Turkey escapes with $5mln fine

PARIS (Combined reports) – Turkish Grand Prix organizers were fined a record $5 million by Formula One racing’s governing body yesterday for letting the Turkish-Cypriot leader present the winner’s prize at last month’s race. Turkey, however, escaped the possible sanction of losing the race for next season. FIA’s World Motor Sports Council levied the fine on the National Automobile Sporting Authority of Turkey and the MSO (Motor Sports & Organization Corp), organizers of the August 27 race in Istanbul. The fine eclipses the $1 million imposed on Ferrari in 2002 after Rubens Barrichello pulled over on the final straightaway to let teammate Michael Schumacher win the Austrian Grand Prix. FIA acted against Turkey after Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat handed the winner’s prize to Ferrari driver Felipe Massa on the podium. Talat was introduced as the president of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state – which only Turkey recognizes – in the north of the war-divided island. FIA said the act may have compromised its political neutrality. Turkish organizers acknowledged they had bent the FIA rules on the podium ceremony, but expressed no regret. Cyprus has been divided into a Greek-Cypriot south, representing the island’s internationally recognized government, and a Turkish-Cypriot north since a Turkish invasion in 1974 that followed a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece. Ilhan Parseker, a member of the Turkish delegation at the Paris meeting, expressed satisfaction that FIFA did not pull the race from next year’s schedule. «The important thing for us is that races at Istanbul park continue without interruption,» Parseker told state-run Anatolia news agency. «We greet the monetary penalty with respect.» Turkish State Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, the minister in charge of sports, said the fine was excessive and insisted Talat’s appearance was within the rules. «Mr Talat gave the prize as a world-known person, not as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,» he told NTV television. «It’s pleasing to be saved with a monetary fine. So much money was spent (for the track); so much effort was made. But still I found the penalty very heavy. It shouldn’t have been this heavy,» he added. Takis Kyriakides, Cyprus’s representative at FIA, said the financial penalty was not enough. «Of course, it’s a large sum but I would have expected something more than a fine,» Kyriakides said on state radio. (AP, AFP)