IT WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE ANYBODY FORGETS THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THIS YEAR'S (1984) MONACO GP WAS STOPPED. PROST, SLOWING TO A CRAWL IN THE RAIN, ONLY JUST MANAGED TO WIN. SENNA AND BELLOF, REELING HIM IN RAPIDLY, WERE DENIED A CHANCE OF SUCCESS. STANDING ACCUSED: JACKY ICKX, 39 YEARS OLD, WITH 20 YEARS OF RACING AND A GLITTERING RECORD BEHIND HIM.
THE ACCUSATION: THAT HE WAS WEARING A NEW HAT, THAT OF CLERK OF THE COURSE AND THAT HE RESCUED PROST FROM IMMINENT DEFEAT.
FISA'S JEAN MARIE BALESTRE HAS ALREADY SUGGESTED THAT THE BELGIAN SET HIMSELF UP AS BOTH JUDGE AND JURY. THEY'RE NOW INSTRUCTING THEIR LAWYERS...
Yes that's true, I realise that. I think it's the first time in the history of Fl. It's also the first time that I have brought an action against anyone. I don't like court cases.
But unfortunately in view of the way things stand, I felt that I had to. There are some things in life that you can't let by.
You are suing for libel.
I don't know what exact terms my lawyers will be using. But Jean-Marie Balestre made some completely unacceptable statements concerning the Monaco Grand Prix, which are utterly unforgivable. In the heat of the moment, he often comes out with rash comments. However he insinuated several things about me, not once but several times. He repeated them in subsequent interviews, knowing exactly what ,he was doing.
Who exactly are you fighting, the man or the institution?
It's got nothing to do with the institution. Some person, be he president or not of the federation, made some statements which have put my honour in doubt. Of course, there's more of a stir because the man in question happens to be Jean Marie Balestre. I have been racing for 20 years now and my reputation has always remained intact. I will not tolerate anyone saying that my reasons were anything other than in the name of sport while I was doing my duty, which I freely chose to do.
Let's be frank. It has been suggested that you were favouring Porsche, for whom you race in Endurance, by stopping the Monaco Grand Prix just when Prost, driving a Porsche-powered McLaren, was about to be overtaken by Senna...
That is insinuating that I was obeying instructionsfrom one person in particular. It can be interpreted in anyone of several ways. I reckon that it was extremely bad taste for a FISA president to have said something like that at all. It was he who decided to change the Clerk of the Course at Monaco, and at the time he didn't see anything wrong with the idea that FISA should issue an official licence to me. That was before the race, he can't say now that it was a put-up job.
I informed Balestre by post that I was going to officiate at Monaco as soon as Yvan Leon, the FISA secretary, granted me the necessary licence. If he thought that I shouldn't be a driver, TV commentator and Clerk of the Course at the same time, he should have said so then. I'm going to court to defend myself. I regret havin'g to do this. It's normal that you come up against criticism in life. But there are limits to what you can do or say. For Balestre, it's just another court case. He must have a full-time lawyer working for him. I don't.
Do you have the impression that you are being used as a hostage in a conflict which doesn't really concern you, but rather FISA and the Monaco Automobile Club, or to put it more precisely, Messrs Balestre and Boeri?
Yes, I do to a certain extent. By accepting to be the Clerk of the Course, at Monaco, Jean-Marie Balestre concluded that I chose sides. I'm also in their sights now along with the AC Monaco. I can't believe how personal problems and quarrels can interfere so greatly with the most elementary problems to do with this sport.
It's rather strange all the same that you've managed to get this far. I always thought you were made of the 'right stuff' to be a FISA president one day. And that you enjoy preparing for it.
No, I'm an unpretentious kind of person. I don't want any position of power, I've always done my best to avoid problems.
Well, it's a bit late now. But what makes a racing driver, currently competing, decide to become a Clerk of the Course? Because you like having responsibility, or because you enjoy the honours?
Being a Clerk of the Course is part of the responsibilities which a driver can assume, better that anyone else because there are few people who really know what it means to drive an F 1 in the rain. If the ACM asks me again, and if I still have my licence, I would be pleased to repeat this experience.
As a responsible person, you must have known that showing the chequered flag and a red flag simultaneously had no significance as far as the rulebook is concerned...
First of all, red and black flags were displayed simultaneously at all flagging points around the circuit. That indicates that the drivers must return slowly to the pits. Insofar as I knew that the weather conditions would not improve that afternoon, I had no intention of re-starting the event. Now, the rules do not provide any form of signalling to the drivers to inform them that a race will not be re-started after a stoppage. I therefore judged it a suitable occasion to warn everybody that the race had been halted, by bringing out the chequered flag approximately half a minute after the red and black flags had been shown together. You can, of course, question the details of procedure, but in my opinion that's an insignificant point when the safety of the drivers is involved.
The FISA Yellow Book contains both General Prescriptions and particular rules for F 1 races. The F 1 Regulations stipulate that the Race Director alone must decide whether or not a race should be stopped.
Nevertheless, you should consult the stewards.
I don't believe that Mr Korsmit and Mr Frost, who are very good at their jobs, are particularly well placed to assess the problems which are posed by driving an F 1 car in the wet. In all other matters they are perfect. I sincerely believe that neither of them, nor even Mr Ongaro, would have overruled my decision by authorising a re-start. Driving a F 1 car in the rain is like driving through a storm on the motorway, without windscreen wipers, while closely following another car. The race had to be stopped. I would do exactly the same again.
Did you know that by stopping the race when you did, you deprived Senna of a remarkable victory?
That wasn't the problem. That sort of possibility has absolutely no effect on one's decision to stop a race. Whether it was Prost or Senna who came through to win was the least important of my worries. I have been accused of favouritism (towards Prost). Allow me to return the question: I have a clear impression that the press would have preferred it if Senna had won. If I had dropped the flag two laps later, with a win for Senna, everyone would have been delighted. It so happened that my decision was to Prost's advantage. That's the way it happened, sorry, I was not aware that it would turn out that way.
But Prost had been signalling to you for several laps that you should stop the race.
I didn't see his signals. Race Control looks out over the swimming pool, away from the pits. I believe that the signals he was making were to his own team, whose pits were just before the timekeeping booth. And even if I had seen these famous signals they would not have affected my decision. It has nothing to do with the matter. Talk about how hard the rain was falling, about the simultaneous showing of the red and chequered flags which isn't strictly permitted by the rules, or about the timing of the race being stopped.
That's OK. When you agree to act as Race Director you know that you're opening yourself to possible criticism. But the insinuations made by Jean-Marie Balestre are unacceptable.
Let's look at it another way. Rouen 1968, the French GP. It's raining. You're in your first full season of F1. You are closing rapidly, let's say, on Graham Hill, soon world champion, who's in the lead.
You're catching him at three seconds a lap, he's only a few yards ahead of you and, bingo, down comes the chequered flag. What would your reaction have been?
I would have been sick, it would have stuck in my throat. I am one of Senna's most avid admirers. It won't be long before he's one of the all-time F 1 greats. The same thing goes for Bellof, although it's not quite so obvious yet. But the question isn't to find out if my decision pleased Senna, Bellof or Prost. I had to let the race continue while it was realistic to do so. In these circumstances the danger was letting it go on one lap too long. On Sunday evening Senna could have murdered me. I saw him again on Monday morning, at the airport, and we had a talk.
He didn't agree with my decision, nor did Bellof. But I think that my decision was perfectly acceptable to the majority of the drivers.
Porsche's relations with FISA went through a difficult time last autumn. Just when things seem to be improving, here is Porsche's number one driver dragging the President of FISA through the law courts. It can't make Porsche particularly happy; Can it?
Don't get confused. The disagreement between Porsche and FISA is about the Group C regulations. I hope that a solution will be worked out. But I am not one of the parties involved. Porsche's business is one thing: the defence of my reputation is quite another. I don't believe that any pressure will be brought to bear on me, from any direction, to sort out these separate and unrelated problems. I am not a tool in the dealings between Porsche and FISA. Jean-Marie Balestre carries full responsibility for the legal case which is going ahead, because of the statements which he made at Monaco. He should have abstained from making his misguided remarks and it would come out infinitely better.