Mclaren: Proving Innocence or Guilt?

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Formula One temperature is rising and it is not just because of the upcoming Budapest race but because of the scandal that involves two powerful teams - McLaren and Ferrari. McLaren is definitely swimming in hot water as it faces espionage trial.

As a fact, it is not only McLaren's World Championship that is at stake in the trial - it will include the entire Formula One. And if justice is not served, it will cause an irreparable blow. The FIA will be acting as judge, jury and prosecutor. As such, McLaren could be summoned and called upon to prove its innocence and that the team did not benefit benefiting from the stolen package of information allegedly found in the possession of Mike Coughlan, its chief designer.

Following a search of his home by High Court appointed officials, Coughlan, was caught in possession of a 780-page Ferrari technical dossier. It is alleged that Coughlan received the documents from Nigel Stepney, fired earlier this month by Ferrari from his role as the team's head of performance development. Stepney has denied the allegations.

Could control a potential harmful emission from McLaren? McLaren's challenge could be ominous. The defense that Coughlan was acting as a rogue element will not serve as a mitigating circumstance. Article 3.1 of the 2007 Sporting Code specifically states: "It is the competitor's responsibility to ensure that all persons concerned by his entry observe all the requirements of the Agreement, the Code, the Technical Regulations and the Sporting Regulations". In summary, if a team member is guilty then so too is the team as a whole, said Pete Gill of Planet F-1.

The pre-trial speculation has focused on the type of punishment that will be meted out rather than the verdict. The penalties range between a measly fine and expulsion from this season's championship. "Generally, the expectation is nearer to the former than the latter, but it is very much a guessing game," Gill added. "Whatever the upshot of Thursday's hearing, the verdict will be devastating: F1 found guilty of failing to keep its own house in good order."

McLaren were formally charged by the FIA of being in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code. The relevant rule relates to any fraudulent conduct, or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition, or to the interests of motor sport generally. The aftermath lies in the hands of 25 members of the World Motor Sports Council, the FIA's highest power, who have been summoned to an extraordinary meeting to judge whether McLaren are guilty of 'fraudulent conduct.'

"I can comfortably say this will not end in anything that causes McLaren any embarrassment," Dennis was quoted as saying at the British Grand Prix.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso, in a letter, explained the Stepneygate controversy to his cousin Pedro dela Rosa, now a tester of his team. Planet-F1 has obtained copies of the latest correspondence: "We have big scandal in F1 right now and if it comes out bad, they take my points. I am not happy. It start at the beginning of the season with a guy called Nigel Stepney, who work for Ferrari for a long time and then get passed over for the big job when his boss leave to go fishing," wrote Alonso.

Nigel say back that after working in F1 for many years the only white powder he knows is used by Flavio Briatore in his cappuccino. Then he says the frightening thing "after working at Ferrari for 15 years I know where the bodies are buried. Now everybody in the whole world has a view."

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