FIA to sue paralysed ex-F1 driver

Apparently – it is the season to get legal it.

FOM has been chasing social media individuals and groups who use F1 or Formula 1/One as part of their twitter handle or web site domain name – and threatening them with legal action unless they desist from using the trademark.

Now the FIA have caught the bug. Having escaped with little or no criticism from the mainstream media for the back of a fag packet’s worth of content they published following FIA’s panel of experts’ investigation into the events surrounding Jules Bianchi’s crash, it appears Monsieur Todt has decided to stir the hornets nest.

Philippe Streiff is an ex-F1 driver who was badly injured during F1 testing in 1989 and is now paralysed. French media reported that Streiff had been critical of the outcome of the panel of expert’s deliberations. He accused the FIA of instigating the enquiry with the primary motive of exonerating itself of any potential liability.

The Frenchman had allegedly told Radio Free: “Shame on Jean Todt, who ordered and organised at the last World Motor Sport Council in Doha, Qatar, the report about the accident of Jules Bianchi.

“It was a document prepared by a group of ten friends, including Professor Gerard Saillant, to clear the errors of the FIA” (GMM News).

Streiff did not pull his punches, and F1i.com documents an interview he gave. He accuses Jean Todt and Gérard Saillant having “a thirst for money and power… and embezzling money from the FIA foundation and the ICM where he is vice-president and Gérard Saillant is the president.”

Phillippe claims the FIA did not have the appropriate insurance to cover Bianchi and calls for Jules’ family to take action against the FIA. Nicolas Todt, Bianchi’s manager, is cited as “a disgrace”.

In response, today the governing body of world motorsport released this statement. “The FIA, its President Jean Todt, as well as Gérard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission, are dismayed to learn of the remarks made about them by Philippe Streiff in his recent comments on the state of Jules Bianchi’s health.”

“These remarks having been published by certain media, the FIA, Jean Todt and Gérard Saillant categorically state that Philippe Streiff’s insulting and defamatory comments are utterly unfounded and demonstrate malicious intent. 

“In view of the seriousness of this deliberate attack on their reputations, they have had to ask their lawyers to lodge a complaint for public defamation and insult so that the circulation of Philippe Streiff’s statements is stopped immediately and sanctioned in an appropriate manner.

“They find it regrettable that this incident only serves to add to the suffering of Jules Bianchi’s family, for whom they would like to reiterate their support.”

This is a remarkable action for the FIA to take, simply because it stirs up the controversy once again. In the time it took to pen this article, a Google search on “Streiff” and “the FIA” has revealed an incremental 68 stories have been published on this matter.

The FIA lawyers may well have advised their client that there are further potential ramifications from them pursuing Streiff. Depending on the jurisdiction where this legal action is enacted, Phillippe Streiff may be able to present a defence similar to ‘fair comment’.

In the USA this common law defence is to protect free speech and any plaintiff seeking to prosecute for defamation, must broadly demonstrate the defendant intended ‘actual malice’.

For this reason, it is no coincidence that the statement of from the FIA accuses Phillippe Streiff of ‘malicious intent’.

Of course, there are variants on this notion of ‘fair comment’ in the differing national jurisdictions; however, should the matter proceed to a court hearing the plaintiff may suffer cross-examination regarding their own contributory actions on which the defendant chose to comment upon.

The FIA could then open themselves up to cross examination lines of enquiry into the independence of their panel of experts selected to investigate the events in Suzuka. The intentions behind the breadth and remit of the investigation would have to be established.

One area the FIA may find to be of concern is that the summary report published by the FIA makes no reference to an examination of how their officers have been enforcing Formula 1 regulations, as mandated by the World Motorsport council and whether this specifically could have had any effect on the events in Suzuka.

It could be suggested that there has been a failure by FIA officials to properly enforce and control the speed of cars under caution conditions when held to the standard of the World Motorsport Council regulations.

There have been many F1 fans of F1 suggesting on social media that double waved yellow flag cautions have not been properly enforced by the Formula 1 race director for quite some time.

The World Motorsport Council regulation calls for drivers under double waved yellow flags to “slow down and be prepared to stop.” Yet even prior to the tragic events in Japan last year, there were occasions when the drivers were clearly ignoring this regulation and were not punished in any way.

At the German GP in 2014, Adrian Sutil’s car was stricken on the pit straight a few hundred yards from the high-speed final turn. Cars travelled through this section at exceptionally high speed whilst marshals struggled to recover Sutil’s Sauber. This all happened while that sector of the circuit was under the caution of double waved yellow flags. No driver was even reprimanded.

Lewis Hamilton commented on this at length following the race. “I was really concerned for the marshals. It was really concerning. When you come round that corner at serious speed and then there are marshals standing not far away from where you’re driving past, for me that’s the closest it’s been for a long, long time.”

Hamilton revealed that he had flashbacks to memories of watching the terrible footage from the 1977 South African GP when Tom Pryce collided with a marshal crossing the track with a fire extinguisher in his hand. Both men were killed in the incident.

“When I used to work at a driving school in Bedford and one day I came in and they had this video playing all the time from a race years and years ago,” Hamilton recounted. “A car stopped on the track, a marshal ran across the track and got hit by a car coming past.

“So that was the first thing I thought about and I couldn’t believe that the Safety Car hadn’t come out.”

The FIA report has been widely interpreted as concluding that the drivers in Japan were travelling too quickly whilst under double waved flags. At that time Adrian Sutil’s car was stranded less than 50 feet from the edge of the circuit and marshals were working in increasingly heavy rain in an attempting to recover the Sauber to a safe position.

The rest is tragic history.

If the FIA summary report following the investigation is to be believed, the control of the speed of the cars by FIA officers was not considered.

The failure to address this particular issue could easily create the impression that the investigation was not properly framed and create questions as to the motivation or reasons for this.

Of course there were others from within the F1 circus who have commented on what happened in Suzuka. Niki Lauda observed, “They could have started [the race] earlier, there is no question about it — in the end that would have been better.”

The final report from the FIA investigation denied the start time of the race had any bearing on the Marussia driver’s accident. Yet the recommendations from the report now mean 5 races will commence earlier than usual in the 2015 season.

The lack of transparency from the FIA over the investigation it conducted, may well lead some to believe that this enquiry had a restricted remit, without the intention to thoroughly examine all the contributory factors.

This view could be formed without ‘malicious intent’.

Were it to be demonstrated during a legal process that the FIA report was incomplete and those investigating the matter were aligned with the FIA from self interest; then Streiff’s observations may well have been ‘fair comment’, whether or not this is the notion of the legal definition.

36 responses to “FIA to sue paralysed ex-F1 driver

  1. Fuckers. Hiding behind Bianchi. What a load of wankers. More proof that F1 is as corrupt as other similar organisations. This is certain to upset the French free speech movement that has arisen since the recent murders.

  2. I didn’t think it possible for a sporting governing body to be more corrupt than FIFA but the FIA have done it. It’s especially poignant, with all the furore about free speech in France at the moment that Jean Todt’s essentially censoring somebody. Nobody does irony like F1 eh.

  3. For the record:

    http://www.f1i.com/infos/streiff-accuse-todt/

    “Shame on Jean Todt, the President of the FIA who “organized” and “ordered”, during the last WMSC in Doha Qatar, a report on the accident of Bianchi, prepared by his group of 10 friends (including Prof Gérard Saillant) so as to clear up FIA mistakes [errors] wrt to insurance companies. It’s the reign of bloody market capitalists!” [This is actually French for “reign of the greenback” or similar for our Anglophone readers]

    “In effect, Jean Todt is thirsty for money and power. Money embezzled via FIA foundation and the ICM [not sure what’s that], where he is vice-president and Gérard Saillant is president of this “research institute”. The most important thing today is for Jules Bianchi to be able to recover the maximum of his physical and intellectual abilities and that his family could avenge Jules, afterwards, so as to kick Jean Todt from the FIA… They have the juridical means, as what they’re enduring right now, other than the pain, is a disgrace. Same goes for his son Nicolas Todt, ex-manager of Jules, because in life everything has a price.”

    ======

    “The *lack of transparency* from the FIA over the investigation it conducted, may well lead some to believe that this enquiry had a restricted remit, without the intention to thoroughly examine all the contributory factors.”

    This is, in my experience, how French institutions often conduct their business…

    • I very much appreciate this translation, landroni!

      If one looks at Philippe Streiff, (highly rated driver who’s F1 career was nipped short, who then rehabilitated himself, remains involved in motorsport, created an early indoor karting center near Paris, etc.) it gives a better perspective on why Todt feels Streiff is dangerous to him. Philippe’s website is philippe.streiff.com/ .

      Looking what F1i.com reported of the radio interview, Philippe is more concerned about the money. His claims are:
      1) Jean Todt and Dr. Saillant are stealing money from ICM ( Brain & Spine Institue in Paris, ICM-Institute.org ) as Vice-Chairman and Chairman respectively
      2) FIA made insurance errors regarding Bianchi’s accident
      3) The Bianchi family should legally avenge Jules injuries by going after Jean and Nicolas Todt.

      • This is a lose-lose for the FIA

        It draws attention to the composition of the FIA panel of experts and opens the floodgates for any one who has any balls to comment on the investigation findings again.

        Then again, seeing as the ‘back of a fag packet’ document issued by the FIA caused little analysis or comment from the mainstream media at the time it was produced… maybe the FIA are hoping it will disappear once again.

        Streiff doesn’t need a good lawyer – but a great PR person. Then the shit will hit the fan.

        • I think you’re right about a good PR person. Take a look at his facebook page (linked off of his website). There is a very interesting post he made on December 29th. He shares a letter that he wrote to AFP, (the French news-wire) regarding his interview with an AFP writer, and how it was edited by AFP, leaving out crucial bits, then later refuted Dr. Saillant. Streiff makes clear he doesn’t know directly the condition of Michael Schumacher, nor Jules Bianchi. Instead he makes clear that he learned second-hand their condition during a conversation with a primary supporter / donor of ICM. It’s interesting, as he explains his historical connection with ICM, going back to founding meetings with the other co-founders, Todt, Saillant, Schumacher, and others back in 2002 at Magny Cours at the Ferrari motorhome…

          His website also invites one to contact him for interviews. I’d suggest an opportunity for TJ13 to set the F1 world upside down exists right there…

          • Regarding Streiff’s letter is it’s in French, and I’m reading a translator’s version of it. I think it’s Bing translator which is probably worse than google’s…

          • If you can post a link, I could look into translating that.

          • Bonjour! As I mentioned before, Philippe’s website is philippe.streiff.com (w/French and English language), and his facebook page link is on the header of his site. His fb page is a primary conduit of his thoughts on matters that TJ13 cares about, and he even posted a few minutes ago a fresh response to this issue. Thanks again for assisting TJ13’s efforts on this matter!

          • Complete and utter U-turn. Monsieur Todt’s threats proved exceedingly effective. And I suspect that this is merely a glimpse of the institutional pressure that the Bianchis find themselves under.

            This is obviously lawyerly gibberish:

            Apologies to the FIA
            Having accused Jean TODT, Gérard SAILLANT and the FIA 2 days ago during an interview to a journalist of an anonymous web-TV, Philippe STREIFF, ex-F1 driver, who suffered a serious accident in the Brazilian GP of 1989 and has become paralyzed, apologizes.

            “I went over the board [berserk] in front of the camera, the interview has lasted (too) long and I understand having uttered serious and defamatory remarks towards Jean TODT, Gérard SAILLANT and the FIA and I sincerely regret them.”

            “I deny and retract these remarks which are without any basis and I request the media to retract them from their outlet channels.”

            “Lastly I ask Jean TODT and Gérard SAILLANT, who know full well my health issues, to excuse me. I regret having expressed thoughts related to them which do not correspond to the high consideration that the two deserve.”

          • “Je déments…” Interesting!

            So Saillant has used a cannon (an official FIA press release threatening legal action) to go after a mosquito, and the mosquito is scurrying away.

            I wonder if Saillant is the tail that wagged the dog (Todt)?

            It’s a bit of a shame that no other English language press besides TJ13 have provided any coverage whatsoever beyond Saillant’s and Todt’s PR.

            Merci beaucoup again landroni!

          • @dwil

            Yeah, trouble is that after the lawyerly apology yesterday, Streiff won’t be giving any interviews anymore for a long time to come…

      • I would interpret points 2 and 3 a tad differently.

        2. In order to clear up the FIA in the eyes of insurance companies, Monsieur Todt needed to organize and produce this whitewash of a report that, as AJ pointed out superbly in the podcast, squarely lays the blame on the pilot “who was speeding” and on the car “who was broken by not following proper specs”. The whitewash also clears up the FIA of any wrongdoing, for legal purposes and insurance claims, by avoiding to address the hard questions that TJ13 has been raising for months. This actually makes sense in the wake of the FIA refusing to release *any* footage (relevant or not) and insisting that no camera caught a glimpse of the crashing Marussia, patently false; and given their PR-spin approach with the non-published, non-filmed and hasty press-conference in Sochi; and then the grandiose announcement of a 10-member panel who later produced a 2-summary whitewash and ~400 pages written in invisible ink.

        Bottom line, the implication is that this was a PR exercise intended to get insurance companies off his back… [possibly my rough translation is just a bit too contrived]

        And there you go Bawn and Domenicali respect, down the drain… He may as well have put Horner and Wolff on that panel…

        3. Not only that. To me the implication is that they’re enduring significant pressure to stay mum, or else… And the Todts are financing Bianchi’s cords at the hospital, I gather, so the implicit threat is that those cords could be cut at any time if the Bianchis go public. The issue of Bianchi family being under pressure from the FIA has already been raised once or twice on TJ13, but these are only circumstantial evidence, nothing sufficiently concrete.

        I suspect that when he alludes to the Bianchis having the juridical means, what he wants to say is that the Bianchis have sufficient proof of foul play / blackmailing to instigate legal action against this powerful institution.

        Also, it seems to me that this morally doubtful legal action against Streiff follows in the vein of the morally doubtful and legally doubtful move by the FIA and Saillant against Dr Harstein a couple of weeks back, possibly for expressing too much doubt regarding the Bianchi report on the TJ13 podcast (and probably on his blog).

        I have a feeling that the FIA is painting itself in a corner….

        • Admins: Sorry for the duplicate post. WordPress troubles. Feel free to delete one.

        • Interesting points, one thing that I’ve wondered recently, don’t the FIA have to answer to the Police investigation at all? After all, someone nearly got killed at one of their events. Surely the Japanese Police would be interested in how that happened? In the same way the Police would be interested say if my careless driving resulted in the same injuries for the third party on a motorway.
          Sports governing bodies literally get away with murder these days. Without anyone regulating them they know they can do as they wish, without being answerable to anyone. A dangerous set of affairs.

          • I guess at a certain level things get overly high-profile, hence political. For the Japanese police to intervene into an, hmm, some would argue internal matter of the FIA, would mean for them to literally expose themselves to a world of pressure. And since all regulating bodies are ultimately guided by human fallibility, why bother with getting involved into something that would almost surely put some careers in danger….

            So kicking the can it is: Japanese police shall argue that FIA is responsible, and they don’t need to act unless called by the FIA; FIA shall argue that it really is the responsibility of Japanese police to budge, and since they didn’t it means that no evidence of foul play was there in the first place; and that anyways they, the FIA, are whiter than snow and oh so concerned with the well being and security of all participants at F1 events, and that they do all in their power to make sure that all is honky-donky. Still don’t believe it? Just read the safety report! It’s comprehensive, two pages long, and the remaining ~400 written in exquisite invisible ink… Still don’t believe? Don’t worry, the FIA promises us that they reviewed all footage and telemetry, that Bianchi’s car was incredibly rendered in invisible pixels just prior to the crash, and that all the telemetry indicated without a shadow of doubt that the FIA was absolved of any incompetence, or wrong doing, or willful intent, or criminal negligence. Move along now…

            The only party that can set the party in motion, the Bianchis, the aggrieved party, are being financially and medically blackmailed, and going against a powerful institution who has political influence and leverage can be a very dangerous move, and will more likely than not result in defeat.

            So responsibility ping-pong it is… While the Bianchis simply must suck it up…

      • I would interpret points 2 and 3 a tad differently.

        2. In order to clear up the FIA in the eyes of insurance companies, Monsieur Todt needed to organize and produce this whitewash of a report that, as AJ pointed out superbly in the podcast, squarely lays the blame on the pilot “who was speeding” and on the car “who was broken by not following proper specs”. The whitewash also clears up the FIA of any wrongdoing, for legal purposes and insurance claims, by avoiding to address the hard questions that TJ13 has been raising for months. This actually makes sense in the wake of the FIA refusing to release *any* footage (relevant or not) and insisting that no camera caught a glimpse of the crashing Marussia, patently false; and given their PR-spin approach with the non-published, non-filmed and hasty press-conference in Sochi; and then the grandiose announcement of a 10-member panel who later produced a 2-summary whitewash and ~400 pages written in invisible ink.

        Bottom line, the implication is that this was a PR exercise intended to get insurance companies off his back… [possibly my rough translation is just a bit too contrived]

        And there you go Bawn and Domenicali respect, down the drain… He may as well have put Horner and Wolff on that panel…

        3. Not only that. To me the implication is that they’re enduring significant pressure to stay mum, or else… And the Todts are financing Bianchi’s cords at the hospital, I gather, so the implicit threat is that those cords could be cut at any time if the Bianchis go public. The issue of Bianchi family being under pressure from the FIA has already been raised once or twice on TJ13, but these are only circumstantial evidence, nothing sufficiently concrete.

        I suspect that when he alludes to the Bianchis having the juridical means, what he wants to say is that the Bianchis have sufficient proof of foul play / blackmailing to instigate legal action against this powerful institution.

        Also, it seems to me that this morally doubtful legal action against Streiff follows in the vein of the morally doubtful and legally doubtful move by the FIA and Saillant against Dr Harstein a couple of weeks back, possibly for expressing too much doubt regarding the Bianchi report on the TJ13 podcast (and probably on his blog).

        I have a feeling that the FIA is painting itself in a corner……

    • I’ll suggest that few folks saw this video. Which again leads all to speculate why Dr. Saillant and Jean Todt fired a big broadside PR from the FIA offices at 8 place de la Concorde, Paris shot at little Mr. Streiff?

      The video interview was performed by François Michalon. His website is motivationpremiere.com. The interview video itself appears to have been recently hosted on his vimeo sport chanel,

      but is now gone. It’s likely that it was also hosted at edc.radio.free.fr , where you can see François Michalon on front page.

      The video is no longer on the radio free site, nor on vimeo, as far as I can determine.

    • Just noticed that F1i.com has taken down that page… (though they’re in Belgium).

      TJ13 is one of the few remaining “certain media”.

      • Our reporting has been legal and careful. We have cited the original sources who published the information and as such it is not TJ13 who are culpable. #We Know Our Shit 😉

  4. I think that this can ONLY end well for the FIA if Streiff backs down and issues an apology or similar.

  5. What a shame the appropriate Japanese authority was not awake at the time of Bianchi misfortune.
    In other jurisdictions the inmates’ would really have their arses in a sling.

  6. Have you seen the documentary that Spanish TV produced of Alonso’s last race with Ferrari? He says that the briefings with Charlie Whiting are useless because any opinion they -the drivers- express leads to a sanction the next time they are on track.

    * * *

    “Hamilton revealed that he had flashbacks to memories of watching the terrible footage from the 1977 South African GP when Tom Pryce collided with a marshal crossing the track…” and that’s exactly what happened in Abu Dhabi, a marshall crossed in the middle of the race.

  7. It’s kind of interesting to read reaction on other sites to this particular $hit-stream.

    Don’t believe I’ve seen any indication from any site beyond this and Docter H’s, where the events of Japan and subsequent inquiry masquerading as a cover up, have drawn any critical analysis. Followers have just swallowed the hyperbole and rolled over…..

    Consequently Todt and his crooked ways/cronies seem to be getting kudos, quite undue IMO, for taking this action.
    Shame on them all.

    • ….subsequent cover up masquerading as an inquiry….(red face).

    • Yes. And what about Dr. Saillant going to Gary Hartstein’s hospital in Belgium and attempting to get him fired? Care to comment about that? Todt and company are actually DOING something now, but only when/because it affects them. Todt, how about doing your damn job at the FIA for a change? All this engine BS, rule changes, selling off the FIA rule making rights, etc. etc. and you have the balls to sue a paralyzed (US spelling) ex F1 driver? This will, hopefully, not end well for Todt et. al. What a bunch of BS.

  8. Right, sure I’m the only one who cares but left off the laundry list of f*ck ups is the fact that we know for sure the ambulance carrying Bianchi took 32 minutes to get to the hospital, which has now been published by the FIA. This despite the regs requiring the ability to reach hospital in approximately 20 minutes in the event of no helicopter.

    I’m fairly sure no meaning of the word approximately encompasses that.

  9. POS People.

    What Can They Do To Worsen The Mans Life ?

    Put Him In Jail ?

    POS People.

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