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Let’s Talk About “Disrepute”

Do you experience loss of appetite and occasional mild to moderate nausea whenever you read yet another news item in which Flavio Briatore’s or Pat Symonds’ opinion has been solicited on some matter relating to Formula 1?

Did you see the images of Symonds on stage with a microphone at Autosport International and think, “Hmm. Presumably he didn’t leap up there, wrest the microphone from someone’s hands, and just start taking questions. He must have been. . .invited. Perhaps even financially compensated. Have I entered some sort of alternate universe in which Crashgate never happened?”

Do you find yourself overwhelmed with the need to take a shower whenever you’re reminded that all signs point to Flavio Briatore being welcomed back into F1 with open arms?

I know it’s not really just me who has a problem with this, but sometimes it can feel close to that. I can’t help but get a bit disheartened by the fact that, for every fan who feels similarly, there seem to be two more who say things like, “Well, Symonds and Briatore are just the ones who got caught — it would be a bit ridiculous to punish a great guy like Pat when people are getting away with this sort of thing every day in F1.” This appears to be a common sort of attitude about many things among F1 fans, or perhaps primarily among the ones who are most vocal in forums and blogs. They wear their cynicism like a badge of honor; it illustrates how worldly-wise and intelligent they are, as opposed to naive people like me who think, hmm, maybe stuff like this shouldn’t happen every day in F1. Maybe completely failing to punish people guilty of clear wrongdoing isn’t actually the way any sport, or anything else, ought to work. Maybe, even in F1, something slightly better should be aspired to?

As I commented on another site not too long ago, as far as I can tell, the only person involved in Crashgate who has actually been punished for it in any way is, ironically, the person who was given immunity from punishment by the FIA: Nelson Piquet, Jr., who is now a pariah throughout the world of F1.  He is not invited to major motorsport events, his opinion on adjustable rear wings is not solicited by major motorsport magazines, and he will almost certainly never have a job in the sport  again. Meanwhile, Pat Symonds’ company has already been doing consulting work in F1, and Flavio Briatore struts freely around the paddock at the Monaco Grand Prix and is seen visiting Ferrari headquarters in Maranello.

I’ve read a lot of talk in the past few months about this or that potentially “bringing the sport into disrepute.” Every time, I can’t help but think about Briatore and Symonds and wonder: Is that actually possible in F1? For something to be brought into disrepute, I’m pretty sure it has to have a good reputation to begin with — one that can actually be sullied by the disgraceful behavior of those involved in it. If what Briatore and Symonds did elicits little more than shrugs of “Well, what are ya gonna do? It’s F1!” it’s hard to imagine what actions might bring about a decline in its reputation.

***

If you feel the need for a dose of sanity right about now, here are a couple from people who are much more knowledgeable than I am:

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