There are times when the truth is far, far stranger than fiction.
If anyone had tried to suggest, for example, that the FIA president Max Mosley was prone to the kind of alarming sexual activities recently uncovered by the News of the World by means of a hidden camera, they would have been accused of wildly overheated imaginings.
Anyone wanting the gory details can visit the newspaper’s website – be warned, this is not a particularly work-safe link.
There were originally a series of pictures plus video on the site so, although Mosley is reportedly consulting his lawyers, we can probably assume that the story is pretty much watertight.
The video is, at time of writing, out there in the wild on YouTube – so, if you want to go and look for it, good luck. It’s not on our list of pre-lunch viewing.
Our first thought was that, in the light of what Max is evidently capable of when in a mood to hand out punishment, suddenly a £50 million fine looks a lot more palatable. The whole tale must have brought sweat to the brows of senior folk at McLaren.
However, cheap jokes aside, the substantive issue is what will happen about the future of Formula One administration once he has found some way of standing down with a few tiny scraps of dignity intact.
After the story broke on Sunday the FIA initially refused to comment on the issue while Bernie Ecclestone stood by his old friend.
According to the Daily Mail, he said: “I’ve known him an awful long time. If somebody had told me this without the evidence I would have found it difficult to believe.
“Assuming it’s all true, what people do privately is up to them. I don’t honestly believe it affects the sport in any way.
“Knowing Max it might be all a bit of a joke. You know, it’s one of those things where he’s sort of taking the piss, rather than anything against Jewish people.”
But by the time he got round to speaking to The Times today, his position had toughened up a bit. He said that he did not feel it would be appropriate for Mosley to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
“He shouldn’t go, should he? The problem is he would take all the ink away from the race and put it on something which, honestly and truly, is nobody else’s business anyway.”
Asked how the Bahraini Royal Family might react to Mr Mosley’s presence, Mr Ecclestone reportedly said: “They wouldn’t like it.”
Daily Telegraph F1 correspondent Kevin Garside has written a ridiculous piece claiming that what Mosley does in private is his own affair. That is certainly true – to a point.
But Mr Garside (or, more likely, his employer) needs a large-scale reality check. Mosley has overstepped that point to such a degree that his judgment, his moral authority and his perceived fitness to hold any public office have been completely destroyed.
Who will ever be able to take him seriously again when it comes to disciplining wayward teams?
And this scandal comes on top of a number of ill-advised moves last year, including comments about Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis and Sir Jackie Stewart and questionable behaviour during ‘Spygate’.
Mosley was becoming embarrassing then and it is hard to construct a serious argument that it would be in the FIA’s interests to do anything other than bring forward his planned retirement from 2009 to right now.
However, according to BBC Sport, there is an interesting question as to exactly how Mosley might be dislodged if he chooses to stay put.
It says the FIA chief, like Ron Dennis at McLaren, answers to hardly anyone else: “Mosley, who is not an employee of the FIA and whose role is unpaid, has been a prominent figure in European politics pushing through a series of road-safety measures, and many of the world’s leading car manufacturers are involved in F1.
“But F1 teams have no direct influence on Mosley’s position – he is elected by the FIA membership of national automobile clubs and motorsport bodies and his latest four-year term does not expire until October 2009.
“The body that can bring direct pressure on to Mosley is the FIA senate, which is made up of senior representatives of the national automobile and sporting clubs. Below that are two FIA world councils, one representing the automotive industry, and one from the sporting side.
“BBC 5 Live motor racing commentator David Croft said he understood the World Council had given Mosley its full backing and members had offered their personal support.”
So, what does the future hold? Well, Keith Collantine at F1 Fanatic says he had his mind on the subject anyway, given that Mosley’s retirement was looming up.
He has brought forward his piece on possible replacements for Mosley – and he’s touting Jean Todt and David Richards among others. And other names being floated around the blogosphere include Flavio Briatore.
Whatever happens, it appears that the main topic of conversation in the paddock this weekend is not likely to be the racing.
And, as we said at the end of last season, that was the last thing we wanted to see this year. Shades of ho hum, here we go again…