McLaren under the microscope
Max Mosley, the FIA’s boss man, has been talking about McLaren, and they’re probably not happy to hear what he’s been saying.
First, McLaren can expect extra scrutiny next year. Stealing information from Ferrari won’t be regarded as history, as forgive and forget in exchange for that $100 million. Mosley told reporters earlier today that McLaren’s 2008 car will be thoroughly inspected by experts to insure that it does not use intellectual property of Ferrari.
Referring to that information, Mosley said “[t]hat was in the hands of the chief designer at precisely the moment he was designing the 2008 McLaren. The difficulty we have is that you’re not going to find on the McLaren a part that was designed by Ferrari. Instead, what you may find are ideas. But, at this level of technology and at this level of motor sport, if the idea is given to the chief designer, he will make a component utilizing that idea which bears no relation at all to the component perhaps being used by the other car – so we will be looking for the ideas.”
Mosley also suggested that the FIA is fully prepared to give McLaren the extra attention needed to chase down any doubts about the new car’s provenance. “Finding something will not be easy. On the other hand, there are sources we are going to deploy who will give us as good a chance as it’s possible to have to find it. The investigation will be thorough – it will use outside experts and we will do everything we possibly can to make sure that either of the McLarens has no element of Ferrari intellectual property in it. If it does, we will then have to consider taking some sort of action. That would not necessarily be preventing them from running – it would be more likely that they would be given a negative point allocation.”
Which can be taken as a “don’t even think about it” sort of warning.
Not good news for McLaren. They can get tagged for cheating even if the questionable part, component, or set-up bears no dimensional, physical, or functional relationship to something from Ferrari, provided that the FIA believes that the genesis may have been a Ferrari idea. Since both McLaren and Ferrari are designing cars to the same rule book, and designers are educated to have ideas according to those rules and utilizing the unchanging principles of physics and engineering, it could be a tall order to design a car that couldn’t seem to be using an idea gained elsewhere.
Behind Mosley’s comments is an evident attitude at the FIA that McLaren is not to be trusted. Of course, Ron Dennis’ lying about his teams involvement throughout the entire affair has probably offended the FIA more than the original infraction, or even more than the institutional commitment to cheating which that revealed. Still, in a sport in which cutting-edge technology is essential to mere survival, it’s difficult to see how McLaren will be able to effectively function under these constraints.
But McLaren’s being competitive is not Mosley’s concern. Indeed, he also told reporters that Lewis Hamilton might not be awarded the driver’s championship even if the Court of Appeal reversed the steward’s decision, upheld McLaren’s appeal, and the Williams and BMW Sauber cars from their Brazil finishing positions.
Mosley told reporters that the appeal would not necessarily affect the championship. Asked if McLaren could win the appeal, he said: “It could happen, absolutely, because this will go to a court of appeal. That said, it’s very unlikely because, even if they excluded those cars, they are not obliged to reclassify Hamilton. There’s absolutely no need, if they don’t wish to, to change the position that Hamilton was in.”
Hamilton gets no sympathy from Mosley, who also told reporters that he thought it likely that Hamilton had some knowledge of the team’s use of the Ferrari information. Probably more importantly, however, is the matter of betting. It is one thing to impose penalties on a team for cheating. It is another thing to upset race results, or those of the championship, on which bets have undoubtedly been placed and paid. No sport is interested in doing that, for it upsets bookies and bettors alike. In motorsports, whether it’s NASCAR or Formula One, when results are announced, they tend to stay the way they were, no matter how much it may turn out that it should have been otherwise.