Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Formula One: McLaren Found Not Guilty of Using Ferrari Documents

Formula One: McLaren Found Not Guilty of Using Ferrari Documents

The FIA World Motor Sport Council, in its hearing in Paris on the 26th July, has found McLaren guilty of possession of unauthorised Ferrari documents, but with no evidence that the team had made use of the information. The governing body elected not to punish McLaren for now.

The WMSC said, however, that it reserves the right to call McLaren back should it be found that McLaren had used the information, in which case they may be excluded from not only the 2007 championship but also the 2008 one.

"The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code," the verdict said.

"However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula One World Championship. We therefore impose no penalty.

"But if it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship but also the 2008 championship."

Luigi Macaluso, the Italian representative at the WMSC, told Gazzetta dello Sport after the hearing: "There was no proof, nothing more could be done."

McLaren boss Ron Dennis was also pleased with the verdict. "The punishment fits the crime," he was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.

Unrelated to the McLaren decision, the FIA also plans to hold a hearing for Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney and McLaren's suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan, to allow them to defend their behaviour in the spy affair.

"The WMSC will also invite Mr Stepney and Mr Coughlan to show reason why they should not be banned from international motor sport for a lengthy period and the WMSC has delegated authority to deal with this matter to the legal department of the FIA," the verdict added.

The result will please Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One supremo, who told The Times newspaper before the verdict was announced, "Please God, I hope nothing's gone wrong and it will all be a lot of nonsense. It would be better it didn't happen in the first place, and it would be obviously beneficial if it was cleared up and everybody was sort of happy. There's been so much talked about this spying nonsense, it's even taking away from what's going on on the track."

With McLaren 27 points clear of Ferrari in the Constructors Championship at the time of writing, and Lewis Hamilton leading his team mate Fernando Alonso by two points in the Drivers Championship, Formula One fans can now hopefully look forward to a close-fought battle on the track for the 2007 championship in the remaining seven races.

However it may be the case that if the Championship goes to the wire, the saga will once again resurface.

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