Vettel offers public apology…the real goal of the FIA meeting

Part of the FIA meeting agreement between Sebastian Vettel and the FIA was that he would offer a public apology for his actions in Baku. The German has offered those apologies via his website:

“Concerning the incidents of Baku I’d like to explain myself: During the re-start lap, I got surprised by Lewis and ran into the back of his car. With hindsight, I don’t believe he had any bad intentions. In the heat of the action I then overreacted, and therefore I want to apologise to Lewis directly, as well as to all the people who were watching the race. I realize that I was not setting a good example.

I had no intention at anytime to put Lewis in danger, but I understand that I caused a dangerous situation.

Therefore, I would like to apologise to the FIA. I accept and respect the decisions that were taken at today’s meeting in Paris, as well as the penalty imposed by the Stewards in Baku.

I love this sport and I am determined to represent it in a way that can be an example for future generations.

Sebastian”

For some, the issue is done and dusted but for others, no amount of contrition on Vettel’s part will suffice and somewhere in the middle is a group of people tired of hearing about the incident and ready to move on. 

This week there have been many editorials from F1 publications and while we wrote about the FIA investigation the day it was announced over a week ago, it is nice to see that our editorial focus back then is much the same as those who are paid to have an editorial focus. In fact, removing the tinge of bias from some of these editorials, I think we’ve done a relatively decent job of stating the real cost of an FIA investigation and the motive for such a meeting. 

Calls for transparency (which is a very challenging word when applied to anything other than government where the public interest is involved and the infrastructure is paid for by the public), a change in the stewarding system, and more punitive action as a precedent is being set. 

Perhaps all of those arguments are good ones but as our original editorial on the matter suggested, a precedent is being set on many levels. Having a meeting and doing, effectively nothing, is a perception that the FIA would have done well to avoid but in some fan’s eyes, that’s what happened and social media is abuzz with those very accusations.

On the other hand, heaping more punitive actions on the German without new, additional evidence, implicates the FIA’s own stewarding system and this is not a situation the FIA wants to engage in as that would only pour fuel on the fire and create a lack of trust with the fans that the FIA process is effective. 

Transparency is a popular word these days and while on the surface, it sounds like there’s nothing but upside but it is important to know what words mean and calls for transparency, in this case, are most likely being made in the spirit of good will and fairness to fans but the FIA is a voluntary organization of members and I am unclear as to if it is an incorporated, public or private non-profit. Formula 1 is a private company as well.

The FIA may not have to reveal all documents, decisions, process et. al. as a private or incorporated organization and the suggestion that they should release all of the data in order for fans to render accurate judgement and gain comprehensive understanding assumes that all fans are capable of doing either. Clearly, they are not. Even with all the data, there are those tin hat fan boys that will always be pulling at the threads, claiming conspiracy and more. The fact is, global politics is ripe with facts and counter facts and rarely is consensus ever gained on any one issue. 

What some F1 publications have suggested is to move on and I would agree with this sentiment even though I warned the FIA about their meeting and the knock-on effect it would have. What we seemingly had was a FIA president embarrassed and demanding a public apology from Vettel to the regulatory body of F1 and that’s what he got. He didn’t add punitive action against Vettel so clearly he wasn’t calling this meeting to represent Lewis Hamilton fans who felt put upon by the incident. He scolded a 4-time champion and made him publicly apologize while Vettel fans felt the incident was a mountain out of a molehill and in the end, a personal apology was gained and perhaps the FIA’s face was saved. Hardly a cause that Hamilton, Vettel or indifferent fans were outraged over. 

As critical as fans were over Vettel’s move, the FIA’s actions on- and post-event are now looming larger than the incident itself. There’s an old notion that I’ve said to myself for decades now…how you react to an issue is more important than the actual issue itself. 

Move along.