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

Updated: June 23, 2008, 10:02 AM ET
Reuters

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.

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