Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) has a WMSC (World Motor Sports Council). It is their main court for handling disputes within motorsports. It has just handed down one of the most extraordinarily punitive punishments in its history to McLaren (the F1 team previously leading this year's excellent F1 Constructors World Championship). They've removed all the points so far scored this year, excluded the team (but not the drivers, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton) from the remainder of the Championship, and hit them with a $100 million fine. The impact of this will be that McLaren will start next year right at the bottom of the pit lane, with limited garage space, and little help with transportation costs - just as if they were the old Minardi team!

The crime? Gaining competitive advantage from having proprietary Ferrari design and performance data. Now, bearing in mind that F1 teams are always monitoring the competition - at tests, at races, and so on, and that staff move between companies quite frequently, definitely taking knowledge, if not actual documentation, with them, and bearing in mind that McLaren & Ferrari cars are designed by different people with different design philosophies and theories, I find it remarkable that the FIA should be so remarkably punitive.

Not only that, there are numerous precedents of industrial espionage cases between F1 teams that have never, ever, resulted in such extreme measures.

Worse, Max Mosley, President of the FIA, said, "But that they had an advantage is almost beyond dispute." (my emphasis)

What is a regulatory committee doing issuing such commercially damaging punishment for a relatively common-place, but not often publicised slightly dirty side to F1 racing (and probably every other competitive motor-sport).

I hope McLaren take them to the cleaners in the real civil courts, and put the frighteners on the kangaroo court that is the WMSC.

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