It is all very well for Jean Todt and Gérard Saillant to be getting hot under their collars about some silly remarks made by former F1 driver Philippe Streiff, who suggested that the recent Accident Panel set up after Jules Bianchi’s crash was designed to clear the FIA of the blame. Obviously Streiff does not know all the members of the panel and whether they are independently-minded or not. I can be harsh on Todt and I don’t think this was a stitch-up. I think it was done properly and Todt should be applauded for that.
Mind you, Streiff does not have a monopoly on saying silly things. The FIA President himself has been known to do it. Last year in Bahrain, for example, he told a coterie of selected non-nasty media that he did not have the power to govern the sport. And guess what? People started asking why the governing body cannot govern. Now the European Commission is apparently asking the same question.
And Saillant is not much better. His recent visit to a hospital in Belgium to try to stir up trouble for FIA critic Gary Hartstein was the work of an axeman, not that of a skilled surgeon.
However the pair are skating arm in arm on excessively thin ice by trying to cause trouble for Streiff. All he needs to do is to turn around and say: “Well, look at the Montagny business”.
Franck Montagny, you may recall, a Frenchman and a star of the Formula E, was informed definitively by the FIA weeks ago that he had failed a drugs test in November – at least that is what he said to a French magazine on New Year’s Day. That was three weeks ago and still the FIA has breathed not a word about the story.
The result is that it ends up looking like an attempt to bury the news and one must ask why was Montagny allowed to do this and if he was not, why has the FIA said nothing about catching a leading racer messing about with recreational drugs?
Did Montagny really give an interview without first checking with the federation that it would be a good idea? And if the federation thought this was a good idea why is it helping him?
And if Franck did not get the go-ahead from the FIA why has there been no reaction to avoid the perception that it is helping Franck? Montagny deserves to be punished – he admits as much himself – but what has the FIA said?
Are they ever planning to tell us that Montagny was stupid enough to have been racing with a cocaine-related substance in his veins? I know Formula E cars are slow, but is this not deemed dangerous? Is it not necessary to publicly throw Montagny under the bus “pour encourager les autres”?
There may be a completely reasonable explanation for the federation to say nothing about what is obviously a triumph for its drug-testing programmes, but as more and more time passes, the story is not fading but rather building. The longer this silence goes on, the more it looks like the FIA is protecting Franck. The longer this goes on, the worse it looks. If it is all being held up by bureaucracy then someone needs to take Saillant’s axe to the red tape and get the official story out there.
Perception is everything. In the modern world if people think something is true, then they treat it as being true. Perception is reality.
Streiff is really not worth the effort when you have this mess simmering on the stove.