Ferrari in breach of FIA statute 1

FIA Statute 1 and  a previous breach

Statute 1 of the FIA constitution states that the federation will refrain from “manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect”. This does not apply just to the executive, but to all participants of the federation.

The last time that statute was enforced was in 2006 when the promoters of the Turkish GP decided at the last minute to put forward Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to award a prize on the podium at the end of the Turkish Grand Prix. Mehmet’s official title was displayed on the TV as “the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. This breakaway area of the island of Cyprus is not recognised by the International Community and the Cypriote government filed a complaint with the FIA.

The charge was upheld that the Turkish race promoters had used an FIA event for political purposes and fined the event organisers $10m, later reduced to $5m. The FIA issued a statement saying that “no compromise or violation of this neutrality is acceptable”(Wikipedia).

Ferrari make a political stand

Ferrari released a short statement yesterday saying, “Scuderia Ferrari will carry the flag of the Italian Navy on the cars driven by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix.” If the statement had finished here maybe the potential offense caused would be minimal. The statement continued, “In doing so, Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy.”

The story behind this is that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, 2 of 6 Italian marines based on board the Italian tanker ‘Enrica Lexie’, had shot dead two Indian fishermen — Valentine Jalastine and Ajesh Binki — on February 15 2012 in Kerela’s Kollam city, apparently mistaking them for Somalian pirates. The Indian sailors, however have repeatedly claimed that they had been fired upon without any provocation and given no chance to explain

The Italian marines were detained on February 19 and sent to Central Prison in Thiruvananthpuram. At a preliminary hearing they were granted bail on condition that they must remain in Indian territory until the full case is heard (

The Italian government has made representations for the return of the marines to be tried in Italy and has since withdrawn their Delhi based ambassador in protest. The details of the case are extensive and not for the here and now, suffice to say International terrorist protocol was broken by the Italian tanker in that it did not immediately report the incident, sailing on for 70km and several hours before being eventually apprehended by the Indian coast guard.

Ferrari insults a nation
(Deep sigh) Ok – what do we have. One of the world’s most famous racing marques competing in the premier global motor sport championship with Nationalistic Military symbols emblazoned on the side of its cars. Why? Ferrari want to demonstrate support for its countrymen who have admitted killing citizens of India, their hosts for the weekend, in what is accepted by all to be an unprovoked attack based upon mistaken identity.
Further, what is Ferrari suggesting by saying it hopes “Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation”. It’s not within the Italian jurisdiction to do so and the Indian authorities have hardly locked up the marines in a hell hole jail and thrown away the key – quite the opposite in fact by releasing them on bail pending a full trial.
The Indians appear to have been more than even-handed particularly as the Italian tanker had breached international terrorist protocol and needed to be apprehended having long left the scene. Neither can it be argued that undue delay has been taking place in Indian justice as genocide cases in the EU can take years to bring to trial whilst the alleged perpetrators are denied freedom of movement. Even comparable murder/manslaughter cases in Europe can easily take more than a year before a full trial is brought – this has been a mere 8 months.
Indian responses 
thejudge13 has a number of Indian readers who have contacted us and expressed their outrage at Ferrari’s actions. One contributor said this, “in a sickening display of further arrogance and willful insensitivity, Ferrari decided to inject itself into the situation at the Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix is this weekend. Ferrari has announced it will carry an Italian Navy flag specifically in support of the two sailors on charges of murder. It’s not like Ferrari has been carrying the flag throughout the season. They’re doing this only in India. They’re not even using the pretext of just supporting the Italian navy in general. Their statements specifically mention support for the alleged murderers.” (anon) This Indian F1 fan has burned all his Ferrari gear.
It is ironic that Ferrari who at times struggle to keep private the political wranglings within a mere motor racing team should be engaging with the delicacies of sovereign state international diplomacy.
What will the FIA do?
So I guess its over to the FIA. Ferrari are about to be – and probably are already by way of their statement – in breach of the FIA article 1. Will the FIA forbid Ferrari to run the military logos on their cars? What will the sanctions be if they fail to comply – fines or points deductions or both?
One contributor suggested if Ferrari were prepared to suffer the loss of the championship for Alonso by facing sanctions, they would respect their attitude more but believes this is cheap band wagon jumping by Ferrari – who in reality care more about winning a racing competition than justice or the feelings of the nationals who are hosting them this weekend.
Yet the FIA are highly unlikely to sanction Ferrari. If this was the Mosley administration who dealt with the Turkish episode then I would not be suggesting this. However, Jean Todt and the present executive have set precedent on ignoring breaches of the federations neutrality rules.
The FIA fails to act
Bahrain’s race organisers, who are part of the ruling Bahraini family, used extensively the slogan “uniF1ed” to promote this years Formula 1 event. This was a political statement to the world suggesting that peace and harmony were now the current state of affairs following highly turbulant times of civil unrest within their nation. This was clearly a political statement and should have been scrutinised and probably sanctioned by the FIA. Jean Todt in an interview with the BBC claimed it was not part of his remit. Ecclestone stated he had told them to take down the slogans – they did not.
Interestingly, Todt told us this week in Paris he was a “legalist” in an attempt to persuade the world he would not allow any erosion of the FIA’s influence. A ‘legalist’ would know that ignoring the Bahraini transgression of the rules or even dealing with it behind closed doors falls under the remit that – justice unseen is no justice at all.
So who knows how this will play out. Its early days (hours) yet and as an avid follower of social media I am constantly amazed at how long it can take things known hours even a day or so on the internet to hit the ‘real world’. I’ve been writing this story on and off all day and SKY TV have made their first twitter reference to it, so whether anyone in the Indian authorities is yet aware of Ferrari’s statement or intentions – only time will tell.
However, it is important for F1 not to be politicised and FIA article 1 is clearly a necessary and logical position to take. I fear history will judge Todt harshly on a number of matters. Whether this current FIA executive is ‘weak’ and only capable of acting with consensus (read indecisive, lacking authority) as many have suggested will be made clear all too soon.
This is a clear cut breach of the principle of “no compromise or violation of this [FIA] neutrality is acceptable” and declaring Ferrari’s actions as such would give Todt immense credibility. The consequences of doing nothing though surely signals a free for all.

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15 responses to “Ferrari in breach of FIA statute 1

  1. One of the biggest newspapers in India has this story on their mainpage. I suspect it might be in print tomorrow. Given that the Govt of India doesn’t have any investment in the race directly and the entire race has been given an entertainment license and not a sporting license and given the fact that the Indian government is like an elephant when it comes to such matters, I would call this move by Ferrari to be stupid more than arrogant or racist or even just plain, sorry for the language, dickish. Did they really want their cars to have the possibility of being stopped at the airport with some pan-chewing customs officer asking them for some inane form that hadnt been supplied in triplicate?

    • Dickish is fine – and probably sums it up perfectly. The customs thing would be funny – or even if they’ve got all the kit in before making the statement getting it out could be problematic – and with back to back races too.

      Problem is that one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist and where does plastering F1 cars with social action logos stop.

      • What is funny is that they aren’t saying they didnt kill the fishermen. They did and the Italian government even paid off the relatives to avoid pressing charges. But the govt’s case is the one that is still on and the only issue now is that of jurisdiction. If the Kerala High Court rules that the lower court does indeed have jurisdiction in this matter given that Indian citizens were killed on an Indian vessel, they will be prosecuted in India. Also, props to you noting that they aren’t in a jail right now but out on bail but unable to leave the country pending more judicial work.

        PS: Nobody likes getting on the bad side of Indian customs. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you stories to fill books!

    • Interesting, they’re hardly kicking off about it. Maybe the elephantile approach you suggested will in effect treat Ferrari with the indifference they probably deserve.

      I’ve had quite a lot of direct mail and comment that can’t be published though from ordinary Indian F1 fans. one has burned his Ferrari gear today.

  2. There is no evidence that showing the Italian Navy flag to honour 2 Italian soldiers illegaly jailed in Kerala violates FIA statute…

    • I think its prejudicical to the Indian justice system to say they’ve been illegaly jailed – and in fact they are not in jail – they are on bail. They cannot leave the country and are awaiting trial.

  3. The spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (India) has reacted to this…..So, the govt has finally taken note of this.
    When it comes to our customs dept, nobody wants to go through them,not even us! And I believe that it is very unlikely that the customs will take a stance against Ferrari.

    • Thanks Mallesh – no offence was intended about customs – I have to say though if I was in charge I think I would be tempted to make extra sure that Ferraris’s paperwork was in order.

      • None taken. Our Customs & Excise dept deserves bashing. I have suffered their wrath. They make you pay (bribe) for things that are exempted from taxes! However it is unlikely that our customs’ bureaucrats will change even after so much criticism.

        I would be tempted too, but historically India has never been an aggressive nation in diplomacy. IMO it’s a surprise that the marines were arrested in the first place. When the incident came to light, I expected them to be out on bail within days.

        • They are out on bail – just have to remain in India. This is generous when compared to UK law that would probably not allow them the freedom they have pending a full trial.

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