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Ex-champ Stewart says FIA holds myopic view toward F1 drivers

6/23/2008

PARIS -- Former champion Jackie Stewart
has accused Formula One's governing body of being too hard on
drivers and of singling out McLaren for punishment.

"We've seen a rash of penalties handed out by the FIA
recently, both in the form of grid penalties and in fines," the
Scot said on the Web site of Williams sponsor RBS
on Monday.

"There rarely seems to be any compassion or any real attempt
to see the driver's side.

"The drivers are also complaining at a 10-fold increase in
the cost of the super-licenses which allow them to race," added
Stewart, a prominent opponent of International Automobile
Federation [FIA] president Max Mosley.

"No one can see what they're getting in return for the extra
charge, which makes it look like just another way for the FIA to
raise money. I don't know of any other sport where the
competitors have to pay for a license to take part."

The triple champion, branded a "certified half-wit" by
Mosley last year, has called for the FIA chief to resign after
the tabloid News of the World printed details of a
sado-masochistic sex scandal involving the Briton.

Last weekend's French Grand Prix saw drivers complaining
about the steep rise in the cost of their super-licenses.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has to pay 228,000 euros this
season, compared to 1,725 last year.

Hamilton was also hit by two penalties in Magny-Cours,
losing 10 places on the starting grid for a pit-lane collision
at the previous race in Canada, and then incurring a
drive-through penalty on Sunday.

His Finnish team mate Heikki Kovalainen was demoted five
places on the grid for impeding another driver in Saturday
qualifying.

"A lot of people, and not McLaren personnel, are saying that
the FIA are more interested in finding faults at McLaren than at
other teams," Stewart said.

"For example, in the French race, Kimi Raikkonen's exhaust
system broke and part of it was visibly hanging off the car. Why
wasn't he called into the pits to have the loose piece removed?

"Eventually the loose bodywork flew off the car, which could
easily have been dangerous to the public or to another driver.
Some people will say that if it had happened with a McLaren, the
team would have been fined."

Ferrari's world champion Raikkonen finished second behind
Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa.

Hamilton was asked after the race whether he felt drivers in
silver cars (the McLarens) somehow attracted penalties.

"I'm not answering that one," he replied.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis also refused to get embroiled
in the controversy.

"I think that there are always going to be differing
opinions about things that happen in grand prix racing and
sometimes the most constructive thing to do is not voice an
opinion," he told reporters.

There was no immediate comment from the FIA.