McLaren out of ’07 championship and fined $100m

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) – Pitpass.com 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.

17:55Grandprix.com 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 Grandprix.com 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. 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 grandprix.com 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 …

  2. Ben Goldberg said on 14th September 2007, 4:26

    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.

  3. Dmitry, Moscow said on 14th September 2007, 7:26

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

  4. Alain Fenn said on 14th September 2007, 7:47

    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?

  5. Cooperman said on 14th September 2007, 8:07

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Cooperman said on 14th September 2007, 9:04

    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’.

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

  10. Cooperman said on 14th September 2007, 9:25

    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).

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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…!

  14. Cooperman said on 14th September 2007, 10:14

    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.

  15. Robert McKay said on 14th September 2007, 10:27

    “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.

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