Matters of moment, September 1994

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One mishap too many

Elsewhere in this issue, you can read of the myriad trials and tribulations that have soured Benetton’s month, and there’s little doubt that there are many who have little sympathy for the Enstone team. The black flag at Silverstone; the launch control controversy that arose at Hockenheim: the allegations of tampering with refuelling equipment that emerged in the wake of the pit fire in Germany: the case for the prosecution was snowballing on the run up to Budapest, and if any of the allegations are ever satisfactorily proven, then Benetton will fully deserve whatever punishment the FIA deems fit. And in the light of fines totalling $600,000 after the Silverstone incident, one can’t exactly imagine the sport’s governors adopting a softly, softly approach.

Shortly after this issue was printed, Benetton’s Silverstone appeal was due to be heard, and we must wait until October, after the European GP at Jerez, to know the penal consequences of the Hockenheim pit fire.

In the meantime, Benetton races on under a cloud. If and when Michael Schumacher should eventually be crowned world champion, there seems little doubt that he will never be able to derive full pleasure from his achievements.

It has been a tragic season in personal terms, and an unsavoury one politically.

Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming hearings and appeals, there is one other major issue that requires the FIA’s urgent attention: refuelling itself.

It was introduced to add to the spectacle of motor racing, albeit not in the manner we saw at Hockenheim: it was a minor miracle that nobody was seriously hurt. The nearby photographers and guests at the Paddock Club overhead do not enjoy the protection of fireproof clothing. . .

Refuelling has not made the racing any more exciting, and while Hockenheim might have been the first mishap in 300 or so pit stops, it was nonetheless one too many.

We implore the FIA to abolish the practice forthwith. S A

An FIA release at Hockenheim concludes with ominous phraseology by Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting: “I am not satisfied that car number 5 (M Schumacher) complied with the regulations at all times during the San Marino Grand Prix, and I therefore submit this matter to the World Council for their consideration.” The revelation that

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