After hearing evidence all day in Paris in regard to McLaren's breach of sporting regulations by possessing confidential Ferrari information, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) finally concluded its deliberations and has stripped McLaren of its...
After hearing evidence all day in Paris in regard to McLaren's breach of sporting regulations by possessing confidential Ferrari information, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) finally concluded its deliberations and has stripped McLaren of its 2007 constructors' points and fined the team $100 million. The verdict almost certainly hands the 2007 constructors' title to Ferrari, although McLaren may appeal.
McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton did not receive any penalty and can to continue to fight for the drivers' title, as the FIA previously stated that they would be exempt from punishment if they provided evidence. However, aside from Alonso and Hamilton, McLaren members won't be permitted to be on the podium should one of the drivers win.
"The WMSC has stripped Vodafone McLaren Mercedes of all constructor points in the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship and the team can score no points for the remainder of the season," the sport's governing body confirmed in a statement. "Furthermore, the team will pay a fine equal to $100m, less the FOM income lost as a result of the points' deduction."
McLaren has always maintained that a single individual (designer Mike Coughlin) was responsible for the situation and that the team was not involved in his actions. Evidently the WMSC thought otherwise, although the exact nature of the new evidence that led to the verdict has not been revealed. McLaren is "shocked" by the decision.
"This judgement comes as an extreme shock for all team members and, as demonstrated by the reactions of large parts of the public, the media and Formula One viewers, is a shock for large segments of the public as well," said Mercedes Motorsport Vice President Norbert Haug. "We will now fight with all our resolve in order to give a proper response on the circuit, as we last did in Monza, and to get justice before the court."
In a further statement McLaren principal Ron Dennis said he did not accept that the team deserved the punishment as the evidence they had given "clearly demonstrated" that no leaked information had been used to give an advantage. He added that the drivers had given evidence to the FIA stating that they had neither received nor used the Ferrari data.
"The entire engineering team in excess of 140 people provided statements to the FIA affirming that they had never received or used the Ferrari information," Dennis said. "We have never denied that the information from Ferrari was in the personal possession of one of our employees at his home. The issue is: was this information used by McLaren? This is not the case and has not been proven today."
Ferrari professed to be satisfied with the outcome of the hearing. "In light of new evidence, facts and behaviour of an extremely serious nature and grossly prejudicial to the interest of the sport have been further demonstrated," the Scuderia said in a statement of its own. "Ferrari is satisfied that the truth has now emerged."
The saga first came to public light back in June when Ferrari initiated legal proceedings against its now ex-engineer Nigel Stepney. Initially it seemed that it was an internal team affair but shortly afterwards Stepney was sacked and at the same time McLaren announced it had suspended an un-named employee due to a Ferrari investigation regarding the receipt of technical information.
McLaren denied that any information had been passed to, or used by, the team. Meanwhile, the un-named employee was soon revealed to be designer Coughlin when Ferrari obtained a court order to search his house and discovered several hundred pages of Ferrari information. Apparently the data had been copied at a local photocopying shop and a suspicious employee had alerted Ferrari.
Coughlin agreed to provide a sworn statement to Ferrari regarding his involvement in the affair. The FIA launched its own investigation and representatives of McLaren were subsequently summoned to an extraordinary WMSC meeting in late July, to answer charges of breach of sporting regulations for being in possession of confidential Ferrari information.
At that meeting the WMSC deemed that although McLaren was in breach of the regulations by having the data, there was not enough evidence to prove that it had used the information to gain advantage in the championship. McLaren was therefore not penalised but the WMSC stressed that if further evidence came to light the team would be recalled.
Ferrari, unsurprisingly, was unhappy that McLaren had escaped punishment and was supported by the Italian Automobile Club, which argued that Ferrari had not been given sufficient opportunity to present its case. The Club sent a letter to FIA President Max Mosley and requested that he refer the matter to appeal. Mosley agreed and an appeal date was set for today, September 13th.
Then, early this month, the FIA announced that it was in possession of new evidence in regard to McLaren's breach of regulations and the WMSC was to be reconvened. The appeal previously lodged by Mosley was withdrawn and the original investigation re-opened. Shortly afterwards the FIA called on the McLaren drivers and test driver Pedro de la Rosa to supply any evidence relevant to the investigation.
It was reported that de la Rosa and Alonso had exchanged emails in which de la Rosa allegedly talked about Ferrari set up data that he had been given by Coughlan. Exactly what was said was only speculation but Mosley specifically requested any electronic communication that made reference to Ferrari, Stepney and any technical information connected to either one.
At Monza last weekend McLaren was notified by the Italian authorities that it was under legal investigation, although no action was taken or charges bought. Finally the saga concluded -- possibly -- today in Paris when the WMSC passed its judgement and McLaren was stripped of its points and given the record fine.
The team will be permitted to race in 2008 but will have to present its cars to the WMSC for examination before the start of next season. "The WMSC will receive a full technical report on the 2008 McLaren car and will take a decision at its December 2007 meeting as to what sanction, if any, will be imposed on the team for the 2008 season," the FIA statement said.
The WMSC is due to publish the reasons behind its decision on Friday 14th and Dennis said that although he believes McLaren has grounds for an appeal he will wait for the findings before making a decision.