The FIA International Court of Appeal met in London last week to hear the arguments from McLaren against the Brazilian stewards. After the race had finished back in October, an FIA delegate raised a question about the legality of BMW and Williams fuel temperature. It looked to be below the allowed limit, thus theoretically giving them an advantage. The stewards deemed that it was not possible to make the judgement, because there were discrepancies with the temperature sensors.
McLaren appealed this decision, saying they just wanted clarity on the rules, and they weren’t trying to upset the results of the race and therefore the championship.
During the hearing, however, McLaren’s lawyer did seem to be arguing for the two cars to be disqualified, saying that they shouldn’t treat the last race of the season any differently from the first. Usually when a rule has been broken, it means disqualification, and that it should be so here. That does sound suspiciously like someone trying to win the championship in the courtroom.
Either way, the judges took 24 hours to deliberate and make their decisions, and ultimately came up with this: The McLaren appeal was rejected because it was inadmissible.
This basically means that McLaren went the wrong way about protesting, they should have questioned the results of the race, rather than the stewards decision. The FIA still did not provide any information about the ruling, especially not the clarification that McLaren were after.
It is good that McLaren were not successful in their appeal. Any adjustment to the race results this late after the championship is over would not do the sport any favours. But all the same, there are some serious problems with the way this appeal was played out.
First you have to wonder how McLaren didn’t know the right way to raise their questions. They’ve been in the sport for enough years to know how the FIA works. Secondly, if they did go about it the wrong way, why did it end up in the courts anyway? It must have been obvious from the outset that what they were doing was inadmissible. That leads to wondering why it took the judges 24 hours to come up with their decision.
There is also a question of why a Ferrari lawyer was present in court. Nigel Tozzi, QC, was allowed to stand up and have his say on Ferrari’s behalf about the incident. It’s not really clear why Ferrari were even there, let alone getting time to stand up and make their views known.
Unfortunately, we have no answers to any of these questions. McLaren say they still want to understand the regulation about temperature, and even Mario Thiessen, boss of BMW, says it needs to be much clearer.