Turbulent times ahead for the FIA, I fancy, as the governing body’s World Motor Sport Council convenes in Paris on December 6-7 to adjudicate on two knotty problems. One is to sort out whether the 2008 F1 McLaren MP4-23 has traces of Ferrari technology in its DNA, the second to establish whether Renault ripped off McLaren design data from Woking's 2006 and 2007 contenders in a manner so brazen it makes McLaren’s own incursion onto Ferrari’s patch look as insignificant as parking on a double yellow line.
I don’t care how FIA president Max Mosley and his well-groomed advisors explain it away, the $100m fine and loss of championship points inflicted on McLaren was a savage and utterly unreasonable penalty which just made the sport appear frivolous in the eyes of the paying public. Now, if Renault are found bang to rights, I just don’t see how there is any alternative but to stick them with a similar penalty. That is going to be a tricky old number, because I can see the Renault top brass baulking at signing that sort of cheque and pulling out of the sport instead.
This whole business of intellectual property rights in F1 is potentially the most complicated minefield of all. The irony is, of course, that the seriousness of the so-called ‘copying’ offences in recent times has been kid’s stuff compared with what went before.
Hell, in 1978 the Arrows F1 team stole a complete car design from rivals Shadow, and the governing body couldn’t have cared less. The sport seemed a lot less complicated then, of course, but then the stakes were nowhere near as high.