F1 spy verdict: Ferrari smug as McLaren mugged

By Andy Darley

CalendarThursday, September 13th, 2007

 
 

McLaren has been fined $100m and docked all its 2007 constructors’ points in a ‘Spygate’ verdict that team boss Ron Dennis called undeserved but rivals Ferrari lauded as satisfactory.

The World Motor Sport Council has yet to explain its reasoning for the crippling punishment, leading some racing figures to speculate that the details of the case may be more damning than previously suspected.

However Dennis is considering an appeal and has strongly restated his team’s innocence, declaring “we have got the best drivers and the best car and we intend to win the World Championship”.

No penalty has been given to the team’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, so their battle for the drivers’ championship will be unaffected. The team must prove its 2008 car contains none of Ferrari’s intellectual property before it will be allowed to compete next year.

Asked afterwards if justice had been done, FIA president Max Mosley simply replied “yes”, but Dennis – unsurprisingly – did not agree: “Having been at the hearing today I do not accept that we deserved to be penalised in this way.”

He saw no problem with next year’s car: “There will be no issue for the 2008 season as we have not at any stage used any intellectual property of any other team.”

Dennis will decide whether or not to appeal on Friday after the WMSC announces its reasons for the verdict. However, he said the case against his team had not been proven during the council’s hearing.

“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.”

In fact, he said, the hearing had been given plenty of reasons to make the opposite decision: “Today’s evidence given to the FIA by our drivers, engineers and staff clearly demonstrated that we did not use any leaked information to gain a competitive advantage.”

“Much has been made in the press and at the hearing today of emails and text messages to and from our drivers. The World Motorsport Council received statements from Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa stating categorically that no Ferrari information had been used by McLaren and that they had not passed any confidential data to the team.”

“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.”

Instead he speculated that Mike Coughlan and Nigel Stepney – who did not give evidence – may have been planning to use the dossier of Ferrari data in an attempt to find work at Toyota or Honda.

Ferrari, however, was having none of that. “Ferrari is satisfied that the truth has now emerged,” it declared in a brief statement aimed at piling on the agony for its British rival – and its sponsors.

“Ferrari acknowledges the decision of the FIA to sanction Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for its breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code,” it said.

“In light of new evidence, facts and behavior of an extremely serious nature and grossly prejudicial to the interest of the sport have been further demonstrated.”

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