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SEPTEMBER 28, 2006

Turkey struggles to pay its fine

Turkish Grand Prix organisers are saying that the $5m fine imposed by the FIA is too heavy a burden and that the race cannot afford to pay. In explaining the problem, the circuit manager Baran Asena told Autosport that the race had lost $5m in 2005 and with the spectators numbers down in 2006 it is fair to say that this year's race will also turn out to have been loss-making.

The problem is that Turkey has just 30 days to pay the fine and if it does not it could (in theory at least) be removed from the F1 calendar although the FIA showed little taste for a more serious penalty, despite early exhortations that Turkey has stepped well over the line of what was acceptable. The federation may simply back down and accept a delayed payment, given that there is some sympathy for the event at the top level of the sport. The Turks say that their only aim is to promote the sport - a worthy ambition - but unfortunately the damage is done.

We have heard arguments that the punishment is too harsh and that political displays are not important in the sport but we cannot help but wonder what the Turks would be saying if another country that believes there should be a Kurdish homeland, allowed a Kurdish politician to hand out the trophies at another race.

And we wonder what the FIA would do then.