Stop exaggerating: F1 is in rude health

dd3f8f541ec0495ba4b84f967062bd4aCan Formula One survive another scandal? thinks so…

Spygate, liegate, cost-cutgate and now crashgate. Scandals that have rocked the world of F1, and which have led to a media cacophony decrying the very nature of the sport. The mass media has asserted, in recent days, the following: Renault’s Crashgate is just the latest example of how deeply unfair and corrupt F1 is, in which cheating is part and parcel of being successful.

Crashgate, if proved, will be more serious than the previous examples. Never before would a team have been found guilty of conspiring to fix a race by endangering spectators’ and a driver’s life; it is quite heinous. Equally, this season the sport has been riven by division like never before; at the time of the British Grand Prix F1 was facing one of its biggest ever crises. At the start of the season, an unsavoury episode concerning McLaren and the stewards made everyone wrinkle their noses and be a bit disappointed with Lewis Hamilton in particular. We had thought the £100m fined dished out to McLaren two years before had seen off this kind of underhandedness.

But it must not be taken out of proportion. This sort of thing does not happen often; and in a sport where the highs are higher than in arguably any other field of competition, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Rules have been bent in every top level sport since the dawn of time, and a lot broken; but the key thing to note is if the authorities are either compliant or impotent. In none of the above cases has the FIA been impotent; rather, it has ladled out a particularly stern type of justice, the precedent that has left fans fearing for Renault’s future in the last couple of days.

Other sports are not exempt from this. Football is currently riven with the debate over diving, or simulation as some choose to call it; the gentlemanliest of gentleman’s games rugby union had its own “bloodgate” scandal recently. Allegations have been levelled at the England cricket team for time-wasting during the recent series against the Australians; and if anyone seriously believes drugs are now completely absent from athletics, they need to have their head seen to.

So why the sudden attack on F1? The truth is, there has always been a section of the media which has delighted in putting F1 down. Environmentalists are the largest element within them; ignorant of the fact that F1 has in fact been carbon neutral since 1995. Feminists also decry the inherently masculine nature of motorsport, and do have something of a point, but go for the jugular whenever they can. Bleeding hearts see the millions of dollars wasted on frivolity. Flavio Briatore is a perfect target for the aforementioned two. Then there are the sporting purists, who don’t understand F1 because it involves a machine and is a bit complicated.

So it doesn’t help when F1 journalists jump on the bandwagon and bite the hand that feeds. The sport has a bright future, with or without manufacturers; it is still mostly great entertainment, and 95% of the personnel that work in it are fair, honest and just. Including, crucially, the FIA and its affiliates, into whose hands F1 fans rather sadly place what seems like the latest example of cheating. But F1 is by no means rotten.