Time for a round-up of all the different issues facing McLaren at the moment:
- The team has been pursuing an appeal against the deduction of 15 constructors’ points following the drivers’ actions at the Hungarian Grand Prix, when Fernando Alonso was ruled to have held up Lewis Hamilton in qualifying. The date of that appeal was set for September 19 and is assumed to still be going ahead.
- A week previously, on September 13, McLaren was due to attend a hearing of the FIA in Paris which was to consider whether it should be punished for the fact that its chief designer Mike Coughlan was found to have nearly 800 pages of Ferrari documents in his house. In a consummate politician’s decision the FIA had previously ruled on July 26 that McLaren was guilty of a breach of the rules but that it wouldn’t be punished because it couldn’t be proved to have actually benefited from possession of the information. However, this wasn’t acceptable to the Italian motorsport authority CSAI, which claimed Ferrari hadn’t been given sufficient opportunity to make their case against McLaren. So the FIA agreed to review its decision – to the delight of the Italian team and the disgust of the British one, which claimed no new evidence had come to light to justify this move.
- That, however, is no longer the case. In a dramatic development on Friday FIA president Max Moseley declared that he was in possession of significant new evidence. This seems to consist of a leaked email between McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa and driver Fernando Alonso commenting on the Ferrari car. Mosley’s announcement was swiftly followed by an official letter to the three McLaren drivers calling on them to hand over absolutely anything that could possibly have any bearing on the case. This letter contains suggestions that non-cooperation will result in drivers being thrown out of the championship alongside an assurance that cooperation could mean a personal amnesty in the event of McLaren going under, season-wise. Speculation has centred about whether the FIA will go so far as to threaten the drivers with the removal of their super licences. This could fairly be described as another consummate politician’s action and it suggests that all bets are now off as regards McLaren’s chances of still being in competition by the end of the season. We can now only wait and see what else will come to light.
- In a completely separate incident, McLaren has been penalised for a breach of the technical regulations over a lightweight gearbox installed in the team cars. The team has been fined around £25,000 by the FIA for using a gearbox at the Hungaroring that had not undergone the necessary crash testing. McLaren did tell race director Charlie Whiting before the race that it had installed the new parts, but claimed it was a minor modification and that further tests were not required. But the stewards did not agree. They said McLaren had “deprived the FIA of the opportunity before the race to consider the changes made and require impact testing to be carried out before use. “Had such information been imparted in due time the tests could have been satisfactorily completed prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix, such that their use at this event would have been without criticism.”
And what of McLaren’s reaction to all this? Well, Monza qualifying suggests that it’s business as usual this weekend after Alonso and Hamilton put in a superb one-two, relegating Felipe Massa to third and Kimi Raikkonen, who suffered a horrendous high-speed crash in the last practice session, to a distant fifth on the grid.
Ron Dennis is refusing to say a word and the team appears to be doing everything it can to keep its mind on the business of racing.
So we’ll leave the last word to Lewis Hamilton, who told BBC Sport on Friday: “I do not like what Ferrari are putting our team through. I know my team, and we are being been unfairly treated.
“It would be a great feeling to win in Italy this weekend. Beating Ferrari on their home ground is going to be a huge blow to their team.”
We look forward to seeing him do just that.
Read a complete account of the Spygate saga on Wikipedia here.