No sooner is one polemical saga overcome than there’s a risk of opening a new one. Unfortunately, F1 has accustomed us to feeding and simultaneously nurturing its audience with controversies that are unavoidable due to rules and procedures that cannot dispel suspicions. If the rules are so well-defined, it’s because evidently, those who write them lack the will, or perhaps the ability, to overcome certain difficulties once and for all.
The month of December was marked by tensions between the FIA on one side and FOM and teams on the other, who rallied to the defense of the Wolffs, who, involuntarily, found themselves entangled in a cumbersome federal investigation based on conjectural evidence from a British media outlet. The events are known, and such is their conclusion.
It remains a category that loses credibility due to a vertical conflict of powers in which Mercedes seemed almost like a sacrificial victim, a pawn to be moved for greater purposes. Beyond that, the incident had brought back the concept of conflicts of interest permeating Formula 1 in every aspect, from multi-ownership to ties between teams, passing through less known but perhaps more annoying elements.
F1: Conflict of Interest Back in the Spotlight
In December 2021, Formula One experienced one of the most critical moments in its history. No need to produce a sterile chronicle; the facts are well-known. The conclusion of Abu Dhabi, with its irregularities and the cascade of errors, led to a series of regulatory, procedural, and managerial changes that were not enough—history confirms this—to heal a still-open wound, especially within the Mercedes camp.
Now, three years later, other surrounding details emerge that risk further poisoning the wells after a late 2023 tainted by a dispute that no one felt the need for. The facts: Derek Warwick, an FIA steward since 2010, may not have severed ties with Honda. The news was reported by Arran Francis’s YouTube channel just before New Year’s, and as of January 5, there hasn’t been an official denial yet. This could be symptomatic of an indirect confirmation.
The former driver was part of the panel of stewards who operated in Abu Dhabi in 2021, the team that was involved in the Martian horror of the failed split of all cars behind Max Verstappen and allowed it only for those that stood between Lewis Hamilton and the Dutchman. In a sport based on conspiracy theories, this affair is like fresh, blood-drenched meat offered to hungry lions.
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How does the connection between Derek Warwick and Honda, which, needless to say, powered Max Verstappen‘s Red Bull RB16B #33, unfold? The ex-driver, starting from the late 1980s, had opened a series of dealerships, with the flagship being the “Derek Warwick Honda” present in the Channel Islands, a kind of golden goose doing high-voltage business in an area where millionaires operating in the City of London pour their capital.
From this activity, one of the most lucrative in England in terms of car sales, a network was born that was completed with other dealerships throughout Great Britain. Derek, after years of work and excellent earnings, had sold the business—or at least that was the FIA’s and the teams’ belief. But it seems the former driver retained the franchise of the Jersey location, which could constitute a conflict of interest now wielded by those who feel aggrieved.
An inappropriate connection that undermines the impartiality principle of the judge. For now, the bubble has not burst, and no one inside the paddock, at least publicly, has made complaints. Journalistic reconstruction needs to be complemented by internal analyses that would be appropriate at this point. However, without fanfare and without stirring up muddy waters, feeding the hunger for gossip that emerges when the engines are silent.
Certainly, Formula 1, once and for all, should raise a barrier and impose more adamant verification procedures. That Warwick operated without conditioning in that controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix should not be questioned. But just to avoid crossed suspicions, it would be advisable for someone who has commercial ties with an engine manufacturer involved in the title fight to clarify their position. It would be appropriate for them to do so to protect themselves, their integrity, and motorsport in general.
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica