McLaren Avoid FIA Penalty

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After all of the recriminations, McLaren walk away from the FIA hearing with little more than a slap on the wrist. The FIA found McLaren guilty of violating article 151c of the International Sporting Code and yet have only issued a warning that if it is to be found later that they benefited from the technical data, they may be facing some penalty or sanction.

While Ron Dennis, McLaren’s team boss, feels the verdict fits the crime, Ferrari is incandescent over the lack of legal action against a team who have been found to have broken the International Sporting Code. Ferrari’s well-made statement can be found here. While McLaren’s can be found here.

It would be imprudent for Ferrari to marginalize their responsibility in this fiasco as they too are beholden to the sporting regulations and each employee is the responsibility of the team. While hanging their hat on this verbiage regarding Chief Designer Mike Coughlan, they too must admit their employee Nigel Stepney was not only errant but due to the inability of Ferrari to quell their own infighting, McLaren are still waiting for Ferrari to offer mea culpa on behalf of their seemingly corrupt man. In fact, McLaren could argue it is because of Nigel Stepney that their men went awry. That perhaps Stepney coerced him into something he otherwise would not have done. Who knows?

The larger principle in this entire saga is what precedent has been set? I think Ferrari makes a solid point that article 151c has been broken and irrespective of who conned who, rules have to apply to everyone or they are not rules at all. McLaren got away with something short of murder but it was still egregious enough to taint the sport. I for one feel that the FIA has diminished itself in some small margin by admitting a team has run afoul of the rules but as they can not determine an advantage gained, all is forgiven.

Cristian Moreni of Team Cofidis in the Tour De France was running in 54th position when he was found to have higher than normal testosterone levels. He had not had a huge advantage or gain from this drug/doping act as he was not fighting for the yellow jersey so one may argue he had no discernable advantage from the drugs he tested positive for. He was lead away in handcuffs and the entire team Cofidis was removed from the tour. The rules were broken and the punishment done.

One might ask if McLaren did not have an advantage in knowing of the moveable floors at Australia as it was McLaren who lodged the complaint following Ferrari’s victory. One might ask if McLaren has not had an advantage in knowing technical data of a proprietary nature regarding their competitor. Now McLaren must feel very confident that they have not benefited from the data as they have offered the FIA a front row seat as they dismantle one of their cars part by part but I remain hung up on the larger question—irrespective of a gain, benefit or not, was a rule broken and should it not be penalized? One wonders if Lewis’s recent performance played a role in the lack of judgment or if the close title fight has put the FIA in a benevolent mood?

Also, Michael Schumacher is not in the sport and drudging up Ferrari/FIA/Schumacher conspiracies does little to answer for the lack of integrity in this current situation.

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