July 26, 2007

StepneyGate resolution!

The FIA's World Motor Sports Council, essentially the grievance committee for every racing body the FIA approves, met today to hear the case of Ferrari v McLaren in the StepneyGate scandal.

For those not in the know, a Ferrari engineer, Nigel Stepney is accused of passing technical drawings to McLaren's chief designer Mike Coughlan. The WMSC, after six hours of hearing arguments and viewing evidence, decided to clear the McLaren team of any wrongdoing. However, they did also say that there is no question that Coughlan had the drawings. There's no proof, however, that McLaren benefitted in any way from that.

So, no penalties for McLaren in either of the two championships. The FIA also said that pursue action against both Coughlan and Stepney, over and above the ongoing legal proceedings in Italy and England. They also said that they reserve the right to recall McLaren if any evidence DOES turn up against them... so it's not really over, but it certainly is going to quiet down for a while.

The scary thing is that this is the RIGHT decision. By the letter of the sporting regulations, McLaren is guilty as hell. They DID have the Ferrari tech drawings in their possession, which is against any number of FIA rules, and, again by the letter of the regs, they should have been punished with anything up to and including exclusion from the season.

But that would also be the WRONG decision. It's pretty clear that McLaren, a team which has a spotless reputation for fair play throughout F1 history, is the victim of a rogue Ferrari employee in this situation, and shouldn't've been penalized.

What's scary about this is that the FIA made the right call. They NEVER do that!

Ferrari, of course, is pissed as hell at the WMSC's decision. After the verdict was announced, they said that McLaren was "found guilty by the FIA World Council," and it's "incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not have, as a logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction". Ferrari then continued by saying that (the World Council's decision) "legitimises dishonest behaviour in Formula 1 and sets a very serious precedent" and is "highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport". (emphasis mine)

Mind you, this is FERRARI, historically the dirtiest players in the sport, saying this. The saying is that the "F" in FIA stands for "Ferrari", after all. I'm amazed that they didn't get the ruling in their favor. Amazed, but happy.

So, the next phase of this circus is finding out what'll happen to Coughlin and Stepney. Stepney is gone from F1, probably... suspended forever. Coughlin may get the same treatment, though my guess is something much less. We'll see.

In other news, Spyker has announced the replacement for Marcus Winklehock, who was replacing Christijan Albers: Sakon Yamamoto, who drove for SuperAguri last year.

Only Spyker could replace a good driver with a lousy one.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:05 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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1 Only Spyker could replace a good driver with a lousy one.

Maybe he works for cheap.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 26, 2007 07:58 PM (+rSRq)

2 I saw that quote from Ferrari about sporting honesty last night. Best laugh I've had in ages.

BTW did get your message about the F1 game, bit busy for it at the moment, don't want to let down the team, but thanks for the invite

Posted by: flotsky at July 26, 2007 08:06 PM (6T2ID)

3 *Scratching my head or the StepneyGate ruling and the new Spyker driver*

Winklehock gives them laps in the lead (the only ones they've ever had) and they can him. Go figure.

Posted by: Mallory at July 27, 2007 12:57 AM (KJzva)

4 Steven, Spyker is such a low-budget operation that they don't pay their drivers... the drivers pay SPYKER!

So it's obvious that Sakon Yamamoto has a bigger bankroll than all the other wannabes... which surprises me, because one of those wannabes was Narain Karthekain, the Indian driver who has the backing of the largest steel company (I think...) in that country.

I wonder if Yamamoto is still backed by Honda?

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 27, 2007 01:35 AM (7MeZM)

5 I'm disgusted by this FIA decision. They didn't find "one rouge employee" guilty, they found THE ENTIRE TEAM guilty of very clearly breaching the sporting regs. If you're not going to enforce them... why have them? I would have been disappointed to see them destroy the current Championship (which has been one of the best in memory) but no fine, no exclusion from the Manufacturers Championship... nothing? I don't ever want to hear that BS about the FIA favoring Ferrari again, because this has to be the biggest gift they could give any team.

Oh and as for Yamamoto/Spyker... if they're that desperate for sponsorship, they'll be up for sale by the end of the season.

Posted by: madmike at July 27, 2007 01:44 AM (BWBM2)

6 That's right, the FIA didn't find Stepney guilty... that wasn't the point of this meeting of the WMSC. The point was to decide if McLaren gained any benefit from having Ferrari tech drawings in their hands.

The WMSC, speaking for the FIA, decided the answer was "no," and thus decided that no penalties should be applied. If they had been able to prove that Ferrari-tech had ended up in the McLaren design, then you bet there'd be a banning.

No gift, Mike, because there's NO PROOF. Hell, Ferrari may very well have MCLAREN data now, thanks to the various search warrants that have been executed... so shall we ban them, too?

Coughlin and Stepney will get their lunch handed to them soon enough, but if you REALLY think that McLaren deserved bannination for this, given what we know, you too may be able to drive for Spyker.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 27, 2007 07:29 AM (AD5Bl)

7 According to the FIA website:

“The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code."

151. Breach of rules
Any of the following offences in addition to any offences specifically referred to previously, shall be deemed to be a breach of these rules :
c) Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.

So Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in breach of the rules, which should hold some kind of consequence. I'm not saying send them home for the rest of the season and I'm not saying exclude Hamilton and Alonzo from the Drivers Championship...

But to say "guilty" and thanks for playing without even a "token" punishment IS a gift.

Oh and my Spyker ride... I got outbid by Karthekain.

Posted by: madmike at July 27, 2007 08:02 AM (o+iiH)

8 c) Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.

...and how, if there was no proof that McLaren made use of the technical drawings to give themselves an advantage, AS STATED BY THE WMSC, is this "prejudicial to the interests of any competition", Mike?

That's the kicker, isn't it? They had the plans... and didn't use them to their advantage. No harm, no foul, and Ferrari, in their typical grandstanding manner, forgot that they had to prove the case. They failed, the WMSC knew it, and let McLaren off without a penalty.

The fact of the matter is that we don't even know what the drawings are.

If I may quote from grandprix.com for a second:

Indeed, there is an argument - which McLaren may have used in the court - that Ferrari might also have been judged guilty if it had been called before the World Council because the alleged activities of its former employee Nigel Stepney, as these actions might also have been judged to have brought the sport into disrepute.

Still think it's a gift? The only gift I'm seeing is that Ferrari isn't being called on the carpet themselves... for trying to set up McLaren.

By the way, I apologize for the Spyker snark... you're too good for 'em.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 27, 2007 10:08 AM (UcNEr)

9 I think you got me wrong... the first line of my comment is actual text from the FIA press release dated 7/26. Not my words, but theirs:

“The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code."

I'm not arguing whether they broke the rules or brought "disrepute" to F1, the WMSC said that they were in breach of article 151c. Basicly that the possession of those confidential documents was the crime itself. The "use" of that intellectual property has no bearing on the decision above, but would have come into play if the FIA deemed punishment necessary.

Coghlin was caught trying to duplicate these documents... no doubt to distribute to other McLaren employees. So if say 12 people on the team get to peruse a competitors clearly marked "confidential" documents but say they didn't really "use" that information, is it still "no harm, no foul"? (not making a pun with the "foul")
:-)

I just don't see how you can get caught red-handed (also no pun) and still be allowed to go on your merry way.

Isn't "in breach of the sporting code" just fancy words for "cheating"?

And I'm totally lost on how you see Ferrari as "setting them (McLaren) up".

Posted by: madmike at July 27, 2007 11:52 AM (o+iiH)

10 ...the first line of my comment is actual text from the FIA press release...

Yeah, I got that.

...And I'm totally lost on how you see Ferrari as "setting them (McLaren) up".

Actually, I don't believe they are. But imagine this: A Ferrari employee 'loses' his tech drawings outside Coughlin's house. Coughlin picks them up and looks at them to see what they are. At that moment, a Ferrari employee makes a phone call to the police... and 151c is technically violated, even though it wasn't intentional. Caught red handed, too.

I'm not saying that's the way it worked, but it's one way you could set up a team with the strict interpretation of the rules.

Basicly that the possession of those confidential documents was the crime itself.

Ah, but that's not what 151c says... it says Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.

Again, since Ferrari and the WMSC could not PROVE that the documents were used by McLaren to provide an advantage, there wasn't any act prejudicial to competition. The WMSC has left the matter open, so if proof DOES come out, McLaren can still be walloped... but that's just not likely to happen, because it sure looks like it didn't happen.

And yes, those hypothetical 12 engineers probably would use the information... but please note that the copies never did make it to their hands, so that idea is moot.

Actually, to me, it's more likely that the copies were destined to end up in Honda's hands, rather than McLaren... considering the talk that Coughlin, Stepney, and "four other" designers/engineers were going to head there after the season.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 27, 2007 01:38 PM (UcNEr)

11 Mike, if you're going to lean on the WMSC's statement, you really should include the entire statement:

"The WMSC is satisfied Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code."

Now the part you neglected to mention:

"However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula One World Championship. We therefore impose no penalty."

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 27, 2007 02:02 PM (UcNEr)

12 So far:

>> Vodafone McLaren Mercedes employee was in possession of a competitor's confidential intellectual property.

>> Said employee was caught duplicating those documents for what we agree was some kind of "dispersal".

>> WMSC finds that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is in breach of the Sporting Code (guilty).

>> WMSC decides best punishment is "nothing".

That's exactly what that press release says. The part I quoted said "guilty". The part you quoted says "no punishment".

What's wrong with this picture?

In other news... whadda ya think the chances are we see Sebastian Bourdais (aka. SeaBass) in the Torro Rosso by the end of the month?

Posted by: madmike at July 28, 2007 03:40 AM (BWBM2)

13 "The punishment fit the crime."
-Ron Dennis

I'm actually surprised that SeaBass hasn't been announced for the upcoming race. There's only one reason I can see that he won't be driving for TR this year: that there are a couple of race conflicts between his current contract and the F1 schedule.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 28, 2007 04:00 AM (7MeZM)

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