building, he not being a tall man.

I may have missed it, but I cannot recall seeing any paperwork which links Bernie to Max but, in early January, 1980, Max had an office in a building owned by Bernie and he spoke, with enthusiasm, about involving major manufacturers in Formula One which he no longer wants to do. I cannot help but notice that manufacturers have pumped in billions.

Bernie's remarks about Adolf Hitler are so disingenuous that I could almost be persuaded they were part of a conspiracy to divert attention from Max Mosley and Alan Donnelly.

The really big scandal will be about how the FIA picked its additional teams and as I finish this, there is another story breaking and it concerns the three new teams and FOTA. The new teams all have votes, just like Ferrari and McLaren. I can see that ending in tears before bedtime because all of the new teams owe their place on the grid to Max Mosley's patronage. Like to guess how they will vote?

Lurking in the background is CVC and the massive debt it owes to the Royal Bank of Scotland. I bet there has been anxiety there during the last few days over Bernie's utterly crass comments about Hitler. The Daily Mail has a new story and the headline reads: Just days after praising Hitler, now Bernie Ecclestone 'blames Jews for banking crisis.'

To be fair, he did not quite say that, but the headline will stick. When informed that the World Jewish Congress had called for his resignation, he responded, 'It's a pity they didn't sort the banks out.' When asked to elaborate, he countered, 'They have a lot of influence everywhere.'

Sometimes, Bernie, the best policy is to say nothing. Saying nothing beats dealing in racial stereotypes.

For the record. Sir Fred Goodwin, late of RBS, is a Scotchman with no publicly declared religious affiliation.

Bernie can apologise and grovel, from now until the crack of doom, but his words will not go away. If I had money invested in CVC, I would be a little on edge.

I am used to commenting on a major scandal every few months, now they arrive by the day. One thing is clear to me and that is that the sooner that Bernie and Max leave the scene, the better we all shall be.

Mike Lawrence
mike@pitpass.com

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Published: 08/07/2009
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