Turkish organisers fined for podium ceremony

The organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix and the National Sporting Authority of Turkey (TOSFED) have been fined $5 million after the World Motor Sport Council found against them in a hearing on September 19th. They were charged with breaching FIA statutes and sporting regulations during the podium ceremony at the Turkish GP.

Istanbul Otodrom paddock.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Mehmet Ali Talat, who presented the winner's trophy to Ferrari's Felipe Massa, was described on television as "President of the Northern Turkish Republic of Cyprus". However, the Greek-Cypriot south is the internationally recognised government and only Turkey recognises the north. The FIA was concerned that its political neutrality had been compromised.

Apparently TOSFED said it had not broken any rules as it claimed Talat is "a dignitary of international status". In the sporting regulations it states that the winner's trophy be presented by such a person if the head of state of the host country or the President of the FIA is not available. Despite finding against the organisers and TOSFED, the Council accepted that their actions were not premeditated.

"To be honest, I did not expect a fine that high," Turkish sports' minister Mehmet Ali Sahin told CNN. "Presumably the FIA did not think that our defence was adequate. What is important for me is that the Formula One race will be held in Turkey next year. There was some expectation that it could be taken off the calendar."

The fine is reportedly the biggest ever awarded in motor sport history but as it was thought possible that Turkey could lose its race, the organisers seem to have got off lightly. The purpose-built Istanbul Park circuit, which made its F1 debut last year, is popular with drivers and fans alike and they will be happy to see it stay on the calendar.

The FIA takes a very dim view of its podium ceremonies being disrupted. In 2002 Ferrari was fined $1 million after Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher muddled about on the steps after the Austrian debacle and Jerez has been barred from holding a race since 1997 when the mayor made an unscheduled appearance on the podium to present trophies.