Remembers this quote from McLaren’s Ron Dennis?:
Did they have team uniform on? Then they were hardly spying, were they? I thought that if you are out of uniform then you are a spy but when you are in uniform you are ‘gathering intelligence!’
We are doing nothing that everybody else doesn’t do, except that we at least are open about it and do it in uniform.
It won’t surprise you to learn that this was not about the spying scandal that rocked Formula 1 in 2007.
This was an earlier and much smaller argument over McLaren ‘spying’ on the Williams team in 2002. At the Austrian Grand Prix Williams’ Dickie Stanford complained that several men in McLaren team wear were taking photographs of his cars.
I haven’t brought up this quote to stick the boot into McLaren once more and give their well-hammered reputation another kick.
I’m still reading the transcripts and FIA reports and trying to decide whether I think McLaren have been fairly treated. For a person on the outside it’s very difficult to judge now far what McLaren did went beyond what other teams have done in the past.
We know from the transcripts that teams study large numbers of photographs of their rivals’ cars, watch video of cars on cranes to judge their weight distribution and more in an attempt to understand what they are doing. There must be hundreds of other little tricks they have to work out what their opponents are doing.
It makes me wonder how fine the line in between legitimate ‘snooping’ and illegal ‘spying’. Were McLaren malicious, neglectful or just unlucky to get caught this year?
McLaren’s apology may have drawn an official line under the spy scandals but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it just yet.
The weekly review will return next Sunday.
More on the F1 spying scandals