MARCH 29, 2007

Turks gets away with it

The FIA has agreed to halve the $5m fine imposed on the Turkish race authorities after last year's podium scandal when Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat presented the winner's prize to Felipe Massa, a move that was designed as a nationalistic statement which triggered serious questions over the FIA's political neutrality.

The FIA made much of the scandal at the time and fined the Turks $5m - a reasonable sum given the offence. The race promoters, MSO, paid half of the fine but TOSFED, the Turkish motor sports federation, does not have that kind of money and was faced with bankruptcy. The FIA decided that rather than bankrupt a member club it would probably be best to let the Turks off the hook - a thoroughly bad idea as it sets a precedent for the future. The FIA may now argue that it will not happen again but the reality is that if it does happen again a club would be able to use the Turkish example as a justification for reducing a punishment.

The other point which should perhaps be mentioned is that it is probably not very smart of the Turks to be publicising a decision which the FIA may have made with reservations.

The Turks have, when all is said and done, lost control of their race as the promotion of the event has been taken over by Formula One Management. This may have been on the cards before the mess last August because the race was not doing well financially but there is no question that the scandal did nothing to help the race.

The Turks will not be pulling similar stunts in the future but the danger is that other newcomers to F1 may think that they can use races to score political points.