London: McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has praised the FIA for distancing themselves from the controversies surrounding the European Grand Prix last weekend.
Following outbursts from double champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari branding the Valencia street race a ‘manipulation’, the FIA has taken a more laid-back view and avoided any public conflict - something Whitmarsh believes would never have happened if former FIA president Max Mosley was still in charge.
Whitmarsh said the ‘new’ FIA president Jean Todt’s resistance to public controversy was helping both drivers and fans get more out of the sport.
“We are racing more naturally now,” said Whitmarsh “There always will be goals that were not goals, and those sorts of things - they happen in sport and you have to accept it.
“In fairness now, to Jean and the FIA, even from where I am sat, things happen in the race and you think that is going to cause so much aggravation - but it doesn’t. And even drivers are thinking that now.
Whitmarsh said that he wasn’t bothered by Alonso’s reactions as it just illustrated how confrontational the sport can be and that drivers are now learning to take the rough with the smooth.
“There is a fine line: you want it to be safe, to be fair, and you want decisions to be instantaneous, but you want drivers to have a go,” he said.
“And when you have a go in racing cars, you are going to get incidents, you are going to get controversy and you are going to get two drivers who see an incident from completely different perspective.
“Alonso was fairly outspoken but actually people want a bit of that, and it doesn’t worry me.
“In the past you have not been able to question. There has to be a limit, some fine lines, but not being able to question a referee’s decisions, or umpire’s decisions or stewards’ decision? And frankly you have not been able to do that.”
“People complained about a sterility of conversations and debate within the paddock, but there was a regime where you were not even allowed to question whether we had got it right? As that would bring the sport into disrepute.
“Now I don’t think it is reasonable for any of us to go on a blast and criticise the FIA over anything, there have to be some limits and we have to be respectful to the FIA, but I think it is acceptable for people to display their passion, enthusiasm and agreement in the sport. It is a healthy thing.”
Alonso, 28, has since apologised for his post-race criticism of the FIA and admitted that he over-reacted in the heat of the moment.
“Obviously, in the clear light of day, I am much calmer than I was in the moments immediately following the race,” said Alonso.
“At the time, I reacted emotionally and in that situation, it is all too easy to adopt a tone and say things that can be interpreted wrongly, giving rise to suspicions, something which I had no intention of doing.
However he did insist that something must be done in order to avoid drivers breaking the rules in future.
“Sure, I understand that the stewards have a difficult job to do and they have to take decisions that are not easy. What I meant was that those drivers who, like us, respected the regulations, unfortunately, in this situation, suffered much more than those who broke them, even though they were given a penalty.
“And I am not referring to any of the drivers in particular: it’s a general matter and I think we should talk about it together in a calm way, to ensure that things like this do not happen again.”