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How Formula One became Formula Fraud

The path to a Formula one drive is traditionally Go Karting, then Formula Ford, then FIA Formulas 4,3,2, then FIA Formula1. Where FIA is the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the regulating body of many autosporting events and a promoter of road safety around the world, having presided over the deaths of most of the Formula one drivers up until the era of Professor Sid Watkins, the Formula One Race Doctor from 1978 to 2005.

My father was offered that post in discussions with Jody Scheckter as a result of his relationship with Jackie Stewart but recommended Sid instead, because his neurosurgical background was more relevant and because Sid was more of a devotee to the sport. I remember when Dad came back from Monaco and told me: They don't even know the blood groups of the drivers! Those were the days when the life expectancy of a formula one driver was a few seasons. Fantastic progress has been made since then to the point where Max Verstappen could drive right over the head of Lewis Hamilton without injury to either party. If only that progress had indeed been transferred into regular road vehicles. 

But whilst the progress in car safety has been exemplary, the progress in fair competition has not. Sadly, a sport with a history so honourable that competitors would willingly give their lives to be a part of it, they deeming a death on the track to be a noble demise, has now become a lawless and dishonourable scrummage for grubby commercial success with a bent referee in charge. In short Lewis Hamilton has climbed the ladder from Formula Ford to become the Formula One World Champion 7 times only to end up stuck in Formula Fraud.  

Fraud 1

Here we have Max Verstappen, crowned as the 2021 World Champion, having been handed the deciding race by Michael Masi, the race director, as a result of a conversation between him and Jonathan Wheatley of Red Bull

" Masi essentially executed the instructions of Jonathan Wheatley (Red Bull) without any second thought over its legality or fairness. This should be sickening listening to any fan". 

Of course the copyright holder in the audio clip (Red bull or the FIA presumably) have had it removed from twitter. But I have the transcript below.

A virtual safety car was deployed on lap 54 of 58 of the Grand Prix. At deployment Max was more than 10 seconds behind Hamilton. Masi permitted five lapped cars lapped by Hamilton but not by Verstappen to unlap themselves but no others lapped by Verstappen, resulting in there being a straight fight between the two title rivals for the championship. Max was on brand new tyres and Lewis was on old tyres. So unlapping the cars lapped by Lewis and failing to unlap the cars lapped by Max, handed the race to Max.

But be that as it may article 48 of F1’s sporting regulations was broken in two ways

1. It requires the safety car to complete one whole lap after the cars have unlapped themselves. The unlapping occured on lap 57 in Abu Dhabi. Had the safety car obeyed the regulations and completed one whole lap thereafter, the race would have ended under the safety car and Lewis would have won it.
2. It requires all lapped cars to unlap themselves during the safety laps. Not merely the ones between the driver you want to stuff and the driver you want to help.

At that race, Masi said: 'There's a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars past.'

At the Nürburgring, all lapped cars were waved through, whereas in Abu Dhabi, only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen were moved out of the way, while other lapped cars were able to remain behind the leaders.

Here is the conversation between Red Bull's Jonathan Wheatley and the race director Michael Masi ...

Wheatley: “Obviously those lapped cars, you don’t need to let them go… right the way around and let them catch up with the back of the pack.”
Masi: “Understood.”
Wheatley: “You need to let them go…”
Masi: “Understood, just give me a second.”
Wheatley: “…and then we got a motor race on our hands.”
Masi: “Understood.”

Shortly afterwards, on lap 57, Hamilton’s engineer, Peter Bonnington, tells his driver that he believes the FIA will restart the race without the lapped cars being able to overtake. In such a scenario, with five cars between himself and Verstappen, it would have been almost impossible for the Dutchman to win the race.  

Fraud 2

Each team has a budget spending cap in order to give the less wealthy teams a better chance to compete with the super wealthy teams and make a closer and fairer race. In 2021 that cap was £145 million. If that cap is broken by any team by up to 5% (or £7.25 million), the infringement is deemed minor and the Cost Cap panel can impose a financial penalty and/or a minor sporting penalty.

The rules lay down six options that it classifies as a minor sporting penalty. These are a public reprimand, deduction of constructors’ championship points, deduction of drivers’ championship points, suspension from one or more stages of a competition (excluding the race), limitations on aerodynamic or other testing, or a reduction of the cost cap. If the cap is exceeded by above 5% the infringement is deemed material and the penalties more severe. Putting that into context, a £1 million overspend will gain you 0.2 seconds a lap, the difference between Pole position and 2nd place on the grid, winning the race or just making the top 10.

Red Bull has now been found to have broken that cap by up to 5% (a minor infringement) - and therefore essentially bought their way to the title in 2021. - 

The FIA haven't revealed by how much they broke the cap, they have only said it's a minor infringement of up to £7.25 million. If Red Bull are at the top end of that 5% then they will have gained around 1.5 seconds per lap, which gives them a huge advantage over their competitors

Where has Honour Gone?

Max is a great F1 driver and Red Bull is a great F1 team. But there is a difference between a great man and a legend. There is a difference between a great car marque and a legendary car marque. That difference is honour. Honour results not from greatness itself but from the manner in which that greatness is achieved. 

Why did so many, actually the majority of the F1 world champions prior to Ayrton Senna (who died in Sid's arms), give their lives for the sport? Why did they enter into a race knowing that it might very well be their last? Sure they enjoyed the competition. But there are plenty of competitions one can enter which do not require you to give your life - Bingo for example. Sure they enjoyed the buzz and the energy and the glory. But you can get that from crowd surfing at Glastonbury.

These people gave their lives because they trusted the competition to be fair and impartial and because they revered the legends that preceded them, who were men not only of immense skill and courage of but most of all of honour. They were men who would rather lose the race and the world championship than be seen as dishonourable chancers. 

The finest example of this honour was the 1956 season finale at Monza Italy. 

Going into that final race of the season, 2 time world champion and Ferrari driver, Juan Manuel Fangio had an eight-point lead over Englishman and teammate Peter Collins and the consistent Jean Behra, driving for Maserati. The only way Fangio could lose the title would be to score no points with Collins winning and setting fastest lap. (Because a driver could only count their best five scores, Behra could not win the title). In those days the rules allowed for a driver in the same team to stop and allow their teammate to drive their car. Fangio suffered a steering-arm failure toward the end of the race and had to retire, and the third Ferrari driver, Musso was unwilling to share his car with Fangio. Collins was leading and had a great chance of winning his first title. Collins, in a remarkable act of sportsmanship, instead chose to hand his Lancia-Ferrari D50 over to Fangio to allow the Argentine to finish second in the race and win his third title in a row. Collins's selfless act gained him respect from Enzo Ferrari and high praise from Fangio: "I was moved almost to tears by the gesture... Peter was one of the finest and greatest gentlemen I ever met in my racing career." Collins himself said that he was still young enough for him to win the world championship in the future. Fangio went on to win 5 world championships in total. Collins died 2 years later when he lost control of his car at the 1958 German Grand Prix at Nürburgring. Collins was never a world Champion. But he was and he is a legend in the sport.

So I call on Max Verstappen and on Christian Horner to recover the spirit in which their sport began. I call on them to do the honourable thing. I call on them to take the step from greatness into Legend and to rise above the petty glory seeking of the mass media age and prove themselves true sons of Jim Clarke, of Fangio, of Colin Chapman, of Enzo Ferrari, of Peter Collins and of all those who died with honour on the race track, having given everything they had to the sport and having taken nothing at all from it.

Why did James Hunt keep racing when he physically vomited before every single race? Surely it was because he trusted the sport. He valued the sport. He wanted to be a part of something which he recognised as noble. He wanted to add his spirit to the nobility of the sport. 

I call on them to arrange a press conference with Lewis and Toto, and to CHOOSE to voluntarily give up their 2021 Driver's title and team position. The FIA have shown themselves to be institutionally corrupt just like the FIFA and every other Federation Internationale of some sport or other. They did not sack Michael Masi. They moved him sideways. Integrity in sport these days, sadly, must come from the players themselves, not the bureaucrats who run it. Just as driver safety initially came from the drivers themselves not from the FIA.

Right now Red Bull and Max Verstappen represent double cheating and dual fraud to all their sponsors. I mean to break one F1 rule and get away with it is fortunate, but to break two and get away with them both could be considered corrupt.

Yes ORACLE: Sponsors of doubly fraudulent racing cars.
ESSO: Powering one fraud after another.
MOBIL: We don't cheat our customers, but those whom we sponsor - well - hey but they win!

I should not have to say this but my mother in law could win the world championship if she was permitted to cheat. I mean she hasn't got a driving licence or anything, but if she put some tin tacks in all her competitors' tyres and had a conversation with the race director at the opportune moment, I am sure he could be persuaded to regard those little tin tacks as a minor infraction of the rules and to let the result stand - I mean that's F1 racing - right? 

In short Max and Christian have a chance to be as big as the legends upon whose shoulders they stand. Events have conspired to give them this chance to win a race that is far more important than any Grand Prix and more significant than any World Championship. It is the race not to the bottom but to the top. It is a race to fix what is wrong with this world. And the people who win that race are the true legends among mankind, like the selfless Peter Collins, who honoured the sport more than he honoured himself. We need people with that type of spirit right now, not just in motorsport but in all walks of life, to set an example for us all. We need Red Bull to do this for us. Formula One needs Red Bull to do it. And a generation that has lost its way needs Red Bull to do it in circumstances where they do not have to do it. For that is how a Champion becomes a Legend and how a Marque becomes Immortal.