Formula 1 continues to be such an insular society that nobody seems to be able to see the forest for the trees.
It became public over the weekend that an F1 journalist learned about last season’s alleged Singapore Grand Prix race fix within an hour or two of its happening.
That’s where Nelson Piquet Jr., allegedly, deliberately crashed his Renault race car so that his teammate, Fernando Alonso, would be in a position to go on and win the Grand Prix – which is apparently what happened.
This didn’t come to public light until a few weeks ago when Piquet and his father told the FIA about the plot. Since then, the FIA has ordered an investigation and a meeting of the World Motorsport Council has been called for Sept. 21.
It could – could – result in sanctions against Renault, which could lead to Renault leaving the sport.
In a weekend interview, Patrick Head of Williams F1 reportedly said he thinks the hearing will be a test of the integrity of the sport. So far, so good. But then he dropped this little bombshell:
"Head . . . said he was told by a journalist that Piquet first revealed the alleged plot privately shortly after the Singapore GP.
" ‘I became aware of a journalist who told me that he was told about it by Nelson Piquet 15 minutes after the race. It’s a difficult one. If a journalist was told that by a driver, he should have said: ‘Look, stop. If you carry on with this, I will. . . ’ "
I fail to see what’s difficult about this. If a driver tells a reporter that a race was rigged, or fixed, the reporter’s duty is to write or broadcast the story.
Or to report the information to the proper authorities and then write the story. Take your pick.
Head seems to think there’s some sort of moral dilemma. There isn’t. A journalist’s duty is to the public, through the newspaper, web site, magazine or broadcasting station that employs him or her.
It’s this sort of waffling that got Ron Dennis into trouble and eventually resulted in him being kicked out of F1, not to mention throwing the sport into disrepute from which it is still recovering.
You recall, I’m sure, the scandal that erupted when it was discovered that McLaren was in possession of about 750 pages of intellectual property belonging to Ferrari.
Dennis found out and prevaricated. He should have called the police.
And that’s what should have happened this time.
Instead, somebody sat on the story. And what might have been scandalous then is now threatening to become a full-blown disaster.
Doesn’t anybody in F1 ever learn?
And where are Woodward and Bernstein when we really need them. . .
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
With four races remaining, it looks like Jenson Button has pretty much got the 2009 world championship of drivers wrapped up.
Barring some sort of disaster, Button can pretty much cruise through the remainder of the schedule, sticking to the coattails of his teammate, the irrepressible Rubens Barrichello, who’s in second place in the standings.
Barrichello won his third race of the season yesterday at Monza, with Button second and Kimi Raikkonen third.
If Barrichello wins every race and Button finishes second, Button still wins by a comfortable margin. If Barrichello finishes second every race and Button finishes third – well, there you go.
Button won six of the first seven races, through Turkey in early July. Since then he’s been in the Top Ten at every race except for Belgium, where he crashed.
Brawn GP (nee Honda) got the jump on everybody over the winter and it paid off in spades. Those first half-dozen or so races were really just romps. Then Brawn relaxed a bit (it seemed to me) and the traditional heavyweights, McLaren and Ferrari, caught up a bit and the mid-season got interesting.
But then just about everybody started working on their 2010 cars and Brawn picked up their socks and the universe started unfolding as it should again.
Now it seems like Brawn is back in the saddle and, frankly, the championships – driver and manufacturer’s – look to be in the bag.
– Adrian Sutil’s Force India engineer started talking in his ear during the formation lap yesterday about how to handle the start (he was starting second), suggesting he stay on the inside heading into Corner One.
Broadcaster Martin Brundle said he found it astonishing that the engineer would be giving the driver advice. I found it astonishing that they were even talking about it then. Hadn’t they discussed it before?
– Barrichello’s exuberance is delightful. I particularly get a kick out of him giving the camera a big smooch.
– In-car cameras early in the race yesterday showed cars in front moving back and forth across the track. Some people call this "defending" a position; I call it blocking and sometimes think a Paul Tracy "chrome horn" might just liven things up a little in F1. Don’t you?
– I sometimes wonder what TV directors are thinking. When Lewis Hamilton lost control and crashed on the last lap yesterday, there was wreckage strewn across the track. Just as Raikkonen and Sutil approached and appeared to be slowing down to pick their through the debris (hey, Sutil might have caught Kimi napping, for all anybody knew) the TV cut to a shot of Hamilton’s father.
Who cares???? I want to see how the other drivers are handling the situation.
– While watching the podium ceremony of the Grand Prix yesterday, I recalled a delightful story I heard last weekend at the Oswego Classic for supermodifieds.
In 1973, Kenny Andrews of Burlington became the first Canadian to win the big race. The Canadian fans were going crazy. They were being, to put it mildly, extremely rambunctious.
To calm them down, speedway announcer Roy Sova put on O Canada. Being good Canadians, they stopped their clowning around, stood at attention, and bellowed out the words.
And thus, a tradition was born.
Since that day, every winner of the International Classic has been serenaded by their national anthem – mostly the Star Spangled Banner. O Canada has only been heard four times.