F1: Todt in Paris attack gaffe

2015-11-15 08:47
Romain Grosjean wears the French flag on his arm as a tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks. (AP)

Sao Paulo - Formula One will honour the victims of the Paris attacks on Sunday with drivers at the Brazilian Grand Prix wearing black armbands and taking part in a pre-planned minute's silence for road traffic victims.

The action, announced by the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) in a statement late Saturday, came after its president Frenchman Jean Todt had previously made extraordinary comments suggesting a dismissive attitude towards the terror attacks.

Speaking to French television station Canal+, Todt said: "Do you realise the number of people killed in road accidents is by far bigger than the number of people who died in Paris?"

He later told reporters that the FIA had "already planned to do something tomorrow at the occasion of the day of celebrations for road victims.

"Every day on our streets, 3,500 people die. Every day there are 30 times more people who die than in the Paris assassinations. We had decided (on) a minute of silence and of course we can't ignore what happened in Paris.

"We will thus have a moment of attention for what happened in Paris."

Todt's comments led to a prolonged discussion with Formula One's commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone about how best to show respect for the Paris victims.

Todt had insisted on holding a minute's silence to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, an event planned to precede a conference on road deaths in Brasilia later this week.

After their talks, the FIA issued a statement that said: "Because of the horrific terrorist attacks of 13 November in Paris, the ceremony to pay tribute to the casualties of road traffic accidents scheduled for the Brazilian Grand Prix, within the framework of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, has been modified.

"The drivers' parade lap will see all competitors wearing a black armband as a sign of mourning and tribute to the victims of the Paris tragedy and as a gesture of solidarity with their families and loved ones.

"In addition, a French flag decorated with a black ribbon will be carried on the truck used during the drivers' parade.

"Finally, a backdrop prepared for the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims will be displayed behind the drivers on the grid at 13h45 (local time) for a minute of silence as a tribute to those who have lost their lives, or have been injured, in road traffic accidents."

Romain Grosjean, the only French driver in Formula One, said he will be thinking of Paris during the minute's silence on Sunday.

"I think, unfortunately, there are crashes on the road -- people on the road -- and there are terrorist attacks," he told reporters.

"I think what happened yesterday is big because it can happen to everyone in the world and we don't want to see that...

"So yes, as a Frenchman, if there's a minute of silence it will be for the people who were in Paris and who have been attacked."

Grosjean wore a black armband incorporating his nation's flag on Saturday during the qualifying session for Sunday's race.

He added that the best tribute from him to the victims would be to put "the French flag on top of the podium" by winning Sunday's race.

"It's going to be hard, but let's do a race, think about what happened and hope that peace comes back quickly," said the Lotus driver.

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