Sometimes you wonder what’s going on.
Having ranted two weeks ago about Stewards and incompetence, perhaps I should not be completely surprised by this evening’s news… and yet…
I think that most multi-cellular organisms understand that sports teams are – and here I generalise, naturally, so bring me not your ‘Shoeless Joe’ stories – quite keen on winning.
There do seem to be obvious exceptions; the England football and cricket teams (frequently) and Toyota (how else do you explain their signings over the last decade?) but, by and large, sports teams compete to try and win.
In most sports, this is a given. It is understood that an athlete/competitor or a group of athletes/competitors will try as hard as they can to beat their rivals. In horse racing, for instance, this is not just understood but demanded; riders will be punished severely for ‘not trying’.
Many sporting rules are put in place by the authorities that govern them to try and rein in the more excessive elements of competition, to ensure safety, fair play, survivability and so on.
Not many professional sports teams go for a Sunday morning kick-about. They tend not to be doing it just to get some fresh air or work off last night’s Bhuna. The element of competition is pretty fundamental to them. They like it. Indeed, they’ll tell you, they NEED it.
Why, if not, would we have just witnessed more than a hundred men spend three weeks riding bicycles, surviving – nay, thriving under – the sort of conditions that would cause a righteous media outcry if they were inflicted on civilians? To win a race, that’s why.
Why, if not, would teams be spending the criminally obscene amounts they spend just to put two cars on a track 20 times a year? To win a race.
Given all of the above then, explain to me in words of one syllable, please – because I am having a problem understanding this one – why anyone, never mind anyone purportedly involved in the sport in any way whatsoever, would imagine that the Renault team would have “knowingly released car no. 7 from the pitstop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured.”
And having done that, why would the team have “being aware of this, failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pitlane….failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances, even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture.”
Obviously, only if they were either certifiably insane, criminally reckless and negligent, totally uncaring or not at the track at all. Because NO team would, with certainty and deliberation, risk a good race finish (we should remember that Fernando Alonso, the driver of car 7, was at this stage in the lead of the race) by purposefully sending its car out with a loose wheel. No team would put a valued (to the rate of several million dollars a year’s worth of salary) employee at risk to his health, nor is it realistic to imagine that – even at Renault, a nominally ‘French’ team – having discovered that the wheel was loose, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘oh, well…’
Yet, that is exactly what the Stewards at the Hungarian Grand Prix are suggesting, as they ban Renault from the next race.
To ensure that Renault will appeal, they have come down with the most incredibly stupid decision imaginable; penalising human error by robbing the team’s former World Champion driver of the chance to race at home, in Valencia.
To suggest that is was anything other than pure human error that Fernando’s wheel was not properly attached is palpable insanity.
To suggest that the team, being aware of the problem, did nothing at all about it, is also madness.
To penalise such utterly dedicated professionals as Formula 1 teams for human error is certifiable.
What next? Drivers banned for driving too fast and crashing? Teams banned for using the wrong tyre/fuel strategy and not winning races?
Perhaps Stewards ought to be subject to Article 3.2 of the Sporting Regulations, and banned for rank stupidity.
Or is this just another element in Max’s grand plan? To force another stand-off with FOTA? Because, if Renault’s appeal is turned down and the ban stands, surely no team, FOTA or otherwise, can afford to race in Valencia. Not if the consequence of human error is to be banned from racing.
Surely this can’t get any worse?