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Ecclestone calls crisis meeting

NEWS STORY
10/11/2007

The Daily Telegraph claims that Bernie Ecclestone held a crisis meeting at his London HQ on Friday, calling senior representatives from all the teams except Ferrari, McLaren and Renault, the three teams at the heart of this year's 'spying sagas'.

Despite a season, for much of which there was a four-way fight for the drivers' title, Ecclestone is concerned that the sport's credibility, which has already suffered in the wake of the McLaren spy saga, could suffer even more as Renault faces similar charges.

The fact is, Renault could face even harsher punishment than McLaren because the French team had its information for longer and has actually admitted that it was aware that (former McLaren employee) Phil Mackereth had the data when he moved teams, having shown it to some of his new colleagues.

While Renault claims that the secret data was contained on some "old style floppy discs" - which are no longer on sale due to the move to CDs and DVDs, which contain infinitely more data - McLaren says that there were as many as 10 disks, and that the "colleagues" who were made aware of the information contained - which Renault used over eight months - was seen by various senior members of the French team, including chief designer Tim Densham.

With two such cases getting F1 into the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Ecclestone is concerned that the implication will not only affect how the fans and media see the sport, but also blue-chip sponsors, and even potential new entrants in the form of manufacturers.

Consequently, the F1 supremo called representatives from eight of the other teams to Princes Gate yesterday, as he looks to stamp out similar scandals happening in future.

While McLaren, to a certain extent, can ride out the spy saga, a similar spying charge would do no good to Renault's image.

The fact that Renault won back-to-back championships doesn't appear to have made much impression on the French manufacturer's sales of road cars, however, a spy saga is definitely negative PR. Furthermore, Renault, which is proud of the fact that it has one of the smallest budgets in F1 - certainly amongst the leading teams - would be rocked by a fine similar to that imposed on McLaren ($100m). Indeed, such a fine, coupled with the bad publicity, might be enough to cause Renault to rethink its F1 future.

All this is the last thing that F1 needed, everyone is watching, not least the fans and the media, for at a time when many still believe that the FIA's treatment of McLaren had many of the hallmarks of a witch-hunt, the sport's governing body must be seen to treat Renault with the same amount of 'enthusiasm' it treated the Woking outfit, even if it should herald the French manufacturer's departure from the sport.

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