McLaren out of ’07 championship and fined $100m

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Istanbul, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerThe FIA have announced that McLaren will not score constructors’ championship points this year and face an unprecedented $100m fine for their role in the espionage case.

However Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso will still be allowed to score points towards the drivers’ championship.

McLaren will also not be allowed any constructor’s representatives on the podium for the rest of the year.

Here are the day’s developments as they happened:

Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa were present at the hearing; Fernando Alonso was not. Recent developments in the case have centred on a purported exchange of e-mails between de la Rosa and Alonso. The pair (and Hamilton) were asked to supply any e-mails relevant to the case and told they would be immune from punishment if they did.

According to Auto Motor und Sport McLaren were prepared to claim that its former engineer Phil Mackereth had taken three discs of plans to Renault. However the FIA stated that this would be the subject of a separate investigation of necessary and has no bearing on the current hearing.

16:36 (UK time) – claims that McLaren will be banned or face a suspension of constructors’ points in 2007 and 2008, but the website stresses these are ‘unconfirmed reports’ from an unnamed source. Other websites are running similar but unconfirmed stories.

17:29Planet-F1 has clarified the ‘McLaren are banned’ story, claiming that the puishment of exclusion from the 2007 and 2008 championships was put forward by the World Motor Sports Council, but no verdict has yet been reached.

17:48 – No further updates, but it’s perhaps worth mentioning this piece in the Daily Mail which claims to contain details of the e-mails sent between Alonso and de la Rosa. It cites one of them which says, “Let’s try these new things. They are from Ferrari. Nigel Stepney has sent them to Mike Coughlan.” Are the quotes accurately? Apparently they are the same as those that Italian journalist Pino Allevi hypothesised might have been said in such an e-mail. can’t resist having a dig at the websites who ran the ‘McLaren banned’ story without checking it…

18:06Autosport, whose website appeared to have crashed for around an hour, have issued a similar clarification and an apology about the WMSC verdict story.

18:19 – According to BBC Radio 5 Live McLaren will not score constructors’ championship points this year and pay a $100m (???49.2m) fine. However their drivers will still be allowed to score points towards their championship. McLaren will also not be allowed any constructors’ representatives on the podium for the rest of the year.

It is the biggest fine ever imposed upon a Formula 1 team. It clearly points to a serious breach of the regulations on the part of McLaren. The only saving grace is that their drivers will still be allowed to fight for ‘the title that matters’. Ron Dennis is expected to give a statement in one hour’s time.

On top of the fine, losing the constructors’ championship points means they will also lose any discounts on travel costs they would have earned. They have also been told that their 2008 car will be independently scrutinised for the presence of Ferrari intellectual property.

18:37 – McLaren are understood to be planning to appeal. If they do choose to do so they will have to do so through the British motor sport governing body, the Royal Automobile Club.

18:56 – According to Reuters, Max Mosley was asked if he felt justice had been done. He answered, “Yes”.

19:15 – Ferrari has issued a press release stating it is ‘satisfied’ that the truth has emerged. They added: “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 FIA will release full details of the reasoning behind the verdict tomorrow. It also confirmed that the drivers were not penalised points in the drivers’ championship because of the evidence they handed over to the FIA.

19:49 – At a press conference Ron Dennis said: “The important thing is that we can go racing and compete for the rest of the season. We don’t accept the reasons for being penalised.” He added that his future at the team was not in question, re-iterated that the team had not used Ferrari intellectual property and said that he remained: “Committed to competition and passionate about motor racing.”

20:25 – Further details from the McLaren press conference. Dennis said: “We clearly demonstrated that we did not use any leaked information to gain a competitive advantage. The entire engineering team provided statements affirming they had never used Ferrari information.

“The case is, was this information used by McLaren? This has not been proven today.”

The new evidence presented was largely emails and text messages sent between Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa, and one with Mike Coughlan.

Martin Whitmarsh stated that McLaren will announce tomorrow whether they are going to appeal, having seen the full verdict by the FIA. When asked whether other teams should be punished for similar infringements (a possible reference to the alleged connection to Renault) he refused to be drawn on whether they should also be punished.

Asked about the difficulties presented by the fine, Dennis said that McLaren has a turnover of $450-500m turnover and no debt, and he felt they should be able to manage it – even joking about asking Norbert Haug of Mercedes whether they would pay half.

20:30 – According to McLaren will not lose the prize money it has accrued so far this year.

Photo: Daimler Chrysler

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53 comments on “McLaren out of ’07 championship and fined $100m”

  1. PlanetF1 are reporting that McLaren have been excluded from this and next year’s championships! Not sure if it is the driver’s and constructor’s as of yet.,18954,3213_2726626,00.html

  2. the exclusion news are all over web, no details though, autosport’s site seems to have crashed …

  3. Autosport pulled their “expelled from 07-08” story and now say no verdict has been reached.

  4. are reporting that the World Council are still debating the issue and no decision has been reached.

  5. Keith Humphreys
    13th September 2007, 18:13

    Radio 5 live are adamant that McLaren have been badly mauled in Paris and will be excluded from this years and 2008 manufacturers championship – Mercedes F1 team for 2008?

  6. If they are building a car using illegal information are they not also driving one? How can you exclude one championship and not the other?!?

    For the record I do not want to see them banned from either. At most there should be a massive fine to deter teams from doing this in the future.

  7. are you sure they’ll lose prize money? says the opposite.

  8. Until we here the statement from the FIA and also Ron Dennis we can only guess as to why only the constructor was punished, but my guess is that the FIA cannot prove that the Ferrari data was used in improving their cars, only that they had used it as the basis of complaints lodged against ferrari for illegal elements on the car, as well as the fact that it appears that many people within the team knew of it’s existence.

    Also, well done F1fanatic for being the first proper F1 site to have the verdict, it took all the others a good few minutes to catch up with you.

  9. No they will get prize money, I meant to just write travel discounts, my typo. Thanks for the thanks!

  10. Mclaren deserving of its punishments! More too probably, This can only clean up the sport…Mclaren only seem concerned about the money…they may have got off lightly!!!

  11. This is rather sad for everyone involved.

    1. McLaren acted poorly as an organization/business. By keeping in their employ someone who was breaking the “law.”

    2. The FIA convening the meeting(s) with the WMSC on a purely ad hoc basis.

    3. Ferrari and Jean Todt for not taking responsibility of their own man (Nigel Stepney) and complaining like little prats.

    4. A number of the British media outlets/websites for authoritatively presuming/proclaiming that McLaren could not have possibly done anything wrong.

    -Sean from Minnesota, USA.

  12. Agree. Law was broken, punishment should be meted out.

    Unless one sticks to the stand of many F1 websites that this is no big deal, McLaren should be exonerated, as Ferrari is no white angel…

  13. Why does the sum of fine make 100 millions exactly, instead of 10 or 200?

  14. I agree with Sean about the British press…Hamilton tinted glasses..they are building him up to strip him down..again fair play FIA!

  15. I agree with Dan M, if the FIA have decided that McLaren cheated, then Alonso and Hamilton have been driving an illegal car. So how the hell are they allowed to keep their points?

  16. I’m going to reserve judgement on that until the FIA release the justification for the decision.

  17. Bernard Marsden
    13th September 2007, 20:57

    Wether the fine & punishment is fair, I cannot comment. What I would like to know is where does the fine money go – to improving safety on the track, or will it pay off ITV for the for the excessively long advert breaks in the middle of live racing. We don’t have breaks in football or rugby matches (apart from half time) so why in F1 ???

  18. I guess Ferrari International Assistance really does exist!

  19. From reading the FIA statement(that I read somewhere other than the FIA site that I can’t get to come up) it looks like if the ’08 car, which must be fairly well into developement already, contains any Ferrari-hybrids then McLaren could face even further penalty?

    And if as rumour has it, Renault also has/had similar data this could be a long way from over.

  20. And why was The Ham there if these emails were based around Alonso, who happened to be at the track a day early?

  21. When Lewis or Fernando wins the championship we are going to go through this again when Ferrari says they did it with an illegal car!( that was never proved )I just can’t wrap my head around the way the FIA does things!McLaren was properly fined in my opinion for having the documents but,if the car is legal why are they taking away constructors points?

  22. for the british is not important “how” but “who” wins the championship:mr.Hamilton of course ,the best driver ever in the planet …bla bla bla……Even if is driving a a mclaren with Ferrari knowhow and all the other parts , is still ok as long he can win ; everything illegal for any other team will be fine as long is a british driver driving a british car.
    Congratulations you are officially “the best cheating formula 1 team”

  23. Perhaps there is something in the rules about unsporting behaviour? I imagine they could take them away based on that as well as impose a fine. Or, if they used any of the data either to gain an advantage or to bring a Ferrari infraction to the FIA’s attention (which is what everyone believes they did)that would explain it. This year’s model wouldn’t necessarily have to be illegal.

  24. The drivers received immunity as a condition of supplying the info – thus its no surprise there is no affect there. Obviously the information provided by the drivers is much different than what McLaren had characterized last time around. I think McLaren got off lucky – they could have been banned next year as well.

  25. Bernard Marsden
    13th September 2007, 22:22

    The drivers received immunity because without it, there would be no point in them racing. Ferrari would have been handed the championship as there would have been no competition. Not a lot of people want to watch a ‘one horse race’ and attendance/vewing figures along with sponsorship would drop dramatically. No Maclaren 2008 would effectively kill F1 as we know it. All about money as always – not sport !!

  26. I think I am going to watch other types of racing the rest of the season and come back next year and watch BMW contend when they are even stronger.Maybe see some racing instead of a soap opera.All of this unsporting conduct has made me sour.I am an American who is trying to get into this sport because I love racing and the formula one cars are amazing,even after the Schumacher and Michelin incidents at Indianapolis and the loss of the U.S. Grand Prix I am still trying but,this season could have been one of the best seasons in a while with FOUR drivers battling for the title but, alas,white powder,stolen documents,stupid confusing qualy rules,whining drivers,Bernie,and for crying out loud THE FIA!I will just visit here and keep up but,I am not watching another race this season.

  27. The only part of the ferrari mclaren stole was the Vodaphone logo
    As far as im concerned, this is just Ferrari getting back at Mclaren for stealing Vodafone so publicly from them last year, and its also payback from the FIA for Mercedes’ GPMA pull away stance a few years back. Its a collosal fraud and a disgrace by the FIA, specifically max mosley, in my opinion mosley has lost all credibility and should resign.

  28. The size of the fine and the effect of the exclusion from the constructors’ title will hit the drivers and guarantees this case will hit the civil courts. It is ludicrously high and clearly designed to get mclaren out of the sport. $100m is phenomenal and just so far out of proportion that this has to be a vendetta. No amount of ferrari technical info could create such a pecuniary advantage to mclaren and so there is no way this could be upheld in a proper court of law.

    This drafs the F1 governors into disrepute and shows thay have lost all common sense. It is truly bizarre. i hope and pray it is a misprint for the sake of the sport I love and which had just got interesting again for all the right reasons.

  29. I stated earlier that McLaren deserved to be fined but,I agree this fine is WAY too steep,and yes,Mosley should resign.I am not pro McLaren but,I am anti-Ferrari.I wish Kimi would switch teams.

    By the way Keith,way to stay on top of this story today.

  30. About the fine, the official statement says: “100 million less the FOM income lost as a result of the points deduction”
    So, how much money does FOM give the top teams? Is it the payment for their image rights?
    I’m curious about that because, depending on the value, it sounds like the fine means they will lose significant support, but they will be able to handle this with their sponsors…
    Anyone knows how much will McLaren effectively pay?
    On the constructors’ championship points, I already expected that, as I said elsewhere…
    Now, the drivers’ championship has only two true contenders, unless a reliability tragedy hits McLaren, or a huge share of bad luck…

  31. I think I talk for many if I say that taking away McLaren’s constructors points was not unexpected.

    As the size of the fine – well it depends how we look at it. If this text is the correct interpretation of the fine:
    “and has been fined $100m, although this will be reduced because the team will be credited the money that it would have won this year”

    then it will not be that much considering how much money would McLaren get for winning the constructors title (the figures I do not remember, but look up F1 Racing magazine few months back and the numbers are there). So basically it looks to me the FIA handed out 100mil penalty knowing it will make shocking headlines, but in fact if they have said that they will score 0 points, therefore finish last in constructors and receive little or zero prize money, the financial implications on McLaren would be pretty much the same, of course without the 100mil headlines …

    As for drivers keeping points – the only sensible (though controlversial) option.

    Now, what I find interesting is the FIA’s claim, that drivers were not punished because they gave evidence. Dennis says: “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.”

    I can’t wait to see the full FIA explanation of the crime and the punishment …

  32. Well if there’s a good way to look at this, there should be no team orders at all from McLaren or Ferrari for the rest of the year. Who cares about holding up a 1-2 anymore? The constructor’s championship is just about officially sealed up, so the drivers can go about fighting for just themselves and not for the team anymore, which should make the racing better in my opinion.

    Well actually there could still be team orders at Ferrari to benefit Kimi over Felipe, but definitely no reason for team orders at McLaren.

  33. Dmitry, Moscow
    14th September 2007, 7:26

    Thank you mr. Couglan and mr. Stepney! Such as you are needed in rows KGB and CIA.

  34. Stepney whisle-blows to McLaren that the 2007 Ferrari is, in his opinion, illegal in three respects. McLaren check with the FIA (Charlie Whiting) who confirm that whilst they (Ferrari) pass their tests, they are actually in breach of the regulations (and the FIA change their test procedures). So how come Ferrari aren’t fined & stripped of points?

  35. McLaren’s punishment may have been harsh (as far as I can see – pending the FIA’s announcement on Friday – no-one’s actually been *proved* that they are guilty) but with the exception of F1 and Motor Sport in general, the FIA have come out of this worse than anyone.

    I’d like to see them make another announcement justifying why when Ferrari has a quick word, the FIA reconvene the World Motor Sport Council on what appears at the very least to be weak evidence (according to the reports I’ve read the correlation in the rise of the number of e-mails sent between McLaren’s drivers, and text messages sent between Couglan Stepney) to overthrow a previous ruling.

    They’ve been accused of favouring Ferrari before – now there must be very little doubt about that.

  36. I Agree with wayne Baillie
    The ‘Ferrari International Existence’ really exists. And it has been existing for years. Some (not all) examples :
    – 1997 : Schumacher’s accident with Villeneuve : no race ban for him
    – 1998 : McLaren’s traction system, previously validated by the FIA, was banned after the second race : Ferrari won the third
    – 1999 : Schumacher had dangerous driving while leaving its pits during the Canadian race and put Frentzen out : he won the race.
    – 1999 : Ferrari was disqualified after Malaysian GP because car was illegal, after the appeal : it was legal ! Ferrari won constructors championship.
    – 2000 : Schumacher won the Great Britain race without have passed in his pits for penalty.
    – 2000 : Mclaren cars parts was suddenly illegal before after the Belgian race than Hakkinen won overtaking Schumacher while he lapped Zonta. Schumacher and Ferrari won the last 4 races and the title.
    – 2003 : Michelin tires was suddenly declared illegal and the french company had to produce new ‘legal’ ones. Kimi lost the title for one point : Schumacher and Ferrari won
    – 2006 : Renault ‘mass dumper’, previously validated by the FIA was suddenly declared illegal and Ferrari was closed to win championship.

  37. If McLaren is supposed to have benefited from Ferrari information, how come Ferrari are so behind in the points! If Ferrari are supposed to be so technologically advanced that their information is worth stealing how come they keep retiring from races and McLaren don’t.

    Ferriri International (aka FIA) does it again. They are the ones bringing the sport into disrespect.

  38. PS – It would interesting to see whether the costs of legal representation for Mclaren and Ferrari, travel for everyone to Paris, and a $100m fine for McLaren come under the FIA’s plan of ‘cost cutting’.

  39. sooooooooooooo can alonso jump ship back to renault now?

  40. If the rumours are true then Renault should be next up at the WMSC; they have apparently got documents on this year’s McLaren with them.

    This whole affair is beginning to make a single chassis formula look attractive!! (No, I don’t actually mean that).

  41. The FIA should just let the teams get on with it. They should just be allowed to spy on each other if they want (and Im sure to a certain degree there is constant spying going on) and each team just have to make sure their security is up to scratch and not go whinging to the FIA if it’s no.

  42. It is a separate thing whether mcLaren benefited or not, and how much. Maybe they did, maybe they don’t.

    If someone murders someone else and gets away with it, with the assistance of the courts, does not mean that it should happen the next time too. That does not make it right.

    McLaren chief designer – not an umbrella girl, mind – had confidential Ferrari info. Not done, for whatever reason. When you find that out, the team is responsible under existing laws.

    In fact, I believe offended McLaren fans should actually reuest FIA to take points away from the dirvers also. That seems to be the biggest worrry for some.

    This is by no means a perfect decision in law. A perfect decision should mean the team and drivers are out, together.

    Ah, and then, over coffee or beer, we can talk about natural justice. In that context, yes, did McLaren benefit, if they did by how much, how come drivers are exempted, how come Ferrari got away in the past, everything can be explored. Or how this is bad for Formula One. It is. Who is saying it is not?

    But in this specific case, this is the right direction.

    F1 is an extremely technical sport – and even knowing Ferrari strategy in parts can make a difference. Maybe.

    This is all sad, not good for the sport, not good for fans… But lets not mix that up with the specific case at hand.

  43. Just so you know, not all British people are in constant support of Hamilton – I’d much rather have seen Alonso claim victory but now I just want the two of them to stick it to Ferrari where it hurts, on the racetrack – let’s see what other tricks Ferrari International Aid can pull to stop this happening…!

  44. Advice to McLaren: Follow the example put forward by the organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix. Pretend that the fine doesn’t exist and eventually it goes away.

    That should save you about $100m.

  45. “As for drivers keeping points – the only sensible (though controlversial) option.”

    No, it’s not, and I’m a Mclaren fan. If the FIA thinks the team gained from the Ferrari data, and the car is thus dodgy, then the position of the drivers in those cars is also dodgy and not representative. If Mclaren were using a 4-litre engine and the drivers shopped the team to the FIA, would they be allowed to keep their points with a car that was clearly outside the regs? No. The FIA has potentially allowed a driver to win a championship in a dodgy car as long as he grassed up his team. And the only reason they did that is that they knew if Hamilton and Alonso were removed from the WDC the backlash would have been so huge the sport would possibly have collapsed. The punishment is a fudge.

    I’d rather have seen Mclaren banned altogether, because it at least would have said the FIA had the conviction to do something it felt it had to even if it ruined the season climax. But they didn’t.

  46. Exactly Robert, the FIA are trying to get the best of both worlds by punishing the team (and pleasing Ferrari), but not punishing the drivers (and pleasing the British press).

    The other drivers are bound to be unhappy though as they are bound to feel the winner of the championship (which is going to be a McLaren driver, realistically speaking) has done so by cheating, and that’s the way it will look for years to come I would think.

  47. Let us not assume that the punishment is for McLaren using a dodgy car. The punishment is probably for breaking the letter of the law. And for their designer having access to Ferrari information. Considering that, I suppose this is fair.

    If the car actually was dodgy, then yes, punishing the drivers too would make sense.

    I don’t think it was, though. Even Ferrari has never claimed that publicly.

    Ross Brawn has said that having access to Ferrari information would make a car faster by up to .5 seconds. Perhaps that is true if it was McLaren data too. In F1, every bit of info you have – technical or otherwise – may make a difference, and we are in position to judge exactly how much.

  48. Fair enough Wanderingmind. What would really help right now is the FIA publishing the promised transcript and explaining WHY Mclaren have been punished. If it is simply for having the data, then the punishment is too harsh. If it is for using the data to gain a competitive advantage, then the drivers benefited from that competitive advantage either knowingly or unknowingly but either way they should still have their points stripped for consistency. If the team is held accountable for the actions of one person, and the drivers are part of that team, then they have to lose the points.

  49. Does anyone know when the FIA are planning on announcing their findings? I would have thought they’d have done it by now.
    Maybe they’re as uncertain about their conclusions as everyone else…

  50. Jpeg, if I were you, I would get your facts straight. That timeline is very inaccurate. In the Canadian GP in 1999, Michael Schumacher crashed out of the race. So did Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, all in the last corner, giving that wall the nickname “Wall of Champions”. I would check your other dates also, because others are way off.

  51. Having read the FIA transcript, it seems most likely to me that most of McLaren didn’t use the Ferrari information, but that SOME of it certainly circulated and found its way into testing and setup work.

    Quite ironically, the key culprits appear to be Alonso and De La Rosa – who are getting off scot-free.

    On the other hand, the one who appears to have been most active keeping Ferrari information out of the company, Ron Dennis, gets punished (and in accounting terms as well as in reality, not receiving $ 100m is quite as damaging as being asked to pay them, in fact – see the Turkey example – it might have been better for McLaren if the fine had beeen a payable to FIA that they could have ignored, rather than a withholding about which they can do nothing).

    This doesn’t do much credit to FIA.

  52. Interesting article.. Would love to see more of this.. Awesome blog btw! Subscribed

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