This week, the World Motorsport Council reconvened in Paris to examine the new evidence presented to them regarding the espionage hearing. The new evidence was apparently some emails between members of the team (including reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa, and defending champion Fernando Alonso) which may have indicated knowledge of Ferrari secrets.
Whilst the Formula 1 fans all waited with baited breath for the results, Lewis Hamilton and Ron Dennis turned up at the hearing in their suits, to present the case as they see it. The McLaren team still strongly deny that they had any knowledge of the documents and that the act of one sole man – Mike Coughlan – should not bring the entire team into disrepute.
The FIA did not see it that way. Whilst we are still waiting for the full report on their findings, they have announced the penalty that McLaren are to face. They have now been stripped of all constructor’s points earned this year. Drivers get to keep their points and continue to battle for the championship but McLaren as a constructor is no longer in the fight for 2007. If the team should win a race during the last few remaining weekends, then they will not be allowed a representative on the podium to collect the constructors trophy. The team will also have to put their cars under intense scrutiny before the 2008 championship, to ensure that no Ferrari intellectual property is in place in the design. And finally, they are subject to a $100 million fine – the largest to date within Formula 1.
Reactions were quick, many people declared the penalties as much too harsh. Even Ron’s bitterest rival Flavio Briatore was sympathetic to the loss of all the points. Ferrari were obviously over the moon with the result, although there has been no official word from them, as yet.
Ron has announced that the team will wait to read the full FIA report and find out the reasonings behind the punishment before deciding whether to take the matter to the Court of Appeal. He reiterated the team’s innocence, said that his future within the sport was never in doubt, and that they would now all be concentrating on a good showing in Belgium.
When I first read the result, I was shocked. It seemed very harsh, especially when they were found guilty last time and very little occurred because of it. Part of me thinks I should be glad that the hearing has happened and now we can get back to some proper racing, but a much bigger part of me knows that this is far from over.