SEPTEMBER 15, 2003
Ferrari on dangerous ground
Ferrari is refusing to confirm that it will not challenge the result of the races earlier this year, using Article 179B of the FIA International Sporting Code which states that "if, in events forming part of a FIA Championship, a new element is discovered, whether or not the stewards of the meeting have already given a ruling, these stewards of the meeting or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, must meet on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them."
In order to avoid complaints dating back years (there might, for example, be people who think that what is alleged to have happened in 1994 should be reviewed in the light of information which has leaked out since) the period in which a review can be made is limited to the end of November of the current year. In theory Ferrari could request that the stewards of the Grands Prix earlier this year be reconvened to consider tire issues but with most of the tires from those races having been destroyed there is not much that can be done to mount a real legal challenge as accurate measurements cannot be made from photographs and the FIA has not actually declared anything to have been illegal.
Senior sources at the FIA say that they cannot see any such challenge actually coming to light as there would need to be conclusive evidence before any decision to recall FIA Stewards would be taken.
The danger of the Ferrari threat is that it will damage the whole image of the sport as to challenge the results of past races would put Formula 1 in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and alienate fans all over the world.
"It is a possibility which is open to us," Jean Todt told reporters at Monza, "We can use it but we prefer to win on the race track."
However there appears to be a subtext in all of this talk as Ferrari appears to be worried that statements made by technical director Ross Brawn may result in legal action from Michelin and it could be that the threat to invoke Article 179B is designed to ward off any such legal action by the French tire giant.
Todt however confirmed his philosophy that "what is good for the team is not always good for the public."
Last year F1 was given a clear demonstration of how a team's behavior can damage the sport after the "rigged" finish at the Austrian Grand Prix. Thousands of fans turned off their TVs after that and there are appreciable dips in viewing figures of TV stations, websites and magazines. There are many in Formula 1 who feel that Ferrari should perhaps have a little more respect for the sport which has served it so well over many years.
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