In an interview with Radio 5 Live earlier today, Eddie Irvine stated that he felt the cheating of ‘crashgate’ has been blown out of proportion and that F1 has become too politically correct. He said what Briatore, Symonds and Piquet Jr did was “probably slightly on the wrong side of cheating”! He said, “When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day it was normal”. He added that F1 is not a pure sport and that he saw it more as “gladiatorial”.
I have always been a fan of Irvine and his outspokenness, but he is an idiot for making these comments today. How can something be on the wrong side of cheating? Cheating is just wrong and is not allowed.
I do understand what he is trying to say, that all teams will push to find an advantage and risk bending or breaking the rules on occasion. However, what he is basically saying is that all teams have and will always cheat a bit, so don’t punish them harshly for it. What utter rubbish! Weak punishment of this activity will encourage others to do it too which damages the entire credibility of the sport. James Allen put it well that it is up to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) to ‘show that F1 is not a sham’ and that the public need ‘confidence that what they are seeing is real’ otherwise it will become ‘ a sort of high speed WWE Wrestling’.
All F1 fans know that it is not the purest sport, that some teams have larger budgets than others and that there is closer and more exciting racing in lower formulas. However, we watch it because it is the best of the best competing against each other in the best and fastest cars. We love the politics of the sport, the egos, the business dealings and the dramas that seem to occur every year. Nevertheless, we have to believe that the teams follow the rules to enjoy it. We need to believe that Barrichello won the Italian Grand Prix because he drove well in the best car designed to the agreed rules and not because his team cheated better than the other teams.
We accept that there are inequalities in size of the teams, share of the prize money (Ferrari!), but we have to believe the fight on the track is real. Irvine referred to F1 as “gladiatorial” and I agree with that, but no one wants to see one gladiator beat the other as he has a gun and the other only a sword.
We are not being naive and know the sport is such big business that if teams can get away with cheating then they will do so, as so much money is riding on it. However, we have to believe it is a fair fight and the FIA are there to ensure that this is so. Therefore, the decision the WMSC make next week is going to be very tough and could have a big impact on the perception of the sport.