FIA’s two-page Autosport ‘correction’

FIA Trailer 2006Autosport has printed a substantial retraction of an earlier article following intervention from the FIA.

Next to a feature on independent teams a small column titled, “The Max Factor” claimed FIA President Max Mosley’s stance on the issue of car manufacturers in the sport had “yo-yoed for the past five years.” (Autosport, February 8th 2007)

It went on to state, “At a Monaco meeting [in 2004], Mosley abandons the planned agenda and tells a stunned group of team principals that F1 will adopt…2.4 litre V8 engines. Aggrieved teams threaten the FIA with legal action.”

The following week a quarter-page correction (larger than the offending story) titled “The FIA” clarified the original comments: “Only two teams, BMW and Honda (not all teams as our story suggests), threatened arbitration.” But that was only the beginning.

The same article stated, “our new information makes it clear that the FIA has always welcomed world car makes to F1, but has consistently made it clear that the sport cannot rely on them.”

That article promised a further explanation of how the V8 engine rules were agreed upon in the following edition of Autosport. This was in turn postponed to last week’s issue (March 8th).

That two-page un-bylined piece “The real V8 story” claims, “most of the car manufacturers backed the move,” from V10 to V8 engines. Presented as an unbroken block of text it lacks the look and feel of an ordinary Autosport page both in appearance and content.

The sheer size of the response to an error which was made in a fairly small column indicates the FIA were seriously upset with the original claims.

If the first correction took up a surprising amount of space the second was truly astonishing. Clearly Autosport took the FIA’s objection very seriously.

I have always found Autosport to be a highly accurate and reliable source of Formula 1 news and this episode has not changed that opinion. But it does make you wonder whether the sport’s governing body might be tempted to use its power of veto over media access to Formula 1 races to stifle criticism of its policies?

Even more confusingly, an article on autosport.com from 2005 (below) insists that three manufacturers backed the arbitration – BMW, Honda and Mercedes. So where lies the truth?

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3 comments on FIA’s two-page Autosport ‘correction’

  1. It’s not about truth, it’s about power. If the FIA came after you with a big stick, wouldn’t you give them what they want? Money is power, after all.

  2. I was wondering what was going on alright – had a quick glance at the article and it didn’t look to be in the Autosport style.
    I was amused by the bit that suggested Mosley had no choice but to push the engine rules through to slow the cars for urgent safety reasons. Y’know because allowing tire changes again (and therefore speeding the cars back up) didn’t make things less safe.
    And the need to slow the cars was so urgent Max couldn’t be bothered following the Concorde Agreement which legally obliges him to only change engine specs as an absolute last resort.

    It’s a pity the F1 press rolls over so easy, but I suppose it’s always going to be the case that he who provides the piper with his press pass calls the tune.

  3. The whole style of the Autosport article on the V8 engines in the March 8th issue looked less like a correction and more like a FIA ghost-writing exercise. In fact, until I stumbled across this blog post, I thought that it was actually an article spontaneously written by an anonymous FIA bureaucrat (being a somewhat sporadic Autosport reader, I had missed the chain of events leading to this). The dead giveaway is that Max Mosely wrote some very similar stuff in his F1 Racing column in March 2006.

    It is definitely true that the FIA’s stance on manufacturers has been less than consistent. In fact, there is a fifteen-year cycle to this – five years of manufacturers being welcome (when they are few), five years of relative stability (when they are present) and five years of discouragement (when the FIA gets fed up of the manufacturers’ demands). The current cycle began in about 1994, so I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that the anti-manufacturer phase (represented by the very restrictive engine regulations) began in 2004. For the FIA to pretend that it has a consistent view is simply to make itself look unreflective as well as indecisive.

    I think it was fair to say that the teams were surprised that the 2.4 litre V8s were being proposed in Monaco. Simply because Max remembered to consult with the engine suppliers doesn’t mean that the engine suppliers would have told the teams. Forgetting that there are teams in F1 as distinct from manufacturers lends weight to the notion that Max was acting anti-independent as well as anti-manufacturer. Surely this is a dangerous attitude – a grid with neither manufacturers nor independents is likely to be rather empty.

    I notice that the latter Autosport article (I refuse to call it a correction on the basis of content and style) names a lot more names than the F1 Racing article – to the point where I suspect the principle of not revealing what happened in FIA meetings has been breached. This surely will lead to a lack of trust in the FIA and the sort of behaviour in future meetings normally reserved for PR events and the press.

    As for whether the FIA will use its power to stifle the press, it already does that. A few well-placed threats have been quite sufficient to ensure that credentialed media do not criticise the FIA very heavily. This is why I have become more reliant on web-based F1 journalism in the last few years and not simply depended on what the printed press report.

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