In an act of almost unimaginable savagery, the FIA’s world motor sport council yesterday (13 September) torpedoed the McLaren F1 team’s immediate future by wiping its tally of 2007 constructors’ championship points from the board.
In addition, it fined the team an incomprehensible $100m (£49.6m) after deciding that the world championship leaders were guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute by using illegally obtained technical data from Ferrari to help the development of their MP4-22 challengers.
What began several months ago with a couple of rogue employees at Ferrari and McLaren respectively leaking information one to the other spiralled out of control into one of the biggest controversies the sport has ever seen.
McLaren denied that it had made anything more than a cursory inspection of a 780-page technical dossier which disaffected Maranello employee Nigel Stepney spirited out of his team’s factory and into the custody of McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan.
The details and implications of this impropriety were twice examined the world motor sport council, but although McLaren escaped without penalty at the first meeting in July, the emergence of apparently incriminating new evidence led to this week's case.
Lewis Hamilton’s world championship remained buoyantly alive last night after he and his Mclaren-Mercedes team-mate Fernando Alonso were allowed to retain their points in the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton, who leads the drivers’ world championship on 92 points, three ahead of his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, will now be free to compete in the remaining four races on this year’s championship schedule, starting with Sunday’s Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps where free practice starts this morning.
The FIA council concluded that McLaren had harnessed technical data gleaned from the 780-page technical dossier relating to the Ferrari F2007, the car which has proved their biggest rival over the 13 races run so far this year.
By losing its leading tally of 166 constructors’ championship points, McLaren has effectively relinquished the constructors’ title to Ferrari, which is now almost unbeatable on 143 points ahead of BMW Sauber on 86.
In what has been condemned by many as a trivial act of small-mindedness, no McLaren team representative will be permitted on the podium should one of the team’s cars win any of the remaining races. Pathetic or what?