- The Inside Line
Streiff and the joy of silenceKate Walker January 27, 2015
In the wake of the news that the FIA is taking legal action against former Formula One driver Philippe Streiff following defamatory remarks made in an interview with a French web TV station, some have criticised the Federation's response as heavy-handed.
The nature of Streiff's allegations are such that some form of action needed to be taken, for the implication in the Frenchman's remarks was that the Federation had deliberately manipulated the investigation into Jules Bianchi's Japanese Grand Prix accident in order to ensure it appeared blameless throughout.
But it is not just the seriousness of that accusation which must be responded to - Streiff must stop making public statements about the private medical conditions of anyone else, unless he is specifically asked to do so. That he doesn't understand this a priori is astounding.
It is worth remembering that Streiff has form when it comes to making public comments on the medical condition of others. In November 2014, after a round of unsolicited media comments about the prognosis of Michael Schumacher from Streiff, the seven-time world champion's manager Sabine Kehm told CNN correspondent Amanda Davies that "Philippe Streiff is neither a friend of Michael's nor has he ever visited him".
It was far from an isolated incident.
In late December, after the former racing driver again gave details of Michael Schumacher's alleged condition to the French media, citing FIA medical commission head Gerard Saillant and the Schumacher family as his sources, both parties denied ever having discussed the German's condition with Streiff.
"I can only wonder about these statements of Philippe Streiff," Kehm said at the time. "He certainly has no contact with Professor Saillant or with Corinna. Between Mr. Streiff and Michael, there has also never been a friendship."
Nor has Streiff been shy of commenting on Jules Bianchi's medical condition prior to the remarks he made which prompted Saillant and FIA president Jean Todt to lodge a legal complaint for public defamation and insult.
In November, Streiff gave an interview with French radio in which he predicted dire consequences for the young Frenchman should he come out of his coma, never thinking of the impact that hearing and reading such "news" - simply the opinion of a man without medical training - might have on Jules' family.
While the FIA's decision to take legal action may seem like heavy artillery to be applying to the situation - and it might be, had Streiff's allegations not included such defamatory accusations as manipulating the crash report to exonerate the Federation of all blame - it may be for the best.
Over the past year Streiff has repeatedly been told that his unsolicited comments regarding the medical conditions of others are not welcomed by the families of those currently unable to speak for themselves. For whatever reasons, he has not seen fit to comply with the wishes of the families, and has continued to do the rounds of the French media either not knowing - or not caring - about the hurt and distress he is causing.
If what it takes to keep medical matters private is a little legal intervention, so be it. Being famous and injured in no way means you have sacrificed your right to patient confidentiality.