Spygate and racism: F1 back in the news (updated)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Interlagos, 2007 | DaimlerEvery major British newspaper has at least one Formula 1 story in it today – and they aren’t good news for the sport.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis’s home has been raided as the spygate investigations intensify. Two days ago a report in Spanish newspaper Marca alleged Mercedes were on the verge of taking over McLaren and replacing Dennis. Yesterday Mercedes denied those reports in the German media. Is Dennis on his way out of the team?

Meanwhile some newspapers have published Fernando Alonso’s latest remarks on the Lewis Hamilton racism row. Why did most of them ignore what he had to say the first time round?

I’ll answer my last question first because it’s easier. The same British newspapers that howled with indignation when the racism story broke ignored Alonso’s first comments on the subject because they came out at the same time those newspapers were running headlines about football team Chelsea boss Avram Grant receiving anti-Semitic death threats.

The tabloids can’t push their ‘Spaniards are racists’ line when they are also reporting on damning proof of the racist element still present in some areas of British life.

The news of the latest developments in the spygate story suggests the new season may begin under the same cloud of controversy that hung over the sport for most of 2007. Police searched Dennis’s home but according to The Times:

Nobody took any paperwork from anybody?s home because they looked at it and said there was absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing physical was taken.

Speculation about Dennis’s future at McLaren has been rife ever since his admission that he was unaware of how widely Ferrari information had been disseminated within his team.

But there will also be suspicion about the need for a search of Dennis’s house coinciding with the end of pre-season testing and the imminent start of the 2008 championship.

Many have called for Dennis’s resignation but I wonder what it would achieve? It wouldn’t make the spygate scandal go away because the police are interested in more than just the man at the top – they also searched the McLaren Technology Centre.

But do McLaren need a wholesale change of leadership to ensure there is no repetition of the lapses that allowed spygate to happen?

Update: 29/2/08 – McLaren has issued a criticism of the Italian police’s handling of the investigation and threatened to involve the British government in the matter. Read more here and here.

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