Renault found guilty in spy scandal

Renault was not penalized on Thursday despite being found guilty of having confidential information about Formula One rival McLaren.

updated: December 08, 2007 09:09 IST
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Renault was not penalised on Thursday despite being found guilty of having confidential information about Formula One rival McLaren.

Renault could have been handed a penalty similar to the $100 million fine imposed on McLaren in September for using confidential data from Ferrari.

In the latest allegations in F1's spy scandal, team officials were summoned by the World Motor Sport Council to face accusations that Renault had unauthorised access to details on McLaren's cars.

In a statement on its Web site, the sport's governing body said it "found Renault F1 to be in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code but imposed no penalty."

McLaren had claimed that Renault gained an unfair advantage last season from information about its fueling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and suspension component.

Phil Mackereth, a former McLaren engineer, was alleged to have taken several CDs of data with him to Renault after he joined the team in September 2006.

But the case was further muddied on Wednesday when McLaren admitted to misinforming journalists over the scale of the allegations against Mackereth and Renault.

The FIA forced McLaren to acknowledge that there were just 18 technical drawings of its cars on the 11 computer disks it said Mackereth had, not 780 outlining the entire blueprint as it had previously leaked to the press.

Thursday's decision could make it easier for Fernando Alonso to return to Renault after quitting McLaren in the offseason. The Spanish driver won the F1 world title with Renault in 2005 and '06.

Renault has said it suspended Mackereth in September as soon as it had learned of his actions and then alerted McLaren and FIA.

Renault said the information it had covers only four "basic systems," one of which was obsolete, and denied it influenced the design of its racing car in any way.

McLaren's punishment was much more severe. As well as the record fine, it was also kicked out of the manufacturers' championship, although Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton were not docked points.

Hamilton finished second and Alonso third in the drivers' championship.

Renault finished third in the manufacturers' championship with 51 points, and British newspapers had speculated that the company could have pulled out of F1 if it had been hit with a harsh penalty.

Following an examination of McLaren's computers, the FIA will rule on Friday on whether any of Ferrari's ideas or components have been incorporated into McLaren's car for the 2008 season.

The FIA could force McLaren to remove any illegal parts, setting back the car's development by months and crippling Hamilton's hopes of winning next season's title.