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JUNE 13, 2002

A load of crystal balls at Auto Motor und Sport

THE usually reliable AUTO MOTOR UND SPORT magazine in Germany has put its reputation on the line by suggesting that it knows in advance what is going to happen when the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets in Paris on June 26. The magazine quoted an unnamed FIA official saying that the organization will cancel the last lap of the Austrian GP and give victory to Rubens Barrichello.

The story was credited to the highly-respected journalist Michael Schmidt, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential people in Formula 1 by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 Magazine (one of only three journalists on that list). Schmidt is also a member of the FIA Press Commission.

The FIA responded angrily to the story.

"No FIA official can say something like that now, because it will all be decided at the council meeting," a spokesman said. "It's hard to say what will happen, but it's impossible to make statements like that today."

It should be noted that a decision could have been made internally at the FIA about what punishment should be proposed to the World Council and this might have leaked out to Schmidt. Unfortunately the publication of his story means that it would now be very difficult for that punishment to be applied, if only because it would seem to back up the suggestion that a penalty can be decided in advance.

And that is not an implication the FIA would want to promote.

There are, of course, other questions such as whether the story might have been leaked to Schmidt as part of an effort to sway the decision-making process. That does not seem very likely as the federation is not going to respond well if it feels it is being manipulated and it could backfire with Ferrari getting an even more severe penalty.

We will see what happens in Paris on June 26...