A week ago the world of Formula One was rocked by allegations in a Sunday newspaper that FIA's president, Max Mosley, had indulged in Nazi-themed sexual activities with prostitutes. As a result, pressure has been building up in the paddock here in Bahrain for the beleaguered 67-year-old to quit, to the point where the fallouthas overshadowed the action on the track.
Luminaries such as Sir Stirling Moss and the 1979 world champion, Jody Scheckter, were quick to condemn Mosley, and soon others were following suit. The FIA-affiliated ADAC, Germany's national motoring body, asked him to consider his position carefully; then Holland's KNAF called outright for his resignation. The Israeli organisation also expressed disappointment.
In a letter to ADAC, however, Mosley claimed he has support from 20 FIA clubs and representatives of another 50 to stay on in his role. "Had I been caught driving excessively fast on a public road or over the alcohol limit, I should have resigned the same day. As it is, a scandal paper obtained by illegal means pictures of something I did in private which, although unacceptable to some people, was harmless and completely legal. Many people do things in their bedrooms or have personal habits which others find repugnant. But as long as they keep them private,nobody objects.
"The offence seems to be not what I did but the fact that it became public. But I played no role in this, indeed I did my utmost to ensure it remained private. I was the victim of a disgusting conspiracy."
His remarks made an interesting contrast to his comments last year at the height of the "Stepneygate" spying row, when he said: "In front of us is a list of text messages and telephone calls over a three-and-a-half-month period. The World Council's only concern is whether that list is accurate and truthful. We are not concerned with whether there are issues over how that is obtained. Unless there is evidence it is forged or inaccurate, we will take it on its face value."
The paddock remains almost wholly unimpressed with his rhetoric. Thus far only Bernie Ecclestone and the Brazilian club have vocalised any form of support for him. Many Formula One figures believe that he should take it on the chin and quit, just as did Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York State, who set himself up as a moralist until he was exposed as having relations with call girls.
The opprobrium reached a climax yesterday morning when the American Automobile Association joined in the calls for Mosley to step down. "Recent events involving the leadership of the FIA have been very distressing and embarrassing," said Yolanda Clark Cade, the AAA's public relations chief.
"While this matter may be viewed as private by some, the damage to the image of the FIA and its constituents is clearly public. For an organisation – and its leader – to exercise the moral authority required to represent millions of motorists and sanction the activities of motorsport they must uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviour.
"After careful consideration, AAA has conveyed to Mr Mosley that it would be in the best interest of all concerned if he were to step down."
While Mosley sweated back in Europe, possibly braced for further revelations today according to insiders here, Robert Kubica gave journalists the headline they had been seeking ever since he came into Formula One in 2006 – Pole on pole! Ferrari's Felipe Massa had made all of the running so far this week, but yesterday he had to play second fiddle to Kubica as the Polish driver pushed to the fore for the emergent BMW-Sauber team.
When the chips were down in the final runs of the third qualifying session the championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, went to the top of the timesheets with a lap in 1min 33.292sec. The Englishman had dismissed memories of a nasty accident the previous day, when he lost control of his McLaren. "For me it makes absolutely no difference," he said when asked about it. "You get back in the car and go faster."
But he didn't quite have the performance to resist Kubica's lap of 1:33.096. The latter said that he flat-spotted a tyre in turn nine, which led to big vibrations for the rest of the lap. "I was surprised to be on pole," he admitted, "because after this mistake I was not expecting it. Now I look forward to the race, when anything can happen."
Massa's subsequent lap of 1:33.123 put him ahead of Hamilton but, crucially, on the dirty side of the grid. He put a brave face on that, but Hamilton had the bigger smile.
"Ferrari seem to have outstanding pace," he conceded, "but I'm very happy to be starting on the inside. We have a good strategy and I think tomorrow will be quite interesting."
1 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber 1min 33.096
2 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:33.123
3 Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.292
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:33.418
5 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mecedes 1:33.488
6 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber 1:33.737
7 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota
8 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams 1:34.015
9 Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:35.057
10 Fernando Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:35.115
Eliminated after second session:
11 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:32.371
12 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:32.508
13 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:32.528
14 Nelson Piquet (Bra) Renault 1:32.790
15 Sébastien Bourdais (Fra) Toro Rosso 1:32.915
16 Kazuki Nakajima (Jap) Williams 1:32.943
Eliminated after first session:
17 David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull 1:33.433
18 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India 1:33.501
19 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso 1:33.562
20 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:33.845
21 Anthony Davidson (GB) Super Aguri 1:34.140
22 Takuma Sato (Jap) Super Aguri 1:35.725Reuse content