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GP Week : Issue 185
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The Federation is so much more than Formula One, although that’s all anyone seems to associate it with. No, the FIA is an underfunded organisation responsible for overseeing all manner of motorsport championships, while also promoting road safety, environmental responsibility, and the future of sustainable driving both on track and off it. But all of their good works – and there are many – get overshadowed by lazy and dated jokes about Ferrari International Assistance, about the Federation’s bias for or against [insert team name here]. And when the time comes along for the FIA to weigh in on legal and sporting matters that could result in a team being punished – or let off – for a crime of some sort, the knee-jerk criticism reaches a critical mass. Changing is one thing, and it’s not too difficult. The challenge comes when you try and change your public perception – as human beings, we’re not so hot at changing our minds once they’ve been set. And make no mistake: under the helmsmanship of president Jean Todt, the FIA has changed. For the better. Those of us working in the paddock have watched the gradual transformation over the last few years as the FIA’s doors opened wider, and those behind them became more accessible. Transparency and cooperation are now the name of the game, in sport, in mobility, and across the governing body’s many campaigns. And as the International Tribunal showed, transparency and cooperation have reached the FIA’s judiciary. During the Montreal-Silverstone break I travelled to Paris to watch proceedings unfurl with my own two eyes, and over the course of around seven hours of convincing arguments and rebuttals saw that the Independent Tribunal was investigating not only the conduct of Pirelli and Mercedes during ‘Tyre-gate’, but also the conduct of the FIA itself. Self-reflection has never heretofore been a hallmark of the FIA, while self- criticism was anathema to previous regimes. The identities of the Tribunal’s judges were not made public – even within the FIA – until shortly before proceedings started. And while much has been made of Mercedes’ ‘light’ punishment, taken by many as a sign that Todt had his hand in the outcome, the FIA president unwilling to punish his former Ferrari colleague, nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it for just a second. This was the trial run of Todt’s baby, a new judicial process designed to be independent from the FIA’s executive office – and to prove that independence, showing just how different the Frenchman is to his predecessor. The best possible outcome for the FIA would have been a judgment that not only treated all parties fairly based on the arguments made and the wisdom of the judges, but one that also kept the FIA free from any accusation of bias, either pro- or anti- any of the protagonists. In a perfect world, Mercedes would have been issued with a €5 million fine – small enough to keep Stuttgart unconcerned about the wisdom of their future involvement in Formula One or the reputation of the Daimler brand, but a token sum that would have freed the FIA from any accusation of bias. But the judges did not set their punishment with column inches and criticism in mind. Nor did they receive a phonecall from the president, ‘advising’ them on the most fitting form of retribution for the crimes committed by Merc and Pirelli (as previous FIA presidents have been known to do). Instead they sat in a cloistered room, reviewed the evidence that had been presented, and came up with a decision that opened up the floodgates of anti-FIA criticism. I get it, really I do. It’s easy to maintain the status quo, to trot out tired cliché after tired cliché because it’s easier than coming up with yet another original thought at the end of a long hard week. But it does a disser vice to all of those men and women who have spent the past four years working tirelessly to make the FIA about vastly more than one man and one sport. The FIA have changed. Isn’t it time we changed our perceptions about them? THE bODy WE usED TO KNOW (subtitle: It's tough being the FIA ...) OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor