The team with the best spies wins
Ernest Hemmingway maintained there were only three real sports: mountain climbing, bull fighting, and auto racing.
Today, there are only two.
Auto racing no longer qualifies.
Earlier today, McLaren was cleared by the FIA of involvement in the industrial espionage of the Ferrari Formula One team.
Today, as well, Formula One became the international equivalent of professional wrestling.
There is no longer any doubt that Formula One is fixed.
In a matter of hours, the FIA cleared McLaren of misconduct, despite the fact that its chief engineer was in possession of 780 pages of documents stolen from Ferrari, despite the fact that the evidence suggested that the only people at McLaren who hadn’t studied those documents were Ron Dennis and the janitors, and despite the fact that it appears that McLaren used the information it illegally obtained to gain an advantage in the race results.
There was a day when Formula One was a matter of honorable competition.
Now it is a successor to “The Sopranos.”
Those of us in America who have loved Formula One did not learn of it from the appearance of Schumacher at Indianapolis.
We learned of it, and learned to love it, because Rob Walker wrote the Grand Prix reports in Road & Track. It became the reason we subscribed to the magazine.
Rob Walker was what we most admired.
His sense of honor defined Formula One, and became its sense of honor.
In the 1960’s, Formula One was a series for drivers whose desire to be the best outweighed their desire to live. Being a Formula One driver, in those days, gave you a one in four chance of dying. But, if you lived and won, nothing compared.
Partly, that had to do with its standards. To win at Formula One meant something, because it meant you were the best. Not the best cheater. The best.
Jackie Stewart changed the calculus for Formula One, because he was the best of his time and wasn’t willing to die to prove it.
And, thanks to him, Formula One grew because it was a race series of the best drivers. Not the best drivers willing to die. Its drivers became personalities, not statistics. The glamour of the circuit grew accordingly.
But things changed.
Bernie Ecclestone gained control of Formula One.
It’s been downhill ever since, even though the dollars have multiplied geometrically.
Formula One is managed by venal people.
Today, Formula One is leaving the United States so that it can stage races in the Arabian lands. It complained that we didn’t support the series after, in 2005, it ran the United States Grand Prix with three cars.
Now, it has said that theft is part of the Formula One protocol.
In other sports, dishonesty is condemned.
In baseball, the Commissioner is still struggling to deal with Barry Bonds and steroids – a handful of players, and past history. In the NBA, the Commissioner is trying to prove that the game is honest, in light of a referee – one referee – who may have cheated. In football, no one has questioned the integrity of the game, though one of its stars may turn out to be vile abuser of animals.
In all of those sports, the goal is honesty.
Not in Formula One.
After today, the mantra of Formula One is that dishonesty is rewarded.
After today, Formula One is a joke.
It turns out that it’s not the competition, not the integrity of the sport or the honor of its participants.
It’s the money.
In the future, no intelligent Formula One team will do what Ferrari did this time. It will just do the same.
And the team with the best spies wins.