Truth, honesty, dishonesty. They are concepts that are as linked to life itself, as to racing and winning. They surface in the willingness to concede defeat and admit that the better man won. They make their presence felt on the rare corner of the racetrack when a driver realises that it was he who caused the accident. That the reason he isnâ€™t going home with the winnerâ€™s trophy, the reason that it isnâ€™t him thatâ€™s standing on the top step of the podium spraying champagne, isnâ€™t just circumstances â€“ itâ€™s him. And, it becomes apparent when one is faced with the choice. To admit what happened, not just to oneself, but to the world, and to suffer the consequences that follow. Or to try and cloak oneself in the safety and warmth of information withheld and lies told.
There isnâ€™t a race that goes by without these choices. There isnâ€™t a day in our lives that passes by without us having to face these decisions. And there isnâ€™t any running away from the black and white and grey. No running away from the choices either. Not for the men and women on racetracks and rally stages around the world. And certainly not for you and me.
There are two reasons for this sudden contemplation about life and truth. The first is that when one is pumped full of antibiotics, oneâ€™s neurons start firing in unpredictable order, and thoughts that otherwise donâ€™t occur, seem to come barrelling through with ease. The second, my childhood racing hero spent his 47th birthday on January 3, 2016, shrouded in a mist of â€˜improving conditionsâ€™ and â€˜please respect the privacy of the familyâ€™, and it made me think. Not only of Michael Schumacherâ€™s achievements as a racecar driver and a human being. But, because thereâ€™s no light without dark and no white without black, of the times that his honesty and integrity, and that of his team, were questioned.
Memories of traction control software on the Benetton B194 that was allegedly never used; a slow motion video of that swerve at Curva Dry Sac at Jerez where contact was made between Schumacherâ€™s Ferrari and Jacques Villeneuveâ€™s Williams; and that time when the Ferrari just simply ground to a halt at the Rascasse Corner at Monaco. To viewers around the world, and indeed to fellow competitors and to racing stewards, the matter seemed clear. But the admissions from the team and driver â€“ those were coloured in a very different light. Because, sometimes in the highly competitive world of motor racing, anything that interferes with winning, is politely shown the nearest exit.
The need to win, the hunger for victory, itâ€™s primal. Itâ€™s programmed deep within our DNA that we must hunt, we must chase, we must emerge from every situation the supreme survivor. Which, when you think about it, is really what racing is all about. When the lights go out, we realise that hunt has begun, and lap after lap we must chase, and then, just as the chequered flag is about to fall, we need to push a little extra to ensure that we come out ahead of everyone else. And in this mad quest for victory, sometimes the truth gets silenced. Sometimes our willingness to fight fair is overcome by our need for supremacy. And then things begin to unravel. Because nobody likes to lose. . .
. . .No, nobody likes to lose. Losing means letting go of a title, maybe losing a race seat, but most importantly, it means losing face. Admitting that youâ€™re not as good as the world thought you were. Admitting that youâ€™re not even as good as you thought you were. And this isnâ€™t easy to stomach. We all have within us this strife â€“ to win and lose with integrity, or to give in and take the easy way out. To play dirty. And to come out of it all with as few battle scars as possible. We decide which fork in the road to take. We justify it to ourselves, we justify it to the world, we say that people canâ€™t see it from our perspective, we hide in the shadows. But, just like there arenâ€™t varying degrees of right and wrong, there are no versions of the truth. Thereâ€™s just the truth. And it has a way of coming to the surface one way or another. Itâ€™s like those rubber lines that you put down on the racetrack when you tackle a corner. You can claim that you took a cleaner line, but your tracks will prove otherwise.
Which brings me to one of the fundamental truths of the universe. And itâ€™s come from life itself and from watching race after race after race. The realisation that everything and everybody is flawed. You can strive for perfection, but you will never be perfect. And the sooner we realise this, the sooner we will all be willing to fight fair. The more likely the chance that we wonâ€™t give into the fear of losing and the fear of losing face, and honesty will take over. Because we arenâ€™t the trophies on our shelves. We arenâ€™t the world championship titles we amass. We are, underneath it all, just the product of our thoughts.
So choose wisely. Try hard. Make mistakes. Fail. But tell the truth. And fight fair. Even if it isnâ€™t easy. Losing a few races along the way? Thatâ€™s just a part of life.