Was McLaren’s $100m fine illegal?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Montreal, 2007, 470150

An article in today’s Independent on Sunday alleges the $100m fine given to McLaren by the FIA last year was illegal.

According to the story:

Not everyone who voted on the fine may have been authorised to do so. According to Article 14 of the FIA statutes, the WMSC “shall consist of … a total of 26 members who, with the exception of the president, must represent an ASN [national association] having at least one event entered on the international sporting calendar of the current year.” It doesn’t seem that this rule has been followed.

Although this argument seems sound, surely if there were any possible legal challenges to the verdict McLaren themselves would have identified and acted on them?

Nonetheless it’s worth considering the extraordinary implications were the decision reversed. Not only would McLaren get their money back but their constructors’ points could come too.

In which case they would probably regret dropping their appeal against the points they lost at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix after Fernando Alonso blocked Lewis Hamilton in the pit lane. They dropped the appeal after their entire constructors’ points total was confiscated in the spy scandal verdict.

However if the spy scandal verdict were overturned, the decision that went against them at Hungary will have been what made the difference between Ferrari winning the constructors’ championship and McLaren not.

27 comments on “Was McLaren’s $100m fine illegal?”

  1. No doubt the FIA will wriggle out of this, maybe by re-writing Article 14 and making it retrospective !
    Max seems to make the rules on the hoof, so what will he do this time ?

  2. It’s a complete non-story and, imo the authors are just trying to make trouble.

  3. So does the ASN thing not matter?

  4. @Keith
    “Although this argument seems sound, surely if there were any possible legal challenges to the verdict McLaren themselves would have identified and acted on them?”

    Guess you answered yourself mate on that one.

    Hungary was the race where McLaren used a new transmissions design without crash-testing as is mandated by FIA, so they would have lost it anyways. This was pointed out by Max in one of his statements.

  5. Keith, I don’t think it does – it’s just a small, insignificant detail that has been presented as though it will blow the FIA’s judgement out of the water.

  6. What was curiouser was the fact that they did not threw out the Macca, DQ’s driver results from that race, as they would have done in case of any other team. Hence i rest my case that last year someone was pushing the agenda of a British Rookie Champion.

    Some links for the benefit of other readers on the same…



  7. I was just watching the Porsche Supercup race at Silverstone. Rain and a very wet track there at the moment, with 90 minutes to go until the F1 race.

  8. Is it me or does every time McLaren are looking better than Ferrari, FIA does something to distract McLaren? The timing of this can’t be coincidental.

  9. @Internet – I agree :)
    last year I said exactly the same

  10. Sri – Please let’s not go down this ridiculous line of argument. The last time you and Steven Roy had that argument about pro-Hamilton bias I found his arguments utterly convincing.

    Internet – The FIA has not announced this, it was published by a newspaper.

  11. Robert McKay
    6th July 2008, 12:01

    “it’s just a small, insignificant detail”

    Rules are rules. If the FIA take them time to write a very specifically worded rule they should be challenged if they don’t follow it. Where would it stop? What other rules do the FIA choose to ignore? I think it’s important. It shows how little that Max and the FIA care for the process, as long as they get the result required.

    As Pitpass said on their take on the story, Mclaren were probably rightly more concerned on their own defence than going through the rules on the jury constituents with a fine toothcomb.

  12. Going by McLaren’s inability to deal with the “cool fuel” thing properly it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they overlooked it.
    This is a big deal – it’s further proof that the organisation of the FIA needs a serious overhaul, and a complete clean-out at the top. But I’m sure Mosley and his cronies will ignore it, and they’ll get away with it again.

  13. Keith, McLaren cars were running equipment not crash tested, which clearly marks them out to be not legal. Even though parts may meet specifications however, they must got through crash testing before being used in a race. The cars and drivers alike would have been stripped off of their points and finishing positions, which would have been as per law. McLaren got their points stripped for more than one reasons. We all know about Bernie’s love for what i mentioned earlier. We all know FIA to crumble to his demands from time to time. It may irk you, but there’s no denying that. Mosley did speak in public, about him not getting his way. Why would you think he’d say that? Bernie wanted a show, he got FIA to give you one. I somehow think WWE matches are entertaining, but i also know they are fixed. What we had last year, with Macca drivers getting off lightly, was somewhat akin to that.

    Also, am not asking you to like it. It is my opinion, based on facts, statements made by Max Mosley, who i’d say is/are damn sight more credible a source.

    The trouble last time was he and it seems you as well perceived that i meant FIA was biased towards Macca. I did not. I only was trying to say they were being wrestled by Bernie to get his way.

  14. Mosley is not a credible source. He’s a fundamentally dishonest person who’ll say whatever he feels like to support his position. If it’s true it’s purely incidental.

  15. Well, a fisty tread going here. But let’s carry the foolishness to the next level. Suppose Mclaren or surigates working for them could get the $100M fine reversed, how do you get the money back from MadMax?
    And shouldn’t it come back “with interest” ? Ha Ha Ha

  16. According to Article 30 of the FIA Statutes the French text is the definitive one. So we really need to know if the English text on the FIA site is an extract translation.

  17. If they did get the money back from the FiA, the price of entry in ’09 would be even higher. Plus I’m am sure that Max would make it look as though McLaren were ‘stealing’ money from the road safety fund that this money ‘allegedly’ went to.

    I’m sure someone at McLaren pointed this out, but the fear of further punishment persuaded them not to act on it.

  18. I think the key to this is the fact that the story is written by the paper’s business team, not the sports staff – and thus might not have quite the perspective we are used to as motor racing fans. It also explains the headline referring to “McClaren” – quite what a football manager has to do with anything is a mystery to me ;- ))

    The Indy’s always had a slightly funny sense of newsworthiness. I just think the business desk thought they had a nice little exclusive and published it today for maximum impact. Which they secured – here we all are, discussing it.

    The story raises some interesting points and, in my view, gives another nice hard kick to the already rickety structure of motorsports administration.

    But the idea that McLaren would choose this point in their season to dig up that particular scandal, with Hamilton under the pressure he is, makes no sense whatsoever.

  19. It was co-written by Christian Sylt, who has a history of doing stories on the politics and financial side of F1.
    I presume the sub-editor who wrote the headline is not an F1 fan, but the headline is irrelevant to the content of the story.

  20. I see you got to this one before I did, Keith, ignore the email.

    This is clearly significant, but it’s nearly impossible to gauge how it will play out. It should be a surprise to no one that Max has played by his own rules and stacked the deck to get his way, I just wonder whether anyone has the guts to hold him accountable. If they can’t get him out for bringing the sport into disrepute, they should turf him for clearly breaking the rules.

  21. That typo happens in the sports pages of British newspapers all the time, which is a bit ridiculous when you consider how long McLaren have been winning. Without wishing to read too much of it I think it hints at the anti-motor sport snobbery I think there is in a lot of newspapers.

  22. BTW, that car looks absolutely gorgeous in that picture.

  23. During last year’s spy scandal, I remember that famous article in The Times that got Martin Brundle into very hot water with Max Mosley and the FIA (Favouring Italian Autosports).
    In the article, Brundle infamously labelled the FIA’s investigation into the saga as a ‘witch hunt’. Simular sentiments were uttered by others too, but Brundle’s article for me described how I felt as a fan watching the whole farce pan out.
    I am not going to go any further, everything has already been said. Yet again, we are reminded of this
    ‘disgusting’ episode just as the season enters its most important faze.
    How conveniant!
    The fact remains that McLaren are still here, still winning races, and that the majority of their top brass are still in command. If it was all a conspiracy to destroy McLaren as a team, then it failed. If the fine was implimented for the benefit of Formula One, then it also failed.
    Everybody must remember that Formula One is a brand, the same as the teams are brands. When one is tarnished, it affects all the others, guilty or innocent. All that matters, is that there exists a level playing field for the teams to compete and to win.
    If this fine was implimented to prove that F1 is not a level playing field, and that certain teams have more advantages than others in the eyes of the powers at be, then it succeeded.

  24. Max, being the gentleman that he is, will surely repay McLaren, from his damages award from the pending court case. :\

  25. I doubt Max reads the Independant – the FIA will ignore the story, deny any wrong doing and blame Ron for digging it all up again!

  26. Maybe Mclaren did notice it and the threat of causing a fuss was part of the leverage they used to get a better pit lane…

  27. It’s clear that McLaren feel victimised these days as they are not appealing anything these days – even the stupid 5 place grid penality for Kovalienen went unchallenged.

    The FIA choose which rules to apply and too what strengths they will apply them. Williams and BMW should have been penalised in Brazil last year – there was a disrepancy – McLaren would have gained from the rules being followed – the FIA choose not to act.

    Max’s dislike of Ron Dennis is the biggest issue and I would not be at all surprised if his childish antics continued enough to force an illegal fine through.

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