Podium storm could cost Turkey its F1 race

UPDATE #2 The Turkiye Otomobil Sporlari Federasyonu (TOSFED), the national sporting authority of Turkey, says that it did not break any FIA rules at the weekend when Mehmet Ali Talat was allowed to present the winning trophy to Felipe Massa, arguing that he fulfils the criteria in the FIA regulations. The criteria, as detailed in Appendix 3 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, are that the "the winning driver's award will be presented by the head of state or the prime minister of the host country or the FIA President. If such a person is not available, a comparable person within the host country, or a dignitary of international status should be invited. Should neither of these be available, the President of the ASN will be invited to present the winner's trophy".

The Turks are arguing that Talat qualifies for the job because he is "a dignitary of international status."

08/31/06 (GMM) The political storm surrounding a controversial podium ceremony at last Sunday's Turkish grand prix took a turn for the worse on Thursday, with the FIA summoning race officials to a special meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.

The hearing is to take place in Paris on September 19, a statement issued by the governing body said.

Turkey's national sporting authority, TOSFED, and organizers of the grand prix itself, are to 'hear charges that they have acted in breach of … FIA Statutes, the International Sporting Code and the 2006 Formula One Sporting Regulations', the FIA added.

The ultimate sanction would be exclusion from not only the 2007 grand prix calendar, but also from the FIA umbrella, meaning that the country's World Rally event is also in danger.

08/30/06 (GMM) A political storm involving the formula one podium and Cyprus could cost Turkey its grand prix.

It was reported on Tuesday that the FIA has launched an investigation into how and why the controversial and disputed leader of northern Cyprus came to present Felipe Massa with his trophy last Sunday.

The Istanbul event was listed on the governing body's provisional calendar for 2007 on Tuesday, but it is now widely reported that the incident – sparking official complaints from the Cyprus and Greek governments – could result in the World Motor Sport Council stripping Turkey not only of formula one, but also its FIA World Rally event.

''No compromise or violation of this (political) neutrality is acceptable,'' said the FIA's strongly-worded statement.

FIA spokesman Richard Woods added: ''We are taking it very seriously.''

Istanbul chamber of commerce leader Murat Yalcintas only worsened the matter by admitting that the choice of podium presenter on Sunday had been politically deliberate.

''The formula one race was a great opportunity,'' he told the Anatolia news agency, adding that organizers delayed giving the FIA details so as not to raise suspicion of the political motivation.

He added: ''Cyprus is our national cause.''

The spokesman for the Paris-based FIA refused to make further comment, but in 1997 the Jerez circuit was forever banned from staging another grand prix after a far less serious podium incident.

Uninvited, local mayor Pedro Pacheco gate-crashed the ceremony, with the result that FIA president Max Mosley told him personally that F1 would never return to race at the circuit in south-western Spain.

In 2002, Ferrari was fined $1m after Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello stood on the wrong podium steps at the A1-Ring in Austria.

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