FIA Decides Schumacher's Fate
11 November 1997
There were gasps of disbelief when Max Mosley, head of the World's motor racing body announced the sentence for Michael Schumacher's deliberate dive into Jacques Vileneuve's Williams-Renault during the 48th lap of the European Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain.
Everybody, Michael included, expected a heavy fine--something in the region of 2 million dollars--and a possible ban. Instead--you'd better sit down as you will hard to believe this--Max simply took his points away from 1997, thereby depriving him of his title as runner-up. Wow! He said it with a straight face, which was just as well, because we thought he was joking.
In addition, and this is even funnier, apparently Schumacher agreed to spend some time in Southern Europe teaching road safety (!) to youngsters. At this point the assembled press just burst out laughing. There were TV crews from Itay, Germany, France, the BBC, the outside of the building looked a bit like the scene outide the OJ Simpson trial, there were antennas everywhere. At the end of it all, even the Germans were shaking their heads in disbelief. I asked Schumacher's manager: he too said that it could have been much, much worse.
After Max, we had a very subdued Michael Schumacher expressing his sadness over losing his points, but I suppose he had to do that for appearance's sake. He is off on a long holliday, but will start testing in due course, and will be back on the grid in March. Good boy or bad boy, as Frank Williams said to me this morning, given half a chance all the teams would love to have him, as he is far and away the best driver around.
The scandal concerning Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bernie Ecclestone got worse today, with revelations that--according to the British papers--the F1 czar's donation of 2 million dollars was returned to him yesterday on legal advice. The Labour Party felt that it was a bit difficult to hang on to the money at a time when they have just announced that they were making an exception of Formula One with regards to tobacco advertising. Like all good shows this one will run and run.