Eddie Irvine has waded into the Renault/'Singapore-gate' controversy in his typical irreverent, insouciant manner – suggesting that Formula 1 should be a war in which everyone does 'anything to win' with 'nothing beyond the realms of decency', and lamenting its modern-day transformation into a state of 'boring' political correctness.
Renault is due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) on Monday (21 September) to answer accusations of having ordered its driver Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of last year's inaugural night race in the Far Eastern city-state, thereby enabling team-mate Fernando Alonso to go on to triumph – and quite possibly securing the Régie's
short-term future at the highest level.
The potential recourses of action available to the WMSC should the Enstone-based outfit outfit indeed be found guilty as charged – and it has signalled that it does not intend to contest the claims – extend as far as outright expulsion from competition, with the most serious aspect of the case being that in agreeing to shunt his car into the Marina Bay street circuit's unforgiving concrete wall, Piquet was endangering not only his own life but also those of nearby marshals and spectators. Irvine, however, argues that the entire situation has been exaggerated out of all proportion.
“I think the chances of someone being killed were very, very slim,” the ever-outspoken Irishman stressed, speaking to the BBC
. “I think that's all been blown up. It was a reasonably slow corner; it was no big deal of an accident to be honest. When you plan to crash you can crash pretty much any way you want, so the idea that it's the most amazing piece of cheating in professional sport – which I've read – I think is totally out of order.
“Formula 1 has always been a war, and in a war all's fair. When I was in various teams you'd do anything to win – you'd push people off, you'd do whatever you could do to win the race. This probably is slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing, but if you look back to all the days gone past in Formula 1, every team has done everything they could – bend the rules, break the rules, do whatever they could, sabotage opponents. That's the way I see it.
“This new political correctness is just the FIA going on a crusade. It was totally normal back in the day. And if you think that McLaren got a $100 million fine because they had some paperwork of Ferrari's, what punishment is relevant here? It's a complete ban from motor racing to a certain extent, but I don't believe that's going to happen because Formula 1 cannot afford to lose more teams.
“The manufacturers are falling like ducks here, so to me it will probably be a massaged court where the fine or whatever it will be will be reduced [so as] not to scare Renault away. There are several teams out there that are looking pretty shaky, and they can't afford to give Renault the boot out of Formula 1. What they did to McLaren was completely over-the-top.”
Irvine spent nine years competing at the highest level – triumphing in four grands prix for Ferrari along the way and coming within barely a whisker of lifting the 1999 drivers' world championship crown with the Scuderia
– and he is quick to bemoan the way in which he believes F1 has morphed over the years from an almost gladiatorial combat to more of a business than a sport, and one bedevilled by political correctness at that. Though some things remain the same as they were in his era, the 43-year-old contends, others are now very, very different.
“It's got to the stage where if you just look at all these new tracks that are coming up, they're all so beautifully-made and the run-off areas are so big and the grass is not grass, it's painted tarmac,” he mused, “[but] there's no excitement. Formula 1 has always been a spectacle and it is
a car race and there are two cars driving for the same team, but it's not fair because if the second guy is half a second behind his team-mate and it rains, he is at a huge disadvantage. There are just intrinsic disadvantages and scenarios in Formula 1 that do not make it a sport.
“If you look back in the day, when Damon Hill won the championship he only had to beat his team-mate – there was no-one else to beat. [Nigel] Mansell was the same – he only had to beat his team-mate; he didn't have a team-mate to be honest for most of the year. You've got two drivers driving for the same team; the idea is to make one of those drivers get the best result possible, and when I was racing we pretty much did everything we could do to make one guy win the race.
“The greats of motor racing like Colin Chapman and Enzo Ferrari, they would do anything to win; nothing was beyond the realms of decency, and that's what Formula 1 always was. Formula 1 is not a pure sport; it's gladiatorial more than anything else, and I believe that's the way it should be – not this politically correct thing where the cars go round and round like in Scalextric and the fastest car wins. In the last few years there's been this huge thing to make Formula 1 politically correct and wonderful and beautifully-packaged for manufacturers – but there's actually no point in watching because it's so boring.”