The problem for Charlie Whiting is despite being employed by the FIA as Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, he in fact serves two masters.
The top brass at the FIA care not one jot as to whether F1 drivers are told how to save their ailing cars or even instructed how to save fuel. After all, most of them can’t operate a computer, use pigeon post instead of email and on days that end in ‘day’ are away from their Parisian antique rosewood desks from 11:30 onward, quaffing red wine and quail.
F1 fans may not realise that Charlie has a second master, whom he depended upon directly for his living for almost a decade in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bernie Ecclestone was then the team owner of Brabham and Charlie was his chief mechanic. In those halcyon days, an F1 team consisted of around 20 employees and a couple of drivers and so Charlie was more than just a chief mechanic to Bernie – he created reality from the will of the soon to be F1 supremo.
As it was with Max Moseley’s move to the FIA, Charlie Whiting’s new job in 1988 as FIA technical delegate, meant Bernie had another man on the inside of the corridors of power in the Place de Concorde. For those who’ve observed closely over the decades, it is as clear as the difference between night from day that Charlie speaks with more tongues than the three which communicate from his three official FIA roles.
Race day, Suzuka 2014. The Bianchi legal team will seek to prove Charlie Whiting acted against his better judgement by not rescheduling and/or cancelling the Japanese GP. Adam Cooper had been briefed by Whiting of the disastrous potential for the impending tropical storm and Cooper in the days preceding Sunday did his dutiful best to broadcast an argument that the race should be rescheduled.
The problem. This would be a breach of contract between Ecclestone’s FOM and the race promoters, and thus open the door for Honda to refuse to pay the $30m hosting fee.
The result. Charlie buckled.
Whiting failed his duty to his FIA safety mandate and opened the door to a sequence of events which ultimately led to the death of Jules Bianchi.
And so to the radio ban. Yes it was lunch time in Paris – as it is each and every day – and Charlie was beavering away on his laptop, writing technical directives about radio bans. Of course this was not a Todt inspired move, but one his old boss Bernie Ecclestone had demanded.
Stop the drivers from receiving information about the imminent failure of their 21st century, technology laden rocket ships and – hey Presto – a Mercedes will eventually conk out.
Result. The F1 Sunday show is vastly improved, isn’t it?
A side benefit for Ecclestone is of course a blow in Stuttgart midriff. Bernie and Mercedes top boss Dieter Zetsche have history.
In an alternative universe the opinion is that the stupidity of this ruling is plain for all to see. Nobody watches the movie Apollo 13, wishing Tom Hanks to fail for lack of some information.
Nobody wants to see a hard fought F1 victory – Mercedes or not – lost in a contrived fashion due to petty rules.
Mercedes have had enough of the silliness – and are taking on Charlie and Bernie. Given the previous back down by the FIA and Ecclestone over the ‘innovative’ qualifying format for 2016, the almost unanimous condemnation in the paddock for Charlie’s latest handiwork will surely see movement on this matter.
Christian Horner called the radio ban rules “Rubbish”.
Williams F1 technical director, Pat Symonds, believes Whiting’s handiwork is shoddy at best.
“Charlie [Whiting] has written that technical directive and said ‘this is what you can say everything else is illegal.’” Symonds concludes, “Well, that’s his interpretation of a very, very vague rule about the driver driving the car alone and unaided”.
The result? After each and every race the hot topics will not be Max Verstappen passing around the outside of Beckets or Blanchimont – he likes corners whose names begin with B.
We WILL be endlessly discussing the obvious that Sergio Perez should have been prevented from a head on collision with a wall,
As with all vested interests, the relationship and history between Whiting and Ecclestone is detrimental for Formula One. So as Charlie’s number two retires at the end of the year, he should take the hand of his old friend Charlie and persuade him it’s time for the curtain to fall on the tired and outdated Herbie and Charlie show.
Whatever the result of the Mercedes appeal, one thing changed yesterday. The lack of thought behind a silly rule will see a wave of breaches of the same rule as teams realise a 10 second penalty is way better than a DNF.