It is right to fine Turkey for its Cyprus stunt, but is it fair for Turkish motorsport to shoulder the burden?
The governing body of Formula One, FIA, fined Turkey $5 million this afternoon for using the president of a country that doesn’t exist to present a trophy to the winner of this year’s Turkish Grand Prix. TOSFED, the Turkish Motorsport Federation, will be footing the fine; it is a fine they deserve, and they should be grateful the race itself wasn’t pulled completely from the F1 calendar.
TOSFED have yet to react to the ruling, although their website does contain a feeble explanation about why President Talat was used to present the award in the first place. “When a country’s president or prime minister, or the FIA president, are unavailable, the host country invites either a figure who represents them or an individual of international stature. In line with these conditions, our organisers MSO invited Mehmet Ali Talat.”
Some might call that a fair argument. But it doesn’t quite check in with the words of Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, chairman of a major MSO shareholder, who unashamedly said, “if we are fined, we’ll pay it. The promotion of (North) Cyprus is far more important for us.”
Many people in Turkey, of course, think five million dollars is worth paying for a victory over the Greek Cypriots. But a sizeable contingent is not waving the flag of nationalism. The government, for one, has stood well away – when asked for his response to Mr Hiscıklıoğlu’s words, state minister Mehmet Ali Şahin refused to comment.
There is also anger among members of the Istanbul Chamber of Trade, another major MSO shareholder. Writing on the NTVMSNBC website, Kerim Suner said, “I think the fine should be paid by those who came up with the idea. I pay my membership fee to the chamber every year. I am against my fees being used to pay off this fine.”
Turkey has escaped with minimum damage from a diplomatic stunt they knew was provocative. I still have to ask – was it all worth it?