After the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing on December 6th, in which Renault was investigated for being in possession of confidential McLaren information, the FIA has publicized its reasons for not penalizing Renault despite finding the team in breach of sporting regulations.
The WMSC decided that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Renault had gained any advantage from the McLaren information, which came to Renault when former McLaren employee Phil Mackereth joined the French squad in September 2006.
It was also deemed that only a small amount of the information -- four drawings -- had been viewed by Renault engineers. Three of those drawings were judged to be of no use to Renault and the fourth, of McLaren's 'J-damper', was used by Renault to try and get the system declared illegal.
"This failed because Renault had certain fundamental misunderstandings about the operation of the 'J-damper' system," the WMSC transcript said. "This suggests that Renault's sight of the 'J-damper' drawing did not give Renault enough information to understand how it worked. In these circumstances, an affect on the Championship cannot be established."
The data Mackereth took from McLaren was specified as 33 electronic files, which included drawings and his own personal financial information, another file he emailed to his home computer and two hard copy drawings, one of a mass damper and one of the 'J-damper'. According to McLaren this amounted to 762 pages but not all of it was confidential.
The files were uploaded onto Renault's computer system at Mackereth's request then transferred to his personal directory. "It appears that the files were not viewed during the transfer by anyone other than Mackereth," the WMSC statement said. "Renault has submitted that this represented 207 pages, 108 of which contained McLaren information."
The WMSC said it was only concerned with the data Renault actually had access to, rather than everything that Mackereth took, as only the former could affect the championship. The matter came to light when a former Renault employee joined McLaren and told the team that Mackereth had shared information with Renault. Mackereth then approached Renault senior management "presumably in anticipation of some action from McLaren".
Renault technical director Bob Bell carried out a preliminary investigation and the results were sent to McLaren and the FIA. This initial inquiry found that only Mackereth had access to the information, which he supported with his own given evidence. However, further investigation proved that was not the case.
Renault accepted that the initial findings were incorrect; the WMSC stated that "Renault's senior management acted responsibly after it became aware of the issues and took an open and cooperative approach with both McLaren and the FIA."
"The investigations revealed that Mackereth took a relatively significant volume of information from McLaren. However, the evidence supports the conclusion that only four items were ever shown to or made known to persons at Renault. McLaren made submissions that other documents might have been discussed, disseminated or used but after its own extensive investigations can offer no evidence to this effect."
McLaren argued that the drawings seen by Renault engineers -- including the fuel system schematic, gear layout and damper drawings -- represented 'highly innovative' systems that any F1 team would be interested in, but in each case the WMSC found no evidence that the data had any influence on Renault's design or development.
The WMSC concluded that although Renault was in breach of the regulations as engineers had seen the four confidential McLaren drawings, the team did not have "possession or knowledge" of the majority of the information Mackereth had. "There is no evidence of any McLaren documents or files being viewed or considered by anyone at Renault other than the four drawings," it stated.
Although the WMSC said that "a number of very unsatisfactory elements were noted during the deliberations" there was not enough evidence to prove that championship had been affected or interfered with. Therefore it concluded that no penalty could be applied. However, should further evidence come to light the case could be re-opened.
The full transcript of the hearing can be found on the FIA website, www.fia.com