Expulsion Threat To McLaren Drivers
July 14, 2007
McLaren Mercedes could face expulsion from this year's championship if found guilty of espionage by the FIA. At present, McLaren’s fate is hanging in the balance. Would FIA’s decision spoil the team’s great chance to win this season’s Formula One?
Looks like Lewis Hamilton's aspiration of winning the Formula One world title in his debut season is in jeopardy after the alleged Ferrari espionage scandal stepped up a gear last Thursday. Teammate Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion, also is enduring a similar predicament. With the potential expulsion of McLaren in this season’s Formula One, the Briton and the Spaniard drivers will lose their chance to vie for the title.
McLaren, which leads the race by 25 points, faces expulsion from the championship following the decision by Formula One's ruling body, the FIA, to charge the team with a breach of the international sporting code.
On July 26, four days after the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, McLaren has been ordered to appear before the FIA's world motor sport council in Paris to answer for the discovery of a 780-page document in the possession of Mike Coughlan, the team’s chief designer.
The dossier is said to be detailing Ferrari secrets. The fact that Coughlan had the files, with or without the knowledge of his superiors, shoved McLaren into the confines of Article 151c of the sporting code, which deals with “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.”
Coughlan, in a sworn affidavit, has given a full account of his participation to Ferrari. Ferrari was given permission by the High Court in London to make that affidavit available to the FIA. The Coughlan affidavit is expected to fill in some serious gaps regarding the controversy.
It should also divulge the identity of Coughlan's contact at Maranello, believed to be sacked Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney. Ferrari has instituted criminal proceedings in Italy against Stepney, who denies passing information to Coughlan and any wrongdoing relating to the lawsuit against him.
“The team representatives have been called to answer a charge that between March and July 2007, in breach of article 151c of the international sporting code, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes had unauthorized possession of documents and confidential information belonging to Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, including information that could be used to design, engineer, build, check, test, develop and/or run a 2007 Ferrari Formula One car,” the FIA said in a statement.
“Whilst McLaren wishes to continue its full co-operation with any investigation into this matter, it does wish to make it very clear that the documents and confidential information were only in the possession of one currently suspended employee on an unauthorized basis and no element of it has been used in relation to McLaren's Formula One cars,” the statement continued.
McLaren is extremely disappointed to note that it has been asked by the FIA to answer a charge of being in possession of certain documents and confidential information belonging to Ferrari, said a statement of the Formula One team.
The penalties available to the FIA range from fines to disqualification. To impose a ban, the FIA would need to prove that Coughlan made use of the information he had in favor of McLaren.
Whatever the outcome is, the next weeks are set to unfold hardships for the team and its drivers. But Formula One aficionados fervently hope they would be able to see McLaren’s might in the upcoming races. The Mercedes Benz tie rod end, engines and other superb race parts are significantly helping Hamilton and Alonso obtain their goal this season.
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