Sep 24, 2007
When is $100 Million Not Enough?By JR Nerad
Well, you have to hand it to the FIA, the sanctioning body that oversees the Formula One racing series. To its credit, its members responded to the recent cheating scandal that involved one top team -- McLaren -- using data from another top team -- Ferrari -- that had been obtained in nefarious ways by socking the offending team with a whopping $100 million fine. In addition, McLaren was stripped of its Constructors' Championship points, and we understand that team boss Ron Dennis was also given a stern talking to and sent to sit in the corner to consider what his team had done. Interestingly, there seemed to be no immediate punishments meted out to suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who was the recipient of the ill-gotten information, nor to depose Ferrari top mechanic Nigel Stepney, who supplied the information as part of an employment search strategy. Their come-uppance will likely occur later.
So why do we imply by our headline that the $100 million fine is not enough? Because in its inimitable wisdom, the FIA decided not to issue the penalties that would have the most teeth. It has now become crystal clear that McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa were aware of the stolen information and used it to their benefit. In a report issued by the FIA, it noted that emails between Alonso and de la Rosa proved unequivocally that both drivers got the information and knew it was stolen, yet neither man has been sanctioned. Alonso is very likely to win his second consecutive Drivers' Championship, because, despite the fact that his team cheated and he cheated, he has not been stripped of any Drivers' Championship points, nor has he been suspended, severely chastised or sent to his room without supper.
One has to wonder what kind of offense a driver and team have to commit before the FIA decides they are not worthy to continue to compete in what many consider to be motor racing's ultimate series. The FIA report also makes a mockery of McLaren's earlier claims that the theft of intellectual property was the work of "lone wolf" Mike Coughlan. In an attempt to keep the manure off his vest, McLaren honcho Ron Dennis ultimately turned over the evidence that clinched the case, but one still has to wonder how deep this scheme was embedded in the McLaren organization. If de la Rosa and Alonso knew about it, isn't it likely Dennis did, too?
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