Ferrari reacted with fury last night after an emergency hearing into the Formula One spy row resulted in McLaren Mercedes escaping without punishment. The FIA, the governing body of motor sport, gave Lewis Hamilton’s team a “let-off” over the possession of a huge dossier of secret technical information, a decision the Italian team were quick to condemn.
After hearing the announcement by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in Paris, Ferrari said that it “legitimises dishonest behaviour in Formula One and sets a very serious precedent”.
The angry reaction in Maranello came as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, his team-mate, were breathing a sigh of relief. The affair could have resulted in both drivers losing points or even being thrown out of the World Championship.
Barely had McLaren digested the good news than their deadly rivals in the paddock, who trail them in the drivers’ and constructors’ battles this season, launched a scathing attack on an FIA process that Ferrari said they regarded as “incomprehensible”.
The Italian team were particularly incensed that McLaren got away virtually scot-free, even though the WMSC had found that the Anglo-German team had been in possession of Ferrari data through Mike Coughlan, their disgraced chief designer, who has admitted having a 780-page dossier of secrets.
Ferrari said that “violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty” should have resulted, as a “logical and inevitable consequence”, in the application of a sanction. The statement went on: “The decision of the World Council signifies that [the] violations do not carry any punishment.” The Scuderia added that they regard what happened in Paris yesterday as “highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport”.
The sound and fury in Maranello came after the WMSC had convened to hear McLaren answer a charge of “fraudulent conduct” over the affair but decided against any immediate punishment because it found no evidence that Ferrari technical data had been used on this year’s McLaren race cars.