#F1 Features: Cheating comes in many forms…

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Mike Cloud

What has become of society? What has become of sport? It appears to be win at all costs. Maybe it is due to the amounts of money involved. What was once a tournament between gentlemen, who regarded anything underhand or sneaky as abhorrent, has now become big business. Money rules it all – money makes the wheels go round.

Formula One, like World Cup Football (soccer), is ruled by people with vested interests, who don’t want change. They just want to stay on the gravy train. FIFA, ruled by Blatter, had resisted until recently the use of goal line technology – which was only introduced thanks to extreme pressure from several of the leading national football bodies around the world. This has subsequently been introduced as part of the game and is a very useful tool. However, instant replays used by referees to give  more informed decisions for penalties or bad behaviour, to be shown on the big screens in the stadiums has not been allowed. It works fine in rugby matches, allowing crucial decisions to be awarded correctly

Footballers are given lessons on how to fake being hit, to fall convincingly to get penalties or free kicks awarded. How can this be right? So now we have a generation growing up who think it is not only acceptable, but also clever to cheat their way to a win.

Maybe we are more fortunate in Formula One because it appears harder to cheat. However, cheating is a concept which comes in many forms. Anything that gives an unfair advantage could be considered a form of cheating. I don’t mean innovation and design as that is part of the development of a car and is entirely ethical.  An example of this would be the extreme exhaust blowing that Red Bull perfected by using specialised engine maps – which is much of the reason that the regulations for 2014 have changed to prohibit constantly changing.  The controversy that surrounded the German GP of 2012 is often forgotten as nothing came of investigation (as it was actually found that Red Bull were acting within the regulations).  Pushing the governing regulations of the sport to the limit is something that should be encouraged.

There is a form that is often missed by the media and is commonly accepted as the norm within our sport. The top, winning teams, (and in some cases not winning teams) ensuring they get the lion share of the money, while the lowest teams get nothing, is, as far as I’m concerned, a form of cheating. How is that a level playing field? How can the lower teams ever get enough money to compete on an even basis?

Of course, Formula One is a dog eat dog sport which should encourage innovation and ‘thinking outside the box’, but it should never marginalise teams from competing.  It has taken 5 years for one of the ‘new’ teams to score their first points which, in truth, was only achieved due to a great deal of luck.

We have only considered here the ethics of competing together and enriching the competition.  However, there are also moral dilemmas of whether it is just to keep teams so far towards the back of the grid they cannot provide job security to their employees.  There are always far greater bodies to consider outside the race weekend personnel we see servicing the cars.

The current model is not only immoral, but also unsustainable.  The coming years in Formula One will be an interesting period to see who manages wrestle power to their corner and whether the needs of the smaller teams will be more greatly considered. Change is required as the sport would be not be anywhere near the same spectacle if there were only 5 or 6 teams competing.

As ever, the future is intriguing in the world of Formula One.

15 responses to “#F1 Features: Cheating comes in many forms…

  1. Admirable article – well done. One little point:
    “”So now we have a generation growing up who think it is not only acceptable…””
    Look out of the window – The generation is here…
    Having been brought up in a now-lampooned culture where honour was more important than bucks I have never forgotten a comment published in Motoring News in the 60’s.
    An element of ‘cheating’ had crept into F1 and the accused claimed that it was all right providing one wasn’t caught. The writer of the article called this, “The New Morality”. After 50 years I wonder how he would refer to what we have now…

    • “An element of ‘cheating’ had crept into F1 and the accused claimed that it was all right providing one wasn’t caught. The writer of the article called this, “The New Morality”. ”

      Actually I firmly believe that this is a much more representative and universal feature of human morality, and not something that has cropped up in the last 50 years or so in sports only. And don’t believe all the drivel that we’re being told about how honorable people were in the past: they weren’t, not all, not necessarily.

      Basically, something is “moral” or “OK” as long as you don’t get caught and don’t have to face the consequences. This explains the number of people illegally downloading media files (what sort of moron doesn’t, right?), cheating on their spouses, systematically driving above the speed limits, doping themselves to winning in sports, opening and consuming food items in huge supermarkets and never paying for them, etc., etc. In many people’s subconsciousness it’s a mitigating factor if “everyone” is (read: many others are) doing the same thing, making it more morally “acceptable”.

      So surprised be not to witness anything similar in a highly competitive environment like the F1.

  2. Good article.

    I think F1 is great entertainment, mainly because of the fabulous engineering, but is a moral and ethical black hole.

    When you have Ron basically spouting out Darwinism to struggling teams when he earns a significant slice of the pie, and gets to frame happenings in the sport with the other big teams, and you hear Luca constantly whinge about things when he’s not winning and (not – honestly gov, its not) threaten to head to pastures new or set up a breakaway) or Christian deny flexible floors or make up lies to protect Seb you have to just crack a wry smile and feel good about being yourself.

    The bigger issue is that F1 is a microcosm of society generally. Look at banking at one end and welfare fraud at the other. Tax avoidance (using legal methods or not) is morally wrong as it is influenced by the haves so they can deny the have nots, and is facilitated by the moral and ethically vacuous, the political establishment.

    Humans are capable of tremendous compassion and goodness, and also tremendous feats of cruelness and lack of integrity. F1 just happens to err more to the side of the latter.

    The real interest for me is the duplicitous Machiavellian nature of the sports main players and trying to work out what makes them tick. The fact that they make me feel great about myself as a human is just a bonus 😉

  3. I think calling the current prize-money distribution cheating is going too far. Surely ‘cheating’ refers only to a technical infringement of some written rule.
    I think what you are really saying is that in your opinion, the FOM / FIA is failing in their duty as stewards of the sport by allowing (or perhaps forcing) the smaller teams to fail via a lack of coin while lavishing riches on the more successful teams. You are probably right there – spreading the money further would improve the product and better ensure the sport’s growth /survival.
    The current end-of-season money split is not “cheating” or “immoral” (pmsl) though – it’s just a difference of opinion on the strategic direction of the sport and the tactics being employed.
    BTW, that idea of gentlemanly sporting endeavours of the past where honour was above all: pure, unadulterated, ice-filtered bollocks. Rose-coloured history written by lackeys of those same ‘gentlemen’ with a vested interest in furthering the idea that they were ‘better’ than the grasping, unwashed, common herd.

    • The immoral bit, for me, is Ron’s duplicity in his Darwinism.

      My cheating views are below, and my LA test is the baseline that I use. Lance would not be deemed to be a cheat if he weren’t caught. Hed still be a cheat in my view, as he did use deception, but was just more intelligent (to a point) in containing it.

      So, if RB did cheat on the floor, but passed the tests did the cheat. Or is it definate that they didn’t cheat, by virtue that they didn’t get caught?

      Its fascinating stuff 🙂

      • Chicken (opening door): You first

        Egg: No, after you

        repeat ad infinitum

        The LA thing is more complicated due to the fact that most of his competition (and all of it at the sharp end) was engaged in similar cheating. So, in one light he actually won in a fairish fashion, though in another, he and the others broke the rules and so were ineligible to win.

        It’s as if all the top 5 ran flexi floors and wings ala RB and yet none got caught.

        The difference is in cycling use of the substance is prohibited period, and the tests have a baseline to establish use, whereas in F1 if you pass the static load test you are not cheating, even if the aim of the regulation is being subverted in practice.

        Whew, time for a G&T. 🙂

      • Well, I don’t think duplicity is necessarily immoral either as seen from the outside. His motivations and intentions might make it clearer but they are unknowable to us, maybe not thought through for him or even rational.
        And we are just talking the finances of car racing here…

      • Cheating: the term “cheat” is applied by others, so pondering if someone is a cheat if they don’t get caught is rather pointless because no judgement can be made unless the details come to light, which will only happen if they are caught.

        If RBR passed the tests then they didn’t cheat. If you start making judgements about the *intent* of a given technical rule then you’re on a slippery slope. Only the lawyers win then…
        Finally, who makes the call between “cheat” and “mistaken”? Who makes the judgement about the intent of the offender? That too is a slippery slope. Without solid evidence of an intent to deceive, tarring someone as a cheat is a big call.

  4. Great one Mike, though I do fall decidedly into the history is much more complicated school, there was something to at least thinking about the spirit of the rules before deciding for yourself how close you were to violating them. Though I must agree with Colin it is hysterical to watch the various heads of state spout selfish Randian nonsense while benefiting from an income situation that is anything but..

  5. It is often said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity, so too I believe is the line between inventive and cheating especially when it comes to sports involving machinery(bicycles, motorcycles, sailboats,…etc).
    If an item is subjected to a specific test and it passes, how does one claim it is out of spec? The prime example if the Red Bull front wing. It never failed a flex test – old or new.
    Brawn say the technical hole that lead to the development of the double diffuser.
    My definition of cheating requires some form of deception. When one innovates then subjects it to scrutiny it can hardly be considered cheating. Brawn made no attempt to disguise the double diffuser, RB wing was subjected to the same test as every other teams week-in and week-out.

    • Good points.

      To me its like the difference between the law generally, and ethics and morality.

      Many times people can do horrible physical or mental things to another human being, but a wording in a submission means the culprit gets off Scott free, even though everyone, including the judge (not TJ13, he calls it straight down the line 🙂 ) and the defence team know the culprit committeed the offence.

      So the old line applies ‘its only cheating if you get caught’. To me, that’s still cheating. I understand, and respect, that others may interpret this differently.

      I use the Lance Armstrong test. He won 7 tours. Never got caught, so was deemed to be clean due to no proof. Subsequently gets caught out and admits doping in every tour. The question is was he a cheat in the past, or just since he got caught.

      • The Lance Armstrong debate is slightly different though. Almost everyone around him was cheating so it was required if you wanted to win at the time. If there is no option it is a different scenario I feel.

        • Here’s an option: don’t cheat yourself and call out the other cheats.
          “Everyone else is doing it” – my kids used to say that. And I’d tell them I don’t care about anyone else and you shouldn’t either. You do what you think is right and be prepared to defend your actions (i.e. Do what you like if you’re happy to tell Dad what you did).

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