Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, yesterday continued his unprecedented series of attacks on public figures within his sport. Having twice recently called Sir Jackie Stewart a "certified halfwit", he inferred that Lewis Hamilton knew more about the McLaren spy scandal than he let on – and suggested that the youngster's fame has as much to do with his novelty value as his talent.
Speaking on the BBC's Hardtalk programme, Mosley said, a trifle disingenuously: "It would be surprising if he didn't know something of what was going on, but I've got absolutely no evidence that he had. On that basis it would be wrong of me to suggest that he had."
Mosley said he feared continued success for the Englishman might have a "negative" effect in the way that Michael Schumacher's lofty achievements did, that his rookie fame is a consequence of his novelty value and that attention could easily have been attracted by one of the other young drivers in the paddock. "If it wasn't him [Hamilton] it would be either [Nico] Rosberg or [Robert] Kubica or one of the other new stars. I think there's a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Lewis Hamilton.
"He has certainly helped enormously in the UK," he conceded. "He's also got a lot of interest worldwide because he's come manifestly not from a rich background. But there is always somebody new."
Mosley also referred to next month's FIA hearing when McLaren will seek to secure the drivers' title for Hamilton by overturning the result of the final race in Brazil on the basis of fuel temperature offences by two other teams. If the cars of Rosberg, Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, which finished ahead of Hamilton, were disqualified, Hamilton could be awarded the points he needs to overhaul champion Kimi Raikkonen's final score.
"It could happen, absolutely, because this will go to a court of appeal," Mosley conceded, but added: "That said, it's very unlikely, because even if they excluded those cars they are not obliged to reclassify Hamilton."