Ferrari boss Jean Todt told Autosport this week, â€œOur rivals are just bad losers.â€ McLaren head Ron Dennis admitted as much after Imola: â€œI was in pain for days afterwards,â€ he said. But you can be worse things than just a bad loserâ€¦
Nick Fry and the BAR team must have seen the writing on the wall when, having had Jenson Button’s BAR narrowly passed through scrutineering by the San Marino race stewards, the FIA immediately and unprecedentedly appealled against the decision. The FIA do not make a habit of losing legal disputes, regardless of whether they are in the right, and on this occasion they certainly were.
No doubt you’ve read the technicalities of the case in a million other places already, but for the sake of anyone who hasn’t, here it is: BAR’s Honda engine requires a certain amount of fuel in its pressure system to function properly. BAR left this fuel within the system (part of the fuel tank) after the race, despite being told to drain the car of all fluid.
When it was found out that they had not drained the car completely, they were disqualified. They challenged the stewards on a point of interpretation of the rules (whether or not the car should be weighed completely drained of fuel) and although the stewards relented, the FIA overturned BAR’s argument in court. It was never going to end any other way.
Whether or not BAR were deliberately breaking the rules is a matter of opinion. The ultra-cynical will argue that they were clearly cheating, the more optimistic might suggest they were just naive. More likely, this was an ill-informed attempt to exploit a ‘grey area’ in the rules – wilful naivety, if you will.
BAR have now compromised their season almost beyond repair, and it remains to be seen whether they will compensate for the loss of track time at Grands Prix by breaking the testing accord with the rest of the ‘group of nine’ teams.
In any given controversy there are always a few who will root out a conspiracy theory. And, sure enough, some journalists are already suggesting that Honda’s disqualification is a punishment by the FIA for their alliance with McLaren, Williams, Renault and Toyota in favour of a separate GPWC series.
Plainly, this is teleological nonsense. You do not win people over by punishing them – if the FIA wanted BAR on their side they would have asked for a change of BAR’s allegiances in exchange for a lighter punishment. Nor have any of BAR’s political allies come rallying to their support against the FIA – indeed Japanese arch-rivals Toyota were quick to stick the boot in.
No. BAR have been justly punished for a serious error on their part. A two-race ban is far lighter than they could have expected. And this will only change the political status quo if BAR now break the testing agreement to keep pace with their rivals.
Nor will the rest of the ‘group of nine’ thank them for giving the FIA the opportunity to portray themselves as the efficient authority they can be (but too seldom are) when the ‘group of nine’ really need to be showing them up as incompetent and too closely allied to Ferrari.
As for Todt, well, it is not very sensible to call your rivals â€œbad losersâ€ before failing to score any points in the next race. I’m sure the schadenfraude is mutual in Woking.
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