Mclarens Championship Quest Continues

By: Anthony Fontanelle


Four days after McLaren's Fernando Alonso won the European Grand Prix, the British team faced their biggest challenge this season but not on the tracks but in the boardrooms. The Formula One team was summoned by the FIA, the ruling body of the sport to an emergency World Motor Sport Council to answer the allegation of using Ferrari technical details on their Formula One cars.

The meeting was held yesterday and the decision is that McLaren was found guilty of the possession of Ferrari documents but the team will not be punished since there is no sufficient evidence showing that the team has used the Ferrari technical specs on their cars. The decision means that the team's quest for a championship after nine years will continue. But the FIA said that the team can still be punished if sufficient evidence comes up indicting them of using Ferrari technology on their cars.

According to the FIA: "The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code."

"However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula One World Championship. We therefore impose no penalty."

"But if it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship, but also the 2008 championship," the FIA released.

McLaren currently has the lead in the constructors' and drivers' championship. It has 138 points while Ferrari is in second place with 111 points. McLaren's rookie driver Lewis Hamilton leads all drivers in points with 70 while Alonso is in close second with 68 points after his win at the European Grand Prix.

The controversy started when an employee of a photocopying shop alerted Ferrari that a person has been photocopying documents with Ferrari logos on them. The customer was found out to be the wife of McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan who is currently suspended. Ferrari then had Coughlan's house searched and sure enough, 780 pages of Ferrari documents are found in his possession.

According to reports, the dossier was passed on to Coughlan by Ferrari's Nigel Stepney, who was sacked by the Italian team after the controversy started. Both Stepney and Coughlan are summoned by the FIA and were asked why they should not be banned from participating in any motor sport.

McLaren's reputation was somewhat tainted by the controversy as well as its partners like Vodafone and Mercedes-Benz. The former is a major sponsor of the Woking-based Formula One team. Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, provides the engines for the team. The German automaker also produces reliable parts for non-racing cars such as the to name one. The two companies' reputations are also in danger of being tainted.

Mercedes-Benz' Norbert Haug, the automaker's chief for motorsports, is confident that the team is innocent. Haug is completely behind their Formula One partner. "It is certainly not an issue our team is interested in," he said concerning the issue of breaking rules to get an advantage over other teams.

"Everybody who has technical expertise, and can look at the car, will easily find out there are no ideas not created within our team on or in our car," Haug said.

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