That FIA decision

So a few more details have come to light, and I’ve had a chance to think about it.

It just doesn’t feel right.  Let’s forget the seeming Ferrari bias in F1, Toyota employees that were found guilty with no FIA sanction, Honda’s 2 race ban for an illegal fuel tank etc.  ‘Cheating’, to some extent is a part of the of the sport, not in an out and out obvious way of course, but teams have always tried to get information about other teams, and I’m sure that in the past that has involved some idle chatting between engineers or whatever.  Cameramen with zoom lenses employed to look at competitors cars, into the cockpits (It’s not just to keep the drivers cool that there are umbrellas over the cockpits now).  It all seems a little odd that the FIA have decided to take such a hard stance with McLaren.

Looking at the information that was supposedly being made use of, well just as much could of been gleamed by an engineer that had moved teams, there must be a fair amount of IP that is transferred when engineers and designers swap teams, it’s no surprise that senior members have to take ‘gardening leave’ for a while, no doubt to ensure what knowledge they have is slightly out of date by the time another team can use it.

The other interesting aspect from the e-mail conversations involving Alonso and De La Rosa, is that it’s quite clear Alonso had some knowledge and was seeking an advantage.  Yet both drivers received no sanction.  Hamilton has not been implicated, but Alonso has shown a level of guilt and yet walks away a free man.
If the FIA believe that the team has benefited from it’s information, then surely so have the drivers.  Yes, I personally think it’s a good thing for the sport that the drivers were not sanctioned as the title battle involves a Brit, and is also one of the best we have had for years, so to tear it apart would of been disappointing and potentially damaging for the sport, but the FIA should perhaps of been a bit more honest or more consistent in the message it put out.  Max Mosley has been saying now that if Hamilton were to win it would be tainted and Hamilton wouldn’t feel satisfied, and talk that McLaren were minutes away from being thrown out of both 07 and 08 championships.  They are trying to make themselves sound tough after the event, after taking a more diplomatic line for the sport.  How could Hamilton’s or Alonso’s win be tainted?  If they genuinely had an advantage from the information they had available, how come the team have not made use of it to romp away with the championship winning every race?  Ferrari have won races too, and given McLaren a fair fight, which to my mind proves that McLaren have not made use of the information.  The one instance were Mclaren seem to of used information to an advantage is in identifying the ‘illegal’ rear wing and floor on the Ferrari, that’s a nice little merry-go-round, trying to argue who is really wrong there!

So what of the actual penalties?   The $100million fine isn’t going to be too painful (Despite being enough to run the likes of Spyker for a year), and Ron Dennis has already stated that this money will come from other revenue streams.  More worrying is the impact of the points loss, not on this year’s championship – but on 2008.  In effect, McLaren will finish 2007 last, which means they will be at the ‘wrong’ end of the pit lane for 2008, not next to Ferrari, but down at the Spyker end.  Will they be after Spyker?  Of course, they will probably end up next to the new entrants ProDrive, who are rumoured to be using McLaren chassis’, which will be a nice little perverse twist – not dissimilar to the fact that Honda and Super Aguri look likely to be next to each other next year.  in this move, they will no longer have 5 garages as they do now, but a meager 2.   It will be interesting to see how they handle that, and if it will have any effect, of course it could lead to some lean processes that will actually bolster the team.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to utilise ProDrive if they do indeed provide the chassis’ to somehow enhance their garage allocation.

Finally, what of Alonso?  The e-mail evidence from him can’t of helped what is already reputed to be a strained relationship between him and Ron Dennis.  His aggressive manoeuvre on Hamilton will of further strained that relationship too.  It has now emerged that Dennis found out about the e-mails at the Hungarian GP, which itself had it’s share of controversy.  It is also rumoured that this came out of a conversation where Alonso was pushing for driver preference within the team, but Dennis would not acquiesce.  None of this is the way for a driver to settle himself within a team, although Alonso’s manager has stated he will see out his contract, of course he has to say that if Alonso is in secret negotiations.  It’s interesting that Renault are still reluctant to announce their 2008 line-up, obviously Briatore feels that there is a chance Alonso will move, and is eager to pull him back into the fold.  Normally at this time of the year, contracts are being made and announced, but there a few outstanding now – so seemingly everyone is waiting to see what Alonso does.

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