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Rediff.com  » Sports » F1 sends "spy saga" verdict to appeal

F1 sends "spy saga" verdict to appeal

August 01, 2007 12:03 IST
McLaren's title prospects were plunged back into doubt on Tuesday when Formula One's governing body agreed an appeal court should have the final say on the 'spy saga' gripping the sport.

Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), granted an Italian request for a review of last week's controversial FIA decision not to punish McLaren for unauthorised possession of Ferrari information.

A FIA spokesman said the appeal hearing, in front of a panel of at least three judges, was likely to be in Paris at the end of August with leaders McLaren again facing sanctions ranging from a reprimand to being kicked out of the championship.

McLaren, with 22-year-old British rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton two points clear of double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso, lead Ferrari by 27 points with seven races remaining.

The next grand prix is in Hungary on Sunday.

McLaren, who suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan after the Briton was found to have some 780 pages of Ferrari technical information at his home at the beginning of July, said they were confident the appeal court would also clear them.

The Mercedes-powered team had argued Coughlan was a disgruntled employee acting in isolation and the FIA's World Motor Sport Council decided there was insufficient evidence that the team had benefited from the data.

ITALIAN PROTEST

Ferrari argued that the decision "legitimises dishonest behaviour" and Luigi Macaluso, the president of the Italian Automobile Federation, wrote to Mosley on that team's behalf to seek an appeal.

He said Ferrari, who were not allowed to appeal in their own right, had not been able to present their side of the story.

Mosley, in a reply published on the FIA's Web site (www.fia.com), agreed they had a case.

"Exclusion or withdrawal of points did not seem appropriate if it was really just a case of a rogue employee illegitimately acquiring information for his own purposes," he said.

"Your letter suggests that the outcome may have been different if the council had given Ferrari further opportunities to be heard beyond those that were in fact offered.

"Because of this and the importance of public confidence in the outcome, I will send this matter to the FIA Court of Appeal under article 23.1 of the FIA statutes," he added.

Mosley said he would ask the court to hear both Ferrari and McLaren as well as "any other championship competitor who so requests" to determine whether the first decision was appropriate.

If not, he added, the court should "substitute such other decision as may be just."

Ferrari, who are taking legal action in England against Coughlan and in Italy against their own dismissed employee Nigel Stepney, welcomed the FIA's decision as "a sensible one".

McLaren accused Ferrari of waging a "thoroughly misleading press campaign".

"McLaren is not aware of any new information or arguments that have arisen since the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council and therefore assumes that these same materials will now be considered by the FIA International Court of Appeal," the team said in a statement.

"Whilst this is both disappointing and time-consuming, McLaren is confident that the FIA International Court of Appeal will also exonerate McLaren and we will in the meanwhile continue to focus on our current World Championship programme."

Alan Baldwin
Source:
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