James Lawton: Slap on Renault's wrist is not enough to condemn F1 chicanery to history

You have to wonder if there are any limits now. If it is possible to employ men you vetted, and who carry your name, who go on to rig a race, strategically smash a car into a barrier, risk lives and damnation, and yet you survive, receive a green light to continue unscathed in something ever more loosely described as sport, surely it has to be asked, what is next on the agenda?

A little bit of brake-tampering, perhaps? That would juice up events quite nicely, and so much more spectacularly than some boring old industrial espionage or getting your world champion driver to lie through his teeth in order to sneak a point or two in the championship table.

We cannot say, though, we were not warned that the ruling authority, the FIA, would produce an appalling fudge in Paris yesterday when it came to deliver its form of punitive justice on the Renault team.

Eddie Irvine, a man not famous for his altruism, had it entirely right when he said that Renault would receive a light tap on their wrists rather than a more appropriate axe on their necks. Irvine, naturally, made his judgement without a hint of moral censure.

The Ulsterman was many self- oriented things as a front-rank driver but he was never a hypocrite, as he reminded us when, after predicting Renault's escape from significant punishment he said, straight-faced, that what Renault did was "slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing but in days past every team has done whatever they could to win".

Shocking? It is certainly not the kind of behaviour which springs to mind when you think of men of the character and the values of Juan Fangio, Sterling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.

However, optimism about the true instincts of a business which produced such great men has not exactly been on a flood tide. Damon Hill, who with the help of his adoring supporter Murray Walker became for motor racing a national celebrity almost to the point of anticipating a David Beckham, certainly might have struck a more forceful tone the other day when speaking not only as a former world champion who uniquely reproduced the feat of his father, the great combatant Graham Hill, but as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club.

Hill said: "It's not a very good episode. There are clearly a lot of issues and it [Formula One] has a lot of soul-searching to do. It's a huge sport and sometimes controversies add to the interest. But you want it to be for the right reasons."

One problem is that if you would like someone of Hill's status to be a little more indignant about the outrage committed in Singapore, there is another reality. Formula One was indeed a huge sport in his day and his father's and had never been bigger than when Michael Schumacher ruled in his own most ruthless way and you couldn't fight off the big money with a stick. But it isn't so today. It is a sport which is hanging on, imperilled in its vast budgets and declining sponsorship, and when the FIA president Max Mosley issued his ruling yesterday, it was possible to interpret his announcement in two quite separate ways.

You could say his claim that the FIA had exacted maximum punishment with their suspended two-year-sentence was a laughably complete departure from reality. Or you could read it as the veiled admission that F1 is no more equipped to make the moral stance of ejecting a financially powerful team than a drowning man to push away a piece of flotsam.

F1 clearly believes it needs Renault, even while its name represents the absolute nadir of the sporting instinct, far more than the kudos that might come with the idea that after all the years of drift – of Schumacher's ruthless, unpunished cynicism, the refusal to penalise the McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso when they benefited from the McLaren team's proven spying – they had finally seen the public relations value of cleaning up their house.

It hasn't happened and nor was it likely to do so in Paris yesterday, as Irvine predicted with such world-weary precision.

The now threatened consequence could scarcely be more appalling. It is of a sport stripped of almost all significant deterrence against even the most sinister sharp practice.

Formula One might have made a stand yesterday. Instead, they were happy to enjoy the benefit of Flavio Briatore, the creator of "Crashgate", and his henchman Pat Symonds, falling on their swords. They were pleased to reach for the soap and the water. What they didn't seem to realise was that some stains are not so easy to remove.

Sir Bobby's parting leaves hope that he will not be last of his kind

Football, as we have heard in Westminster Abbey, where the life of Bobby Moore was saluted, in the Catholic church of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where Sir Matt Busby worshipped, and yesterday in the glorious setting of Durham Cathedral, where Sir Bobby Robson was remembered, is capable of the finest words of farewell to its greatest heroes.

In Durham, Sir Alex Ferguson, who has a particularly admirable record in the matter of religiously attending the funerals and memorial services of men whom he has competed with most strenuously, spoke with great feeling. So did Gary Lineker and Sir Bobby's old Fulham team-mate Tom Wilson.

Those in attendance who were associated with football report, once again, their pride at the words of tribute, and not least those of the cancer specialist who spoke of the old heroes' courageous fight against a disease that he had fought off three times – and his work to raise money for the broader battle.

Yet sometimes you have to feel that however moving and brilliant these ritual occasions there is another tribute to the lives of the great football men which is too often neglected.

It is that they are remembered in a living way. Sir Bobby wasn't always a paragon of nobly accepted defeat – indeed, there were times early in his career when he greeted it as the vilest conspiracy – but the glory of his competitive life was that he grew beyond such a tyranny over the spirit. He learnt to accept defeat as the impostor he often knew it to be and in the first moments of his crushing disappointment in Turin in the World Cup of 1990, when England lost the semi-final penalty shoot-out against West Germany which would always privately haunt him, his players have never forgotten that his first thoughts were for them. One by one they felt the warmth of his arm on their shoulders. They felt his compassion and his understanding that sometimes you are going to lose.

In Durham Cathedral yesterday there surely had to be the hope that such spirit and such character might be a little more visible in the weekly onslaught of today's big-money football, when no game is settled fair and square, when no team seems to be beaten without the rage of dispute, when cheating is rampant and so few within the game are apparently prepared to stand up, put self-interest aside, and speak up for the game that has given them so much.

It is maybe a vain hope, but if such a one doesn't come at the parting of a man like Sir Bobby Robson it surely never will.

Pacquiao and Mayweather on course for stellar collision

There is maybe a little irony that boxing, which had the grimiest reputation in all of sport, is now poised to provide one of the greatest fights of all time.

Floyd Mayweather's victory over the fine but physically outgunned Juan Manuel Marquez at the weekend completed the first stage of the process. The second will come in Las Vegas in November when the great Manny Pacquiao fights the formidable Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto. It is an article of faith in his native Philippines, and in most other places where a consummate fighter is revered, that the Pacman will triumph on his way to the pound-for-pound showdown with the great defensive boxer Mayweather.

Pacquiao-Mayweather is more than an intriguing fight. It is a collision of styles and nature and, in different ways, a celebration of fighting at its technical and emotional best. The leaning here is heavily for the Pacman because in both his brilliance and his innocence he answers an increasing yearning for sportsmen who seem to glory more in what they do than in the reward it may bring.

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Sir David Attenborough
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness