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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Robert McKay said on 14th September 2007, 14:03

    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.

  4. Cooperman said on 14th September 2007, 14:16

    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…

  5. Ben Goldberg said on 14th September 2007, 14:48

    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.

  6. 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.

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

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