Back in the chair

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Last month, outgoing editor-in-chief Andrew Frankel signed off on this page by saying the future of Motor Sport has never looked brighter. Now the torch has been passed to me to uphold the values, standards and passions of this wonderful magazine as it enters its 85th year. It’s a responsibility I accept (once again – I’ve been here before!) with a small pinch of trepidation, and a large dose of excitement.

Andrew has played a significant role in leading the magazine in a new direction and, although his hand is no longer on the tiller, he will continue to write and be associated with the title. Andrew, thank you for all your hard work. We won’t be deviating from the current path – but we will be quickening the pace in the coming months.

Actually, ‘new direction’ is something of a misnomer to describe our current evolution. It’s not new at all. For just under 10 years the magazine concentrated solely on the history of the sport, but previously it was very forward-thinking and no one encapsulated that spirit more than Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent, Denis Jenkinson.

How fitting then, that it should be his old friend Nigel Roebuck who is charged with reaffirming our position as the true voice of the sport. Our new editor-in-chief is respected around the world for the quality and weight of his writing, and if anyone could be said to have inherited Jenks’s position in racing, it would be Nigel. Read his words on Formula 1 and beyond exclusively in these pages every month.

There’s more good news. The number of pages in the magazine is to increase to accommodate extra content. So there will be no dilution of our acclaimed stories about the past; just the addition of more cutting-edge coverage of the contemporary sport. The best of both worlds – and exciting times, indeed.

A ‘root and branch’ investigation. It’s one of those modern business-speak phrases we have got used to hearing of late. Every organisation, from the spectacularly incompetent Football Association to the English primary school system, seems to be humbly promising a spot of self-analysis in the wake of public humiliation. But in our little corner of the world, don’t expect any hint of self-abasement from a body in dire need of critical introspection.

The FIA answers to no one, ruling the sport to its own agenda. Forget the team owners, the major car manufacturers, the sponsors who plough millions into the sport. They are patronised and coerced into playing to the tune demanded by an organisation that rules by intimidation. And woe betide anyone who shows any sign of mutiny.

But finally, patience is wearing thin. At every level.

Both McLaren and Renault fell foul of the FIA regulations in 2007 in separate espionage cases. Both were bang-to-rights cases, as they were caught in illegal possession of information from rival teams. They were guilty. But are we really to believe McLaren was one hundred million times more guilty than Renault?

The FIA has backed itself into a corner on this subject, and its response is to attack. First Sir Jackie Stewart was verbally abused for daring to speak out, now a column written by Martin Brundle has resulted in a writ being issued to The Sunday Times. Both men are respected; both only stated exactly what many paddock insiders were thinking.

Stewart has publicly called for an investigation into the running of the FIA. He is quite right to do so. He wants a process of wholesale structural change, from top to bottom. So do many who are too afraid to say so. And so do we.
Damien Smith