NOVEMBER 17, 1997

A decent decision

IF the FIA World Council disgraced itself in the eyes of the world over its punishment of Michael Schumacher, at least it made the right decision over the ridiculous charges leveled against Williams and McLaren of race-rigging. "It is quite clear that the result of the race was not fixed," said Max Mosley. "There was no arrangement between McLaren and Williams that MikaƊHakkinen was going to win. They were able to demonstrate very clearly that was not the case. On the conversation between Villeneuve and his engineer Jock Clear, it is a fact that Jacques is a fairly willful person who pursues his own course of action and Williams was very worried that as it was on the very last lap, he would fight for his win. It was described as near panic in the pit, as there they were, within a hair's breadth of the World Championship, that he might in fighting the McLarens have an accident and lose the championship. They were desperately saying to him, "don't get involved, let them pass." That was the sense in which they said "don't let me down." I think in that situation, Villeneuve would have let everyone pass, until it got to the point where he would have lost sixth place. Then I am sure he would have fought to the end. That would have been the correct thing to do as the championship matters enormously."

What was not explained was why the FIA chose to take the allegations seriously in the first place as clearly there was no evidence to back up the story published in The Times newspaper. The suspicion remains, therefore, that the entire process was simply a smokescreen to disguise the weak judgment against Schumacher.