Ex-F1 Doctor Claims FIA Tried To Have Him Fired Over Blog Posts

Illustration for article titled Ex-F1 Doctor Claims FIA Tried To Have Him Fired Over Blog Posts

Dr. Gary Hartstein's blog, A Former F1 Doc Writes, is an excellent resource for anyone interested in motorsports and medicine. Unfortunately, FIA Institute President Gérard Saillant alleged that these posts violated Hartstein's contract with his current day job at the University Hospital of Liège.


Full disclosure: we've syndicated Hartstein's posts here several times for their insight into what the terminology used in reports of larger medical incidents really means.


Saillant took over for Professor Sid Watkins after Watkins' retirement in 2011, working with Hartstein on the medical team that accompanies each Formula One race weekend. Saillant reportedly fired Hartstein via email when Hartstein was let go in 2012, leaving Hartstein quite angry with the whole situation.

Per Hartstein's post about this earlier, Saillant paid the dean of the medical faculty over the University of Liège a visit with a collection of blog posts and at least one email from Corinna Schumacher that Hartstein never received due to a typo in the email address. The reason for the visit was to see if Hartstein's blog violated his contract at work.

Hartstein as been working at the University Hospital of Liège for twenty-five years, even during his tenure as a FIA Medical Delegate for F1. This is the job that pays Hartstein's day-to-day bills, and Hartstein is livid (albeit unsurprised) that Saillant would do such a petty thing behind his back.

As a knowledgeable but outside voice, Saillant is clearly in the wrong about this, and Hartstein took him to task on his blog:

Let's just look at the facts, ok?

1) This blog makes no claim to represent the opinions of anyone other than myself. And while my bio may mention that I studied and work at the University Hospital of Liège, no other mention is made of this fact. All blog-related activity, then, is part of my personal life. Period.

2) Doctor-patient confidentiality is never violated, for two pretty good reasons. First of all, Michael is not and (other than the stuff that came up over 15 years of F1) never has been my patient. Second, I make perfectly clear that NONE of what I wrote in the days, weeks, and months following Michael's accident was based on anything other than conjecture and experience.

3) When opinions are expressed, they are clearly identified as such, and are never presented with an intent to harm. This intent is abundantly clear, and is even explained on numerous occasions.


For fans, Hartstein does a tremendous service by interpreting complicated medical news into terms that are understandable to the everyday person. While much of the media focuses on sensational headlines, Hartstein quickly cuts through the hyperbole and rumor to get down to the known facts that have been released and whether those are as worrying as the media would have you believe.

For the FIA not to understand the blog's importance to fans shows just how out of touch and off-base they are. While he references several of the patients he worked with in Formula One, he's always very tactful to stick to information that's been released to the media in his posts.


FIA President Jean Todt was also named in the open letter, as Hartstein implies that Saillant was working in some official capacity to shutter the blog.

The fact that none of these allegations were brought to Hartstein's attention before Saillant met with the dean is slimy and underhanded. According to Hartstein, they're legally questionable as well.


Hartstein has handed over the full dossier that Saillant collected on him to his attorney and ended his open letter with stern advice for the FIA:

Word to the wise?

Shut up, back off, and watch out.

The full text of Dr. Gary Hartstein's letter to Prof. Gérard Saillant and Jean Todt can be found on Hartstein's blog, and it's definitely worth a read to understand precisely what people mean when they accuse the FIA of working in secret, and not for the best interests of the sport they purport to represent.


Photo credit: Getty Images

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And so the soul of F1 reveals itself again: Powerful, rich men (and I do mean men — few women in F1), bent on a level of control that leaves all others fearful (at best) or shattered (at worst). Out-of-control egos serving agendas made up of 1/3 nationalism, 1/3 uninformed jerk, and 1/3 sheer corruption. A world where a $100 Million bribe is your defense, not the charge. Only in F1 would someone in power work this hard to get you fired from your current job (that has nothing to do with F1).

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Old Europe. And this is part of the reason why the very first Amendment to the US Constitution talks about Freedom of Speech. Because for those who came from the Old World, this was a new and startling concept. Truth to Power has never been Europe's strong suit.

When you look at F1, you're looking at hundreds of years of the worst kind of European power. Another thing, I'm sure contributed to the dust-up: Hartstein is an American, and appears to be a liberal as well. In other words, the double-enemy of the European Old Guard.

These are sad, mean, old men who run F1. Money is both everything and nothing to them: Having long ago acquired more than they can spend, there is always more to be had, and the satisfaction of attainment is replaced by seeing your self-manufactured opponents and enemies destroyed by your direct actions.