Motorsport: Stewart wades into McLaren scrutineer debate

LONDON - Triple world champion Jackie Stewart criticised Formula One's governing body for what he saw as meddling in McLaren's preparations for Sunday's title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Scot said he could not understand the logic of appointing a special scrutineer to ensure championship leader Lewis Hamilton received no advantage over Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso.

He also suggested the International Automobile Federation (FIA), led by Max Mosley, could do with a change at the top.

"This is not a police state," he said in an interview at a signing for his Autobiography Winning is Not Enough.

"Are we to be told by Big Brother how those people have to function?," he said.

"I don't think it is the governing body's job to interfere with private enterprise and how somebody runs their company. That is not correct."

Hamilton, the 22-year-old Briton who could become Formula One's first rookie champion as well as the youngest, leads double world champion Alonso by four points with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen a further three behind.

Alonso, whose relationship with the team has become increasingly cold, has accused McLaren of favouring Hamilton despite their repeated assurances that both men will get equal treatment.

The International Automobile Federation said last week that it was appointing a special scrutineer after the head of the Spanish federation expressed concern about the situation.

Stewart and FIA President Max Mosley have been engaged in a war of words since the Scot raised concerns about a 'witch hunt' in relation to the governing body's handling of a spying controversy involving McLaren and Ferrari.

McLaren were fined a record US$100 million ($132.25 million) and stripped of their points in the constructors' championship over that affair, handing the title to Ferrari.

"I think the governing body has to be very careful how it goes about its business...the manner in which many elements have been dealt with this year I don't think is appropriate," said Stewart.

"Whether it's people or organisations, big trees blow over. It only depends on the strength of the wind," he warned.

"You can't bulldoze everybody in a continuing and inappropriate fashion. I think the governing body do have to have a look at themselves.

"I think Max Mosley has probably done a very good job for some 16 years but maybe it's time for a change," he said."

Mosley, who labelled Stewart a "certified half-wit' at a lunch with British newspaper reporters last month, hit back in an email response to criticism by the Scot over the weekend.

"Jackie Stewart's latest comments are as misconceived as those he made prior to the McLaren World Council hearing in September," said the Briton.

"It is not the role of the FIA to court popularity by supporting one party or the other," added Mosley, referring to Hamilton's battle with Alonso.

"It is the role of the FIA to ensure that the rules of the sport are respected and that fairness is applied consistently for all competitors.

"The bandying of partisan and ill informed comments in the media may well result in increased book sales for his new autobiography but they can do little more than confirm my view that Jackie is in no position to provide useful observations upon issues of motor sport governance," said Mosley.

- REUTERS

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