FIA attempt to gag former F1 doctor

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In December last year, Gérard Saillant made the five hour journey from the FIA’s headquarters in Paris to a hospital in Belgium to speak with the Former F1 doctor Gary Hartstein employers about his conduct. Saillant is a figure who is mostly invisible to the F1 fans, however he is the president of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability. FIA plot against former F1 medical delegate

It’s sufficient to say he is a very senior member of the FIA and with considerable clout.

In an open letter published by Hartstein he claimed Saillant’s visit had one purpose, “You came here to raise the issue of whether THIS blog violated my contract at work and could therefore be a reason to fire me, or at least to muzzle me”.

According to Hartstein, Saillant brought a dossier of posts from his blog as evidence of an alleged breach of contract together with a copy of an email he claimed had been sent by Corinna Schumacher to the former F1 Doctor.

Gary Hartstein has been vocal over the safety breaches he alleges the FIA ignored when conducting the Bianchi investigation.

Of course Hartstein’s comments on Formula One are not related to his medical role and not the domain of his employer.

“It is clearly expressing their personal opinion My blog has nothing to do with my job. In fact, things like “privacy”, and “free expression” come to mind – not as sterile principles, but as LAWS THAT YOU ARE ON THE CUSP OF VIOLATING. You and your boss [Jean Todt],” Hartstein observed in an open letter to Salliant – he posted on his blog.

The former F1 doctor continued, “You have acted like a hoodlum. What you have done was not unexpected, but was thuggish and disgusting. You might wear expensive suits and a Patek Philippe, but your tactics are from the gutter.

Be aware that I’ve referred the ‘dossier’ you handed over to the Dean to my attorney. You are on very very thin legal ice”.

Hartstein has since been recruited by a leading medical facility in the UAE and now resides in there full time.

It appears the FIA wish to ‘up the ante’ with Gary and have finally communicated with him directly. The wheels of justice in the place de Concorde indeed grind slowly.

Hartstein has published the letter sent to him by the FIA and their previous interest is made clear. Gary is accused of

  • “…making insulting and defamatory remarks about the FIA, its president, and fellow doctors responsible for medical safety”.
  • Making “unfounded” comments concerning the Jules Bianchi affair.
  • “…discrediting your successors and the considerable progress the FIA in safety at motorsport competitions.
  • “…attempting to remove” some of his comments from social media.

The letter concludes

“Therefore, and in accordance with MY professional rules, I invite you to of the name of the lawyer in charge of your defence and I would ask you to invite him to contact me”. The letter is signed by Jean-Pierre Martel.

Gary’s response is in the form of an email. He begins by observing the FIA letter was sent to an address where he no longer resides.

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The FIA letter is clearly an attempt to intimidate the Former F1 doctor, because as he correctly observes he does not require a lawyer given that nothing other than generic allegations have been implied by the FIA.

However, this letter is revealing and gives us insight into the way the FIA go about their business and the competence of the officers employed.

More interesting would be the fall out from any case the FIA choose to bring for defamation or libel against Hartstein. These legal excursions often result in the plaintiff having to explain in detail their words and actions to repudiate a defence of ‘fair comment’.

Specifically, the FIA may have to detail their actions taken in Suzuka and demonstrate their operatives were not negligent in the decisions taken before and during the race.

What are the odds that we’ll see further confrontation between the two? Only time will tell. Head to Bet Compare for the latest.

Below is the FIA’s letter to Gary Hartstein

letter gary

Gary Hartstein’s blog can be found HERE

 

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15 responses to “FIA attempt to gag former F1 doctor

  1. Can’t blame the FIA, they’re not used to dealing with people who they can’t bully into submission. Normally they get FOM to do their dirty work but they’re helpless as well.

    Not even a paddock pass to rescind, what do they do…..

  2. i happen to be supportive of hartstein here. what needs to happen is that the FIA should release the COMPLETE details of their investigation into the bianchi accident. then and only then can we realistically see what happened. rumour has it that it will never see the light of day because the bianchi family may, at some time, take legal action against the FIA. it would of interest to know whether the FIA ever passed the entire report to the bianchi family? maybe the judge could look at that.

    • Perhaps you are thinking of Charles “the Hammer” Martel 688-741, forerunner of the Carolingian empire, grandfather of Charlemagne and generally credited with saving what would be Europe from the Saracens.

    • Yes, in really old French it was the noun for hammer, the more usual word now is “marteau”. The verb still exists though, “marteler” means “to hammer down”. If there is someone very creative for jokes here, please go ahead and make a funny one for this situation 🙂

  3. Brilliant stuff… sinfully childish. Interesting move from the FiA.

    The question is, has this letter served its purpose in addition to “the visit”? I think it has, in that it’s resulted in a defiant Doctor, declining to cooperate. Also, his public posting of the matter would be expected and welcomed, I feel.

    Seems like “step 1” of a multi-step, slow-but-sure process where step one is establishing his behaviour and responsibility (as they see it).

    I feel the Doctor may have been better served providing the details of his legal team with a smile and springing the trap, ascertaining a farce or not, OR ignoring it – remaining ignorant using the address as a plausible excuse – until it escalated into a bonafide legal matter.

    Either way, it might feel good to respond this way, but it’s not well thought out.

      • Good point, and an effective tactic.

        Then the latter option would’ve been ideal… ignore it until it escalates properly.

        Either way, not what he’s doing now.

        • Nothing new about this in the US at least and I can only assume that the good Doctor has access to enough funds to retain a lawyer should it come to that. Can’t imagine it will though as there is no way FIA would want to go through Discovery, which would open up a huge bundle of private material to the world.

          In any event, I would be somewhat more concerned about the laws in the UAE, as I do not know how the treat foreigners accused of such things, nor would I be entirely confident he would have the same sorts of protections should they choose to go after him there.

    • Either way, it might feel good to respond this way, but it’s not well thought out.

      Obviously I have a bias in that Gary and I are friends, and while I’m not privy to his exact thoughts leading up to the writing of the reply and decision to conduct a preliminary public-transparent-online-defense, I’ve always known Doc to rely upon logic and reason to guide his actions in these matters (which, as you imply, are not often resolved favorably for the party who acts w/o thinking strategically and defaults to a lower, emotion-driven process).

      Also, his public posting of the matter would be expected and welcomed, I feel.

      I disagree with this as well and cite the recent example of FIA’s counterpart federation for pro cycling – the UCI – making the foolish decision to sue an accredited and award-winning journalist who’d been critical of governance, transparency and anti-doping issues.

      The UCI thought they could bury the journo in legal costs and silence him by discrediting him. Instead, cycling fans around the world contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the journalist’s defence and public opinion & support swung noticeably in his favor – and the then-President of UCI lost his re-election bid in part due to fall-out from the scandal.

      tl:dr: Dr. Hartstein has a razor sharp mind and he doesn’t go off hacked-cocked.

      • Maybe their action against Philppe Streiff led them to believe they could achieve a similar result by deploying similar tactics.

        If so I’m genuinely concerned there is a recruitment policy at the Place de Concorde that requires single digit IQ levels to make any short list.

      • Hi Joe,

        I’m sure that if the Doc is as you say – always reliant upon logic and reason – then he’ll be fine. To my eyes, his email (among other things) reads otherwise… but as you say, you’re his friend. I am not. I do genuinely wish him the best.

        My above comments were sincerely not an attempt to undermine the perception of the sharpness or capacity of his likely-brilliant mind under normal circumstances, but more to highlight the potentially flawed strategy and case-losing mistakes that can happen when people (professional or otherwise) find themselves under pressure and scrutiny on a personal level. Playing the ball, not the man, so to speak.

        All that being said, and given the Doc is intent on operating his defence publicly, we’ll be treated to seeing the inner workings of such matters. Personally, I don’t think the Doc, once properly advised, will continue to operate publicly… but, I’ve been know to be wrong – and I hope I am.

        Take care,

        @WTF_F1

  4. The FIA has been pursuing Gary Hartstein for a while. The way that they are pursuing him means that he’s on the right track about things that the FIA don’t want well known.

    The FIA need to let the whole truth come out about the Jules Bianchi crash so that the family gets closure. They have already lost their family member who is irreplaceable.

    The responsible parties need to let everything be known. I can say from experience that the aftermath of things like this isn’t pretty especially when information is hidden and people are bullied into silence.

    When I was physically abused years ago, people were told but didn’t do anything to help. I had to get myself out of the situation. Information was then hidden or destroyed because it would have cost people money. I was also almost killed twice in hospital as a result of medical mistakes and people were bullied into silence.

    It’s important that people be allowed to voice their opinions and that those opinions be respect but all too often, especially in the world of Formula 1 that doesn’t happen. There have been attempts to bully Formula 1 critics like myself into silence. It’s not being done by other fans either. It’s not the first time that I’ve been bullied nor will it be the last.

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