McLaren escapes punishment, Ferrari furious

McLaren has escaped punishment for possessing confidential information on the design of Ferrari cars in a decision that has infuriated its F1 rival.

updated: August 09, 2007 15:36 IST
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McLaren has escaped punishment for possessing confidential information on the design of Ferrari cars in a decision that has infuriated its Formula One rival.

Motorsport's world governing body - FIA - ruled on Thursday that McLaren did have sensitive Ferrari documents, but there was insufficient evidence that the data was misused.

A hearing was called to work out how a 780-page technical dossier on Ferrari cars was found at the home of McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, and if other team officials were aware of the contents.

Coughlan has since been suspended by McLaren.

Ferrari said FIA's decision not to punish McLaren "legitimises dishonest behavior in Formula One and sets a very serious precedent."

"Ferrari feels this is highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport," the team said in a statement.

FIA warned McLaren that it could face future sanctions if there is evidence that the data was used to influence the world championships.

"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 (FIA council) where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship, but also the 2008 championship," FIA said.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis said he was "not completely comfortable with the outcome, but the punishment fits the crime."

Sports code broken

FIA had asked that McLaren answer a charge that it broke the sport's code by acquiring documents and confidential information belonging to Ferrari. That included "information that could be used to design, engineer, build, check, test, develop and/or run a 2007 Ferrari Formula One car."

McLaren has said its cars do not contain any Ferrari-related alterations.

But Ferrari said McLaren should be punished by FIA for possessing its secret documents.

"It is incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not have, as a logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction," Ferrari said. "This is all the more serious as it has occurred in a sport like Formula One in which small details make all the difference."

Ferrari said the criminal investigations under way in Italy and Britain would still continue.

Autosport magazine reported that Ferrari head of performance Nigel Stepney, who has since been fired, e-mailed Coughlan before the season started with details of the moveable floor in Ferrari's cars.

FIA said its legal department would ask Stepney and Coughlan to explain their actions. The two face a lengthy ban from international motor sport.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso lead the driver standings with seven of 17 races left in the season. Hamilton has 70 points and Alonso 68, while Felipe Massa has 59 and Kimi Raikkonen 52 for Ferrari.

McLaren also leads the constructor standings with 138 points to 111 for Ferrari.