Max Mosley has claimed that the continuing success of Lewis Hamilton next season could have a “negative impact” on F1 by reproducing the “Schumacher effect”.
He has also threatened to ban McLaren from racing, or to start their season on a “negative points allocation” to compensate for any benefit the team may have gained from inside information on Ferrari’s 2007 car.
Mosley said that the British driver, who toppled rookies’ records right, left and centre in his first season racing, is “nothing very extraordinary” and stated that he was likely to have benefited from illicitly-obtained information about Ferrari’s car.
Speaking on the BBC’s HardTalk programme, he said: “If he does the same thing next season as he’s done this season, it will certainly have a big effect.
“It will start to be negative because we’ll get the Schumacher effect where people start writing to me saying can’t you do something to slow him down.”
On the stupendous start Hamilton has made to his racing career, he said: “There is always somebody new. If it wasn’t him it would be either Rosberg or Kubica or one of the other new stars, a Vettel, would suddenly be the big one.
“So I think there is a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Lewis Hamilton.”
Suggesting that Hamilton could have benefited from cheating in his race for this year’s championship, he added: “He’s not a known quantity to me.
“It would be surprising if he didn’t know something of what was going on, but I’ve got absolutely no evidence that he had. On that basis it would be wrong of me to suggest that he had.”
Both Anthony Hamilton and McLaren were offered the opportunity to respond to Mosley’s comments. Hamilton senior declined, saying that people would make up their own minds about the justice of the remarks.
The team said it would review the entire content of the Mosley interview before responding and has, perhaps unsurprisingly given the legal implications of the FIA president’s remarks, made no public comment since.
During the interview Mosley publicly promised McLaren that it can expect further fallout from the Mike Coughlan affair.
As a result of having their entire stock of constructors’ points docked, one of the most well-funded outfits in F1 is already facing having to adapt to life at the rough end of the pit lane.
And now, it seems, they will be working under the continued scrutiny of the FIA, as well as in cramped conditions, and facing the possibility of starting 2008 with a negative points tally.
Mosley said: “We will be looking for the [Ferrari] ideas. The investigation will be thorough, it will use outside experts and we will do everything we possibly can to make sure that either of the McLarens has no element of Ferrari intellectual property in it or if it does we will then have to consider taking some sort of action.
“That would not necessarily be preventing them from running. It would be more likely that they would be given a negative point allocation.
“Finding something will not be easy. On the other hand, there are sources we are going to deploy who will give us as good a chance as its possible to have to find it.”
Mosley’s comments have provoked a storm of criticism in the motor racing press.
While commentators have found it easy to understand why he continues to prosecute old grudges against figures like Ron Dennis and Jackie Stewart (who he publicly described in September as “a certified half-wit”), his hostility to Hamilton has been met with incomprehension.
Kevin Garside, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said: “Why he would want to bring down Hamilton, who is almost single-handedly responsible for the return to F1 of the casual observer, is a mystery.
“One can understand Hamilton being unpopular in Italy and Spain. The citizens of both countries have an emotional attachment to Hamilton’s rivals. Mosley has none. His position does not permit bias.”
The Daily Express expressed itself pithily with the simple phrase “mad rant”.
Kevin Eason in The Times suggested that “Mosley’s faint praise for the biggest new star in British sport may find few supporters and could be viewed as part of a campaign against McLaren.”
No, d’you think?