Gary Hartstein used to be the the on-track F1 lead phsyician. He took over the role after the retirement of the late Professor Sydney Watkins, and held it until he was suddenly fired by the FIA.
Hartstein works at a hospital in Liege, Belgium, and writes a blog where he opines on matters of medical and motor racing interest. He commented earlier this year on the challenges facing Michael Schumacher. More recently he has commented on the aftermath of the tragic incident that injured Jules Bianchi.
More recently, something part laughable, part-sinister occured in Hartstein’s world, when Gerard Saillant of the FIA visited his employer in Liege, making all manner of claims about Hartstein’s blogging activity, and asking them to either prevent him from blogging or fire him.
Everything in Hartstein’s account of the incident suggests that the FIA is behaving like a collection of thin-skinned, censorious bullies. Not only that, but their actions in attempting to induce Hartstein’s employer to order him to cease blogging or to fire him leave them vulnerable to civil legal action.
I have seen similar attempts here in the USA by practitioners and sellers of pseudo-medical woo to silence critics. This long blog posting from Dr David Gorski shows how one of this critics started emailing his place of work complaining about him, after Gorski skewered his shrill and threatening emails sent to him personally.
If Gary Hartstein decides to take legal action against Gerard Saillant, he and the FIA are going to be in a very difficult position. By including an email purporting to come from Corinna Schumacher in the “evidence”, they have ensured that if legal action occurs, she will be a person of interest to the court. She may even be asked to testify, and if she is cross-examined, she may find herself answering questions about Michael Schumacher’s condition. I cannot imagine her being willing to subject herself to that kind of process. If she does not stand behind the email, then things will not go well for Saillant. He will be the #1 defendant, subject to cross-examination about who paid for his trip. If it was paid for by the FIA, it automatically makes the FIA a defendant in any legal action, and that risks dragging Saillant’s boss Jean Todt into the case also, especially if he authorized the effort to muzzle Hartstein.
I cannot see how this will turn out well for Gerard Saillant or the FIA. IMHO Saillant’s FIA career just ended. If Hartstein takes legal action, the FIA will most likely have to claim that he was freelancing and get rid of him. To do anything less will most likely drag them into court as the other defendants to a lawsuit that they will find very difficult to defend.