GLOBETROTTER

Sex and the single seater

There may be dancing in the streets outside the headquarters of the Latvijas Automobilu Federacija (LAF) in Riga as a result of Danica Patrick's first Indycar victory, in Japan last weekend. The Latvian automobile club, you see, has more to gain from Danica's success than any other club on earth. According to the United Nations, Latvia boasts 100 women for every 86 men. On paper the club has much more potential for growth than in places like the United Arab Emirates (where there are 195 men to every 100 women), Qatar (184), Kuwait (139), Bahrain (135), Jordan (108) or even China and India (106).

When all is said and done, Danica's win means that motor racing suddenly has hundreds of millions more potential fans than used to be the case. Danica not only won, but she won in style, so no-one sensible can say that she fluked it. I don't care when I hear the men whingeing about her getting a weight advantage. It is irrelevant. You play with the cards that are dealt to you. Danica has fought through to the top, overcoming the sceptics. And good for her! It is terrific news for motorsport and particularly for the Indy Racing League in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500. That race is going to get way more viewers than in recent seasons. If you look at the effect that Lewis Hamilton's success has had on Formula 1, you can see what kind of growth could be possible if the sport had a woman involved.

Sadly, at the moment, the only women in the news in F1 circles are prostitutes, who have screeched into the spotlight thanks to their adventures with FIA President Max Mosley.

Motor racing never ceases to amaze me with its ability to draw journalists into areas where they never thought they would end up straying. When I started out in the racing business I was writing about tyre compounds and gear ratios, oversteer and understeer. Over the years I have become acquainted with many worlds because of the sport. I have interviewed Prime Ministers and studied international money-laundering, I have become an expert in national economic plans and corporate strategies. Life is constantly varied and never dull (except on the occasional Sunday afternoon when the power of aerodynamics overcomes all else).

They say that there are some subjects that one should never discuss over dinner, if one wishes to avoid arguments: the most important of these are sex and religion. Straying into discussions of sex and, inevitably, morality is about as sensible as striding across a minefield while doing a crossword puzzle, but sometimes such things are necessary. There is little religion to be found in the amoral world of the F1 paddock and while there is sex, during race weekends most of those involved in the sport are too busy to worry about it. It may cross their mind when long-legged fillies lollop past them in the paddock, but there is no time available to saddle up and ride into the sunset.

Despite this, the Mosley Scandal has put sex on to the F1 agenda and the FIA President has only himself to blame for this.

To my mind this scandal is important because it affects the way the sport is viewed, and thus it affects the sport itself.

Whether it is true in F1 or not, a surprisingly large percentage of people in the world still believe that when one takes a vow of marriage, one should stick to that commitment. If Mosley had been playing his sex games with his wife, then there would not be an issue. The article in the News of the World would have been an invasion of privacy. There would be no reason to resign and no pressure to do so. Mosley would have had the sympathy of many, even if the activities were not their cup of tea.

It is possible that a wife might know of and accept her husband using prostitutes, but unless something is said to that effect the world will assume that there was infidelity involved. And that sets off a chain reaction of falling dominos. It follows that if a person is willing to break a promise in his or her private life, there is no reason to assume that they can be trusted in their professional lives. This is the explanation for why generations of judges and bishops have been defrocked when their behaviour failed to live up to the levels expected of them. If one holds a high office and makes judgements on moral issues, one must be whiter than white.

The FIA also placed its trust in Mosley and one can argue that this trust has been betrayed.

Weirdly, Mosley's statements in the Sunday Telegraph talk of one of the prostitutes "betraying trust" and suggests that she will be ostracised "by all sorts of people" as a result.

Why should that be the case for the woman in question and not for Mosley himself?

The fact remains that Mosley's decision to indulge in such activities, knowing that he might be exposed and embarrassed, suggests that he lacks the judgement necessary to lead the automobile world. He is an intelligent man and he knew the risks he was taking.

He got caught.

By staying on as head of the FIA he has caused much damage to the federation (and the sport) that he claims to be protecting, using the bizarre argument that he is staying on to avoid the sport being damaged by its own differences of opinion. This argument assumes that Mosley is the only person capable of holding together the disparate groups within the FIA, and thus that there is no-one else good enough to do that job. There is no doubt that some of the FIA delegates lack competence, some are operating at a level way above their ability, some may even be corrupt, but to suggest that no-one else can save the federation is impressively arrogant - and insulting.

Former Ferrari boss Jean Todt, who has ambitions of taking over the position of FIA President, has now waded into the story.

"He's a true president," Todt said of Mosley. "He knows his brief and is a great worker, reliable, very intelligent, a man of rare elegance. He's a true leader. I'm still amazed people concentrate on things which are nothing to do with his role."

Much of what Todt says is true. Mosley works very hard. He is very intelligent. He is a leader.

But in the wake of what has happened in recent weeks it is harder to justify the claims of reliability and elegance.

A messy sex scandal is sordid and demeaning. It is in no way elegant.

The question of reliability is one that leads to the questions above.

To support Mosley's arguments is to accept his view of morality and, to my mind, by supporting Mosley, Todt has raised questions of his own suitability for the role. One can understand some of the support Mosley has received, as it has come from countries where women are not treated as equals. Men are allowed to do as they please. That is their culture. It is significant, however, that public support for Mosley has been sparse in the Western world.

The saddest thing of all is that the wrangling will go on for another six weeks, and during that time it is safe to say that it will generate no good publicity.

Thank goodness we have Danica.

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