FIA hearing clears Brit team of any wrongdoing in Ferrari scandal
26 July 2007

The most potentially devastating F1 scandal of recent years came shuddering to an anti-climatic halt this afternoon (26 July) when the McLaren-Mercedes F1 team escaped without penalty after an FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing.At the meeting, the FIA decided that there was no proof that the British squad had used confidential data which had come into the possession of its now-suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan.Thus ended, for the moment at least, an episode which had looked like a scene out of 'The Marx brothers go motor racing' or 'Carry on Copying'. The controversy was triggered when Coughlan's wife Trudy took 780 sheets of confidential Ferrari F1 design data into a photocopying shop in rural Surrey, from where the suspicious owner contacted the famous Italian team with all the relevant details.Small wonder this issue ended up being debated in the lofty corridors of power in Paris, where an understandably rigorous burden of proof was going to be required if McLaren was going to be held responsible for the brainstorms of its renegade chief designer. In the end Ron Dennis's squad was let off the hook as there was insufficient evidence to suggest it was in any way complicit in Coughlan's moment of madness.Viewed from a distance, this was an extremely elegant solution. McLaren was saved the prospect of commercial meltdown, the FIA reminded the wider world that it was even-handed and the fact that it reached this decision in the face of a mountain of persuasive evidence to the contrary from Ferrari scotched for good the notion that the governing body is in Maranello's pocket. Not a bad day, then.

Alan Henry

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