FIA sends McLaren case to appeal

The World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) recently imposed no penalty on McLaren after an extraordinary meeting to determine the team's involvement in the Ferrari 'spy' saga, but now the FIA is sending the matter to a court of appeal. FIA President Max...

The World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) recently imposed no penalty on McLaren after an extraordinary meeting to determine the team's involvement in the Ferrari 'spy' saga, but now the FIA is sending the matter to a court of appeal. FIA President Max Mosley agreed to do so after receiving a letter from Luigi Macaluso, President of the Italian Automobile Club (ACI-CSAI).

In the letter Macaluso said the ACI-CSAI found it difficult to understand why McLaren had not been penalized for being in breach of the sporting regulations, as the WMSC previously concluded the team was for possessing Ferrari information.

"We fear that the decision of the World Motor Sport Council could create a precedent which, at this level of the sport and stage of the competition, would be highly inappropriate and detrimental for the sport," Macaluso wrote.

He requested that Mosley submit the matter to appeal and said that would allow Ferrari to fully state their case -- at the WMSC meeting the Scuderia was reportedly not a full participant. He stated that Ferrari had been "seriously and directly affected by McLaren's behaviour" and it was appropriate that Ferrari "enjoys full rights of due process".

In reply, Mosley said that if, as Macaluso suggested, several of McLaren's senior members were aware of the Ferrari information over a period of several months then the situation would be "very serious".

He reiterated McLaren's claim that no-one knew of the information and that a "disgruntled employee" had privately obtained it for use in his private database and it was not intended to assist McLaren. Mosley conceded that there were "suspicious elements" in the case but not enough proof for the WMSC to convict the team of an offence serious enough to warrant exclusion from the championship.

"In the absence of unambiguous evidence that McLaren as a team had received and used Ferrari information, the Council was left with McLaren's responsibility for its employee," Mosley wrote. "Exclusion or withdrawal of points did not seem appropriate if it was really just a case of a rogue employee illegitimately acquiring information for his own purposes."

However, in light of Macaluso's suggestion that the outcome may have been different if Ferrari had been given better opportunity to present its side of the story, Mosley agreed to the appeal.

"Because of this and the importance of public confidence in the outcome, I will send this matter to the FIA Court of Appeal under Article 23.1 of the FIA Statutes with a request that the Court hear both Ferrari and McLaren and any other Championship competitor who so requests and determine whether the decision of the WMSC was appropriate and, if not, substitute such other decision as may be just," he concluded.

McLaren, unsurprisingly, is unhappy about the appeal and cited "a thoroughly misleading press campaign by Ferrari" and "pressure from the Automobile Club D' Italia" as the reason for it. A statement from the Woking team pointed out that the WMSC had determined that there was no evidence to prove that Ferrari information had been used to McLaren's advantage.

"McLaren is not aware of any new information or arguments that have arisen since the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council and therefore assumes that these same materials will now be considered by the FIA International Court of Appeal," said the statement. The team described the situation as "disappointing and time-consuming" but is confident that McLaren will be exonerated.

Ferrari also issued a statement in which it said that its Board of Administration had noted Mosley's decision and "gives its full authority to the Board of Administration's President, to the CEO, and to the Managing Director to initiate and continue any necessary legal action, in the name of the Company, in addiction to those legal actions already underway in every legal, civil, criminal, administrative, sporting jurisdiction be it, in Italy or abroad."

A date has not yet been revealed for the appeal hearing but it's reported to likely be at the end of August. Meanwhile, Nigel Stepney, the now ex-Ferrari engineer involved, still insists that he was not the person who sent the information to McLaren's Mike Coughlan. Stepney claimed in the Italian press that he was set up and the real culprit was still at Ferrari.

Full details of the correspondence between Macaluso and Mosley can be found on the FIA website, www.fia.com

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , McLaren