The FIA inquiry into the missing seal on Mika Hakkinen's electronic control unit (ECU) has cleared the Finn, allowing him to retain his victory in last week's Austrian Grand Prix. The missing seal was discovered in post-race scrutineering by...
The FIA inquiry into the missing seal on Mika Hakkinen's electronic control unit (ECU) has cleared the Finn, allowing him to retain his victory in last week's Austrian Grand Prix.
The missing seal was discovered in post-race scrutineering by Jo Bauer, the FIA Technical Delegate. The paper seals, which are placed on the control boxes by the FIA, prevent the teams from modifying the control software on the cars during the events.
Hakkinen had won the race with relative ease over his teammate, David Coulthard, and Rubens Barrichello in a Ferrari. The leading championship contender, Michael Schumacher, spun out on the first lap after being tapped from behind by Ricardo Zonta.
Team McLaren suggested that the seal had fallen off due to vibration during the Grand Prix, and FIA appears to have largely accepted this explanation.
The FIA decision does, however, strip McLaren of the points it earned in the race -- for Hakkinen's victory only, though -- and fine the team the amount of US$50,000. As Bauer agreed that the single missing seal could not have enabled McLaren to modify the software, however, the FIA stewards agreed to allow Hakkinen to retain his victory and the ten points.
The official FIA statement reads:
"The technical delegate reported that there was an absence of a seal from the ECU and that he was satisfied that the absence of this one seal from the ECU could not have resulted in the team or their supplier being able to alter the configuration of the unit in order to run unapproved software.
The technical delegate opined that car number one (Hakkinen's McLaren) did not comply with article 8.2.7 of the FIA Formula One technical regulations during the Austrian GP as the team was unable to present all its sealed units to the FIA at the end of the event.
As it is the duty of the team to ensure that their car complies with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race (Article 7 of the 2000 Formula One sporting regulations), the stewards of the meeting impose a fine of US$50,000 on the team and because of the exceptional circumstances of this case only deduct the points awarded to car number one in the Constructors' Championship."
As a result of the decision, McLaren returns to 88 points in the Constructors' Championship, four behind Ferrari's 92. Hakkinen is third in the Drivers' Championship with 48, behind Schumacher (56) and Coulthard (50).