McLaren not punished in spy case (updated)

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, Nurburgring, qualifyingThe FIA’s World Motor Sport Council have decided not to punish McLaren following a hearing into the Ferrari spying row.

However it has found the team guilty of possessing Ferrari’s documents and described at the penalties may be levied in the future if it emerges that McLaren had used the information:

If it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship, but also the 2008 championship.”

Former McLaren employee Mike Coughlan, who was found to be in possession of a 780-page Ferrari dossier, and Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney, who was suspended by the team, have been called before the FIA: “to show reason why they should not be banned from international motor sport for a lengthy period”.

Ferrari were furious with the decision, issuing a strongly-worded statement:

[Ferrari]… finds it incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not have, as a logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction. Today’s decision legitimises dishonest behaviour in Formula One and sets a very serious precedent.

In fact, the decision of the World Council signifies that possession, knowledge at the very highest level and use of highly confidential information acquired in an illicit manner and the acquiring of confidential information over the course of several months, represent violations that do not carry any punishment.

The fact that McLaren was in possession of such information was discovered totally by accident and, but for this, the team would continue to have it. This is all the more serious as it has occurred in a sport like Formula One in which small details make all the difference.

Ferrari feels this is highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport. It will continue with the legal action already under way within the Italian criminal justice system and in the civil court in England.

Surprise, surprise, McLaren didn’t see it that way. Here’s their statement:

McLaren accepts the that the FIA World Motor Sport Council had no alternative other than to find that there was a purely technical breach by reason of the possession of certain information by one individual at his home, without McLaren’s knowledge or authority.

McLaren is delighted that the World Motor Sport Council determined that this information was not used and accordingly imposed no sanction whatsoever on the team. McLaren looks forward to continuing its fight in what is the most exciting Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship in many years.

Earlier today reports in The Guardian and Corriere della Serra quoted a Ferrari document claiming that if the Italian team lost the world championship because McLaren gained an advantage it would cost them ?????????5.5m (???3.68m / $7.57m).

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10 comments on McLaren not punished in spy case (updated)

  1. Journeyer said on 26th July 2007, 15:27

    Amen to that. So there.

    Back to racing…

  2. Koks said on 26th July 2007, 16:44

    Champ Car no more F1

  3. Surely possessing secret information relevant to another team should have a punishment of some description attached to it – even if it is a paltry fine rather than a points deduction?

    Overall though it seems a pretty commonsense type of verdict – very unlike the FIA!

  4. I want to know why the FIA waded in at this point, unless it was to plausibly delay things so that retrospective championship action could be taken. Normally, teams (and people) are innocent until proven guilty, and that law would surely have limited what the FIA could legally do.

    This isn’t over, not by a long chalk. The FIA are simply lodging their right to review the evidence beyond the usual November WMSC meeting cut-off for championship-affecting judgements. Since the law courts often take a long time to make their decisions, and they do not particularly care if the FIA would prefer a quicker decision for their benefit, it is quite possible that the championship may get officially settled after the usual time.

  5. It is either right or wrong, if it is soooo wrong there should be puinishments as with any other crime…WTF is the FIA at…

  6. I would not say McLaren is of the hook yet …

    “If it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship, but also the 2008 championship.”

    FIA keeps their options open with this strong warning. Ferrari will continue to pursue this matter and some more things may still come to light… It sounds to me like they told themselves “well there is no point to mess up the season at the moment, but if more implicating details surface, we will have to and we will do”

  7. Surely the point is that the WMSC knew hardly any more than we do, thanks to the Italian press. Apart from Coughlan’s affidavit (itself a dubious document in terms of the real truth), they had McLaren’s answering dossier and a whole raft of unproven assertions and suspicions. The only established fact is that Coughlan had the documents in his home, which is the basis for the court’s finding McLaren guilty of “possessing” them since the law regards companies as responsible for the actions of their employees.

    Beyond that, it was impossible to prove anything and will not be until the matter has been dealt with in the British and Italian courts. The WMSC has covered the possibility of greater McLaren involvement being uncovered by reserving the right to re-visit the case.

  8. Journeyer said on 27th July 2007, 5:25

    I think Clive is right. No point in moving too early. All the evidence must be presented in the proper courts before the FIA makes the correct decision – remember, the sport will be put in jeopardy if they make a wrong decision.

  9. Erhard said on 27th July 2007, 8:56

    I am a Ferrari fan, and dissipointed.

    But we all must abide by the ruling – But I find a lack of an apology (even one with all rights reserved) by Ron Dennis to Ferrari reprehensible.

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