May 4, 2009
So what if the state of Florida had said to Ted Bundy at his sentencing hearing, “The court has found you guilty of murder, and the penalty for that crime is death, but since you’re such a well-spoken guy, and you look so dapper in your sport coat, we’re just going to let you go this time. Now you are still guilty of murder, so if you kill anybody else, remember you’re really in for trouble.”?
OK, maybe that is overstating the case, because we all know the McLaren Mercedes team didn’t kill anyone. But what we also know is that the team over the past few years has stolen another team’s documents, cheated on the racetrack and consistently lied about its involvement in each instance. While the racing community has always had a bit of a wink-wink, nudge-nudge attitude about cheating, what McLaren has done is clearly wrong. They were caught red-handed in each instance, and then they compounded the issue by trying to lie their way out of it.
So how has Formula One responded? Let me quote to you directly from The Associated Press story on the decision by the committee that rules on F1 incidents of this kind:
“Formula One team McLaren has been handed a suspended three-race ban by the World Motor Sport Council for breach of rules at the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix races. The World Motor Sport Council says in a statement that the team has admitted to five charges of breaching the International Sporting Code. The council has expressed appreciation for the ‘open and honest’ way in which McLaren conducted itself and recognizes the change in culture at the team. The council says it has ‘decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate.’ The three-race suspension would be applied if McLaren were to be found to have committed a further breach or if new facts came to light.”
There are two sentences here that I especially like. First, I couldn’t help but smile when I read that McLaren was being praised for “the open and honest way” that it had conducted itself. They’re guilty of cheating and lying about it! That’s open and honest? Then I loved the fact that the council “decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate.” Does that even make sense? If the penalty was appropriate, why suspend it?
Of course, you’ll have to admit we predicted this. As we said in this space two weeks ago, “In a sport whose president admits he participated in a videotaped orgy but defends his actions by saying it wasn’t a ‘Nazi-themed’ orgy, apparently any kind of behavior is OK. So in the ‘through-the-looking-glass’ world of Formula One, if McLaren gets off scot-free, don’t be at all surprised.” No, I’m not surprised, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a little sick to my stomach.
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