Streiff’s comments on Bianchi crash investigation prompts legal action from FIA

2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Former Formula One driver Philippe Streiff is facing the threat of legal action from the FIA for his comments on the governing body’s investigation into Jules Bianchi’s crash.

Streiff, who was paralysed following a crash in an F1 car in 1989, criticised the findings of the FIA’s Accident Panel, which published a summary of its report last month.

It found that Bianchi did not slow sufficiently as he was passing Adrian Sutil’s crash scene despite the presence of double waved yellow flags, but also made a number of recommendation to reduce the risk of a similar accident happening again.

Bianchi has been in hospital since the crash during the Japanese Grand Prix in October.

In a statement issued on Thursday the FIA said “President Jean Todt, as well as Gerard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission, are dismayed to learn of the remarks made about them by Philippe Streiff in his recent comments on the state of Jules Bianchi’s health”.

“These remarks having been published by certain media, the FIA, Jean Todt and Gerard Saillant categorically state that Philippe Streiff’s insulting and defamatory comments are utterly unfounded and demonstrate malicious intent.”

The FIA has vowed to bring legal action against Streiff. “In view of the seriousness of this deliberate attack on their reputations, they have had to ask their lawyers to lodge a complaint for public defamation and insult so that the circulation of Philippe Streiff’s statements is stopped immediately and sanctioned in an appropriate manner,” said the statement.

“They find it regrettable that this incident only serves to add to the suffering of Jules Bianchi’s family, for whom they would like to reiterate their support.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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67 comments on “Streiff’s comments on Bianchi crash investigation prompts legal action from FIA”

  1. I don’t know what he said, I don’t want to know what he said, but if it’s bad enough to warrant legal action then I hope it goes away.

    1. I don’t think we should be stifeling free speech even if it is wrong, obviously an ex driver paralysed from a crash will likely be a little bitter, but an open refutation of his comment would be far more useful than a threat to financially ruin him with legal fees.

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        22nd January 2015, 20:54

        @hohum – agree.
        Free speech is not always comfortable, but readers (on sites like this) seem to be able to analyse/weigh/discuss the various views and proof offered.

      2. @hohum I understand we should uphold free speech but malicious words can do irreversible damage. I believe he accused them of criminal negligence which is a serious charge in anyone’s book, and people have been thrown in the slammer for such an offence. I think he is bitter over his accident and made some ill-advised comments but still people should be more responsible about what they say in such sensitive matters.

        1. I understand your point of view, however this reeks of overkill, the FIA have far greater access to the media than P. Streiff has or ever will unless the FIA elevate him to martyr status with their heavy handed attack.

        2. As an ex-F1 driver crippled by his sport, Strieff has as much right as anyone to make critical comment on events following a serious F1 accident. The hysterical reaction of senior FIA officials can only be seen as fairly damning evidence that Strieff has touched a very reactive nerve.
          In spite of the brilliance and superb systems at most F1 circuits, there were and still are some frighteningly inadequate/ incompetent set-ups at some events. That is the reality of the situation. No organisation is perfect and the FIA is very far from reaching that level. Gagging serious critique, no matter how painful, is a major error.

    2. I think FIA are trying to cover themselves, but in the process making things worse… for themselves. I’m just going to park this LINK here:

      Want a notable quote?

      We were told at the Sochi press conference that the evacuation took 40 minutes. Twice the 20 minute upper boundary that THE FORMULA ONE MEDICAL DELEGATE HIMSELF had written into the regs.

      1. And this:
        “Why did Dr. Saillant not address the question of EXACTLY when the Medical Delegate (his personal appointee) knew that the helicopter could not land at the receiving hospital? Under difficult circumstances this often requires near real time communication with the helicopter crew. The delegate is up in race control with nothing else to do during the race. That’s why he’s there. Why was racing not stopped? This is far from a trivial issue, and is all the more dramatic that the FIA’s own regulations would appear to have been ignored by their author, the Medical Delegate.

        This is a potentially grievous error, and it is all the more shocking that the question is not even addressed. And unfortunately this is precisely the kind of result one would expect with a panel studded with insiders.”


    3. I think I will rate this public statement how they feel insulted by Streiff, and want to sue him, in the same bracket as Saillant travelling to Liege to get G. Hartstein fired from his job for critique of their operating.

      Really embarresing that the FIA acts this way, and to me its much the same as my son getting angry when found out at something he did wrong

    4. Man, what was I smoking when I typed this. This isn’t what I meant at all. I was supposed to say:

      “I don’t know what he said, I don’t want to know what he said, but is it bad enough to warrant legal action… I hope this all goes away.” When I say hope this all goes away, I mean the FIA legal action. People can say what they want, regardless of how bad it may be. But with that they should always be prepared for repercussion from it.

      Eh, I’m a bit mad.

  2. demonstrate malicious intent

    Seriously? The FIA went on overdrive on this one.

    Now people will look up what Streiff said, it’s just more publicity for him.

    1. @paeschli, there are some indications that Streiff went much further than just accusing Todt of fixing the result of the inquiry (which he claims was done to trick the FIA’s insurers into taking a softer line with them). He is also reported as having accused Todt and Saillant of stealing funds from the FIA Foundation and diverting it into his own pockets.

      I suspect that it is those personal accusations of embezzlement and insurance fraud, both on the part of Todt/Saillant and the FIA, that are being referred to when they cite “malicious intent”, given that those accusations are quite serious.

    2. ColdFly F1 (@)
      22nd January 2015, 20:41

      Now people will look up what Streiff said, it’s just more publicity for him.

      streisand effect.

  3. Forgive my lack of memory or my ignorance…but please let me know what Streiff’s comments were!

    1. Essentially that the accident investigation panel was composed of Todt’s lackeys put together to exonerate the FIA.

      1. Thanks for that @Sharon H. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that one out…the FIA clearly seems to ignore that possibility that there could have been marshals killed by Bianchi’s Marussia missile…we could have been mourning the loss of lives too had the car’s trajectory changed…somehow it ended at the back of the tractor and not at the marshals who were standing around it at the time.

      2. So… basically what everyone else said? I didn’t think that this was even a controversial view anymore, let alone something worth litigation.

    2. @PT The interview was performed by François Michalon for his website The “Radio Free” that we see in the English press refers to , where we can see the name François Michalon. The video has apparently (and not surprisingly) been taken down from and from Motiviation Premeire’s vimeo sport channel, .

      The best transcript of the offending remarks from that interview that I’ve found was located at but that has been taken down as well.

      The best English translation that I’ve found was posted on The Judge 13 site…

  4. Jean Todt and Gerard Saillant

    Are they the same Jean Todt and Gerard Saillant who tried to get formerf1doc fired by creating a fake e-mail?

    1. Allegedly…

      They do seem a bit litigation-happy at the moment and bringing Bianchi’s family into it seems a bit unnecessary.

      1. same kind of thing when people say “do it for the children”. It’s an attempt to make Streiff look bad for being so incensitive. When in reality, I don’t think the Bianchi family has any love for Todt or the FIA, especially after they washed their hands of the affair and made it completely about Jule’s instead of the fact that he hit a crane, and that’s the only reason hes still in the hospital.

    2. I have absolutly no love for my fellow countrymen Todt & Saillant. The way they act is disgusting (e.g. Gary Harstein).
      We have a compatriot in hospital who was under FIA responsability when he had the accident, and all they gotta do is charging another divergent countryman, who too suffered from FIA’s lack of safety 25 years ago, already.

      I think about Jules almost everyday, the man always been a cream, always been sympathetic, a real gentleman on and off the track.

      They – Todt, Saillant, Streiff – should just shut up, and help Bianchi’s family the best they could. Nothing more really.

      Stay strong Jules!

    3. Damn … Just found out about the “formerF1doc” affair thanks to your post …
      That’s just crazy ! I was worried that investigation had not been made with as much transparency and thourougness as required, but seeing how they react to critics would almost tend to suggest they have something to hide and are not as clean as they claim to be :|
      I’m French so I can read what Streiff actually said (or what the medias published about it at least), and even if it’s not the most intelligent thing to say, it’s not as offensive as the FIA claims ; basically he just said that the report has “been written by a bunch of friends” to “help the FIA escape insurance penalties” … Then he addresses Jules’s family and asks them to take revenge on the FIA to “get Todt fired” …
      FYI French laws regarding freedom of speech are not as liberal as what US people are used to (not sure about UK laws), and AFAIK you can be found guilty of defamation even if what you said is true, as long as it was said in a clear intent to ruin someone’s reputation … So what Streiff said could definitively fall under that, but that’s quite a ridiculous action by the FIA really :/ And seeing how they tried to have formerF1doc fired when he basically said the same as Streiff in a much more elaborate and constructive way tend to make me think they just don’t want any kind of criticism at all …

  5. Would be useful to know what the comments were, but regardless, I know (of) several people who have made public negative comments. Are they all getting legal action against them too? This sounds ridiculous.

    1. According to one site

      Shame on Jean Todt, who ordered and organised at the last World Motor Sport Council in Doha, Qatar, the report about the accident of Jules Bianchi. It was a document prepared by a group of ten friends, including Professor Gerard Saillant, to clear the errors of the FIA

      I cannot find anything on his website or twitter about him saying anything though.

    2. According to Autosport the comments were made during a French radio interview, hence not being particularly well documented.

      Streiff, who is confined to a wheelchair as the result of an F1 testing accident in Brazil in 1989, has been widely quoted in French media as suggesting the panel that looked into Bianchi’s Japanese Grand Prix accident was put together simply to exonerate the FIA of any blame for what happened.

      1. I’d still like to know exactly what some of these people believe the FIA did wrong as I can’t find anything.

        As to the investigation panel, To believe it was some sort of cover up you woudl have to believe that someone like Ross Brawn, Peter Wright, Stefano Domenicali, Emerson Fittipaldi & Alex Wurz would go along with it & I just don’t see it.

        1. It’s not necessarily a cover-up, but having the report written by people who make their money from F1 and have a vested interest in keeping F1’s image intact isn’t exactly the most trustworthy thing to do, especially given the general intransparent nature of the FIA.

  6. “They find it regrettable that this incident only serves to add to the suffering of Jules Bianchi’s family, for whom they would like to reiterate their support.”

    If anything will add to the suffering of Bianchi’s family, it’s the organising body taking legal action in light of Bianchi’s accident against someone not directly involved in the accident.

    1. The same body claims that Jules contributed to the accident as well. So much about the respect. I would be quiet about that part even if it was true. Just for the sake of respect.
      I hope Phill can hire good lawyers to prove his case. It’s a very slippery ground and anyone could fall this time.

      1. I would be quiet about that part even if it was true.

        I completely disagree with that. A driver has been hurt in an accident, and the FIA rightly started investigating the accident to figure out why the driver was hurt and what measures can be taken to prevent it from happening in the future. If the FIA would keep quiet simply because they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, the FIA will find itself under enormous pressure, because the drivers, the teams, the circuits and frankly the entire F1 community demand answers. And if the report just stated “he spun off”, people will criticise the committee for not doing being thorough enough. And then what? The FIA just admit that they have found a reason, but they can’t tell? Seriously, withholding the information is waaay more damaging than just being open and honest about it.

        1. i wonder if people from the world of F1 (teams, commentators…) would actually say that either Bianchi or FIA/race organisers or both made the mistake. they were all sad and were reminded that this sport is dangerous but i cannot remember anyone really trying to explain what went wrong and how it could be stopped, not even Lauda. i wonder if this type of comments will appear any time soon. Does anyone remember if in other mechanical sports in recent years people have expressed their opinions about tragic events like this?

  7. Oh, just great. Because we needed more drama over this.

    Also, good job FIA. I’m pretty sure only a handful of people ever heard what Streiff said. Now you can rest assured everyone will know.

    Besides, isn’t he right? Oh wait, am I getting sued too?

    1. Indeed. I hadn’t heard of it until all the hoo-ha started.

  8. Two words: Streisand Effect.

    OK, maybe not literally, but by pursuing legal action, the FIA has pretty much guaranteed the whole world will hear what Streiff had to say.

    1. Nice to hear about a term (S.E.) coined on one of my favorite sites (Techdirt) referred to on another favorite (here).

  9. Legal action over a criticism. What ever happened to free speech and the right to criticise?

    1. In countries that have it, “freedom of speech” is a protection given to you to stop a Government limiting what you say, not a private party. For example there is no freedom of speech protection on this website.

      In the UK freedom of speech is granted “within the law”. That means you cannnot slander/libel. I presume most other developed countries are the same.

      1. There are indeed libel laws in most jurisdictions, but the UK’s libel laws are particularly litigant-friendly, to the point where US courts won’t enforce the collection of a libel judgment from the UK. The US operates off of a much stricter standard of what constitutes libel (there’s a different standard for public and private figures, and to libel a public figure like Todt, you not only have to say something false but to do so “maliciously” or “recklessly”.)

        Also, yes, suing someone who was paralyzed in a crash in your sport for saying something about how you investigated a fatal crash in your sport would be a complete non-starter. You gonna put him on the stand in front of a jury? Really? Not to mention the potential for discovery (after all, if you’re suing about this, obviously every e-mail regarding the crash is relevant, right?)

        And on top of that, yeah, Streisand Effect.

    2. “Freedom of Speech” does not give “Freedom from responsibility”. It means the government can’t stop you from talking– but it doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility for what you’re saying. Criticism is one thing– accusing a major international organization of criminal behavior is something else.

      1. Calling the FIA a “major international organization” is an affront to common sense. At best they are a mid-sized European sporting organisation doing everything they can to become a major international one.

        I have never liked Jean Todt and more and more he looks like he is positioning himself to become the next Seth Blatter.

        1. eeek sorry typo Sepp Blatter

  10. Am I right in saying that this is the same Philippe Streiff who came up with various stories about Michael Schumacher a few months back regarding his condition?

    Is this also the same FIA who tried to get Gary Hartstein into trouble as @andae23 pointed out in a comment above?

    I’m unsure who or what to believe with this until I have seen more from both sides.

    1. Indeed @craig-o, the one thing that is sure, is that Bianci nor his family needed this extra drama around what must be a very difficult time for them already.

      1. Just from a mostly uninformed position, it would appear Todt and co have “wrapped themselves in the flag” of Bianchi’s family. My instincts tell me to believe the formerF1doc and the paralysed driver. It wqas egregious to have:
        a. heavy lifting vehicles on the track in a run-off area without securing the race environment (red flag)
        b. the race continuing even though the medical helicopter was useles in the Tsunami conditions
        c. the race continuing in a Tsunami so close to sunset.

        Silly pointless waste of a talented young man.

  11. Well perhaps the report will get some much-needed scrutiny now. I thought it was a cover-up and indeed that the panel was composed of insiders who would be likely to protect their institution. And they didn’t release the report but just a summary, and that airily waved away the central issue of having cranes in runoffs while cars are circulating – presumably because that was a foreseeable risk.

    Not only foreseeable but foreseen, more than once over many years, by Martin Brundle and I daresay others.

    1. We’ll said, I have heard Brundle on many an occasion warning this exact type of accident was waiting to happen – it was unfortunately only a matter of time…

  12. @keithcollantine

    Is there any particular reason that his comments were not included here? Or have I missed something?

    1. @hobo Because I don’t speak French – at least nowhere near the level required to handle this sort of thing well.

      And even if these had been comments which were made in English, lawsuits are being drawn up and you don’t take that kind of thing lightly.

      1. @keithcollantine

        Fair enough. I don’t think reporting on it in the states, even on a blog which may or may not be considered part of the official media depending on what day it is and what judge you get, would lead to any repercussions. Generally reprinting what someone said as news is protected.

        But I get that you are in the UK, have different laws, and since this is your site, have a particular interest in keeping everything above board. Makes sense.

  13. It’s quite clear Bianchi didn’t slow down sufficiently, but the key question is why didn’t he slow down enough. Nothing I’ve seen explains this.

    Streiff criticised the FIA, but I’ve not seen the transcript so cannot comment on this

    1. Because that is the accepted norm – you don’t go loose 3 seconds becuase of waved yellows, your team etc. will crucify you….. I would think that it is the FIA’s fault that they allowed this to become the norm…

    2. @frasier Bianchi was only following the guidelines, as laid out at the types of driver meetings Alonso was talking about, when he said that the driver opinions don’t matter (the video about his last Ferrari race). Think Senna movie, 1989, but the same thing 25 years later. Charlie Whiting had said that something like a 0.5 second slowdown or ‘brief lift’ would suffice when passing yellows.

      PS. Talk about kicking a man once he is down. Streiff has first hand experience of how the FIA needs to make sure that F1 is reasonably safe. But it seems that Todt usually only takes action to make sure they don’t look bad at all times. FIA – one ‘F’ (up) away from being FIFA! Whose reputation has diminished more in recent times?!

      1. *and the 0.5 second might be just not a PB sector, I forget. But the Streiff case is at least out in the open – with Hartstein, it was attempted to be done ‘in secret’. Perhaps this is now why the law is being used – however, it also means everyone will hear about it..

      2. @fastiesty I asked my question because Bianchi was one of only three drivers who didn’t slow down. I looked closer at the time and came to this conclusion below

        …. check the lap times put out by Keith. Only Adrian Sutil, Jules Bianchi and Esteban Gutierriez failed to slow down when the rain became heavier. Sutil crashed whilst following Bianchi closely, as he had been for the previous 7 laps, Bianchi may or may not have realised this, seeing ahead in rain is difficult, behind is ten times worse. The facts show he never lifted his pace after Sutil crashed.

        Question – did his team tell him he wasn’t racing Sutil? If they didn’t was it because they believed it contravened the new team radio clampdown on giving advice about their drivers position in relation to a competitor? Jules crashed on the very next lap, he never saw that Sutil wasn’t there any more, it’s the only plausible explanation for why he was going that fast in a dangerous situation.

        The first opportunity Marussia would have had to tell Jules he no longer had Adrian right behind him was the next time he came past the pit wall. As he started the following lap they had only 20 seconds to decide whether telling him of Sutils absence broke the radio contact rules. Bianchi/Sutil was the only close “race” going on at the time.

        Did they tell him anything, I’ve not seen any comment about team radio at the time. Tellingly, team radio enforcement has disappeared from the FIAs top level ‘agenda’ this season.

        1. Drivers don’t look at their pit boards every lap, assuming it was visible in the conditions (low light and heavy rain).

          1. @sharoncom Marussia pit crew wouldn’t have known it was Sutil who went off until their car [Jules] went past alone, therefore no opportunity to show a pit board. They are then faced with a do we/don’t we decision as to whether to get on the radio to warn their driver that he isn’t defending from the Sauber any more. A third of a lap later Jules crashed.

  14. Oh wow. There’s literally no better way to characterise the FIA than this statement. Enough said

  15. Way overboard by Todt et al and their own petition is frivolous and vexatious. If Streiff has the wherewithal a counter-suit would shut the whole thing down. Others have spoken out about the FIA investigation as well. Why Streiff? Is it because he is French as well? Last time I checked we still (mostly) lived in a free world.

  16. There must be a page missing. Bianchi hit a crane that was on the circuit. No amount of tap-dancing by the FIA can make the crane disappear. Todt is embarassed for Bianchi’s family? Didn’t the report blame Bianchi??
    What a gong show.

  17. Great move by the FIA – Let’s sue a former f1 driver who is paralysed due to a crash in an F1 car. His statements were clearly heard by everyone, and has obviously got the sport’s management into great disrepute. I mean.. how can one former F1 crash victim comment on some of the poor safety standards of the FIA? Clearly Jules’ accident had nothing to do with safety in F1.

  18. I would like the FIA to spend less time suing people, although I have no idea what was said but more time figuring out whether there will be loop holes in the regulations next year that someone will take advantage of and tip the balance of the season. Personal opinion mind.

  19. We are still debating the wrong issue. I have sympathy for the Bianci family (my son was killed in an RTA by exactly the same injury) but the fact remains that Jules was driving to fast for the conditions. At most other tracks what happened would have been a normal “off” resulting a rueful shaking of his head.

    The blame for the outcome lies fairly and squarely with the FIA and the evil dwarf for allowing the race to be held on a circuit with sub-standard safety training in order to gain a financial advantage.

  20. Todt and Saillant are reminding me of Richard Nixon’s indignant comment, “I am not a crook!”. Where I previously would not have given great credence to Streiff’s comments, but now I have to seriously consider them.
    Another thing, the libel laws in many countries provide a club for the rich to use to beat up on anybody who isn’t rich. The behavior of Todt and Saillant here is unconscionable.

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