Hamilton could be thrown out of next year's world championship

By JONATHAN McEVOY

Last updated at 23:19 07 December 2007


Lewis Hamilton

could be thrown out

of next year's world

championship after

Formula One's rulers

found evidence of Ferrari

designs being used on the

2008 McLaren car.

The FIA's World Motor Sport

Council had hoped to draw a line

under the sport's most contentious

dispute at their meeting

in Monte Carlo yesterday, but

instead decided to call McLaren

back before them at a special hearing

on February 14.

Such is the significance of the

data collected during an inspection

of the British team's Woking

factory — a process undertaken by

high-powered technical and legal

experts at a cost of up to £1million

— that Hamilton must endure an

agonising wait to learn his fate.

Although he and former teammate

Fernando Alonso were not

penalised in September when

McLaren were fined $100m (£49.3m) and thrown out of the

constructors' championship for

using Ferrari secrets, FIA president

Max Mosley yesterday confirmed

that Hamilton would not escape

sanction if the case is proven.

He said: 'If there is any negative

finding about 2008, and it is a very

big if, it will apply to everybody,

the drivers and the team. It would

only be based on their unfair

advantage.' McLaren insisted that

'no confidential information has

been incorporated within the

team's 2007 and 2008 cars'.

The FIA have informed McLaren

boss Ron Dennis which aspects of

next season's design they think

could be derived from the information

exchanged between sacked

Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney

and McLaren's disgraced chief

designer Mike Coughlan earlier

this year. If the car is found to incorporate elements based on

leaked data, McLaren will have

two months to remove the offending

material from their prototype

car. Doing so could save them from

a penalty, or at least minimise it.

But tinkering with the design is a

potentially huge blow to their, and

Hamilton's, on-track performance.

Mosley said: 'Under the sporting

code anything is possible, from no

action at all, through to a reprimand,

through to exclusion from

the championship.'

McLaren are desperate for 'closure'

after a damaging few

months, yet their troubles appear

endless, with a picture emerging of

them as incompetent at best and

deeply corrupt at worst.

Nor will the furore help Hamilton,

who attended last night's FIA gala

dinner here, win the BBC Sports

Personality of the Year award

tomorrow, though there is no suggestion

of wrongdoing on his part.

McLaren's supporters will claim

that Mosley is merely pursuing a

personal vendetta against Dennis.

He is angered by the accusation

and yesterday announced that the

FIA are suing ITV commentator

Martin Brundle for describing

their conduct as a 'witch-hunt' in

his Sunday newspaper column.

Mosley and Dennis are not

friends, but that should not hide

the fact that McLaren have

repeatedly been economical with

the truth. They originally claimed

that only Coughlan knew about

the Ferrari dossier, only for it to be

proven that the information was

disseminated much wider.

And two weeks ago, in a leak to the

press, they fabricated the extent of

the classified McLaren information

in Renault's hands in the second F1

spy row of the year, which went

before the council on Thursday.

Mosley added: 'It is pure speculation

whether the leak was an

attempt to make the Renault

affair look comparable to the Ferrari

affair because the 780 alleged drawings was pure fiction. To put

it bluntly, it was a barefaced lie.'

While McLaren's smearing of

Renault is inexcusable, it remains

bizarre that Renault were deemed

guilty yet not even fined a penny.

After all, the engineer in question,

Steve Mackereth, took 11 floppy

disks when he left McLaren for the

French manufacturers, including

four drawings which were viewed

by his Renault colleagues.

Admittedly, as yesterday's disclosure

of the full findings showed,

the espionage was not on

McLaren's grand scale, but how

can the FIA fail to levy any fine or

dock points? For Hamilton, there

may be no such reprieve.

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