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In a move which seems wholly inappropriate, one of the 26 members of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, which will sit in judgement of McLaren next Thursday, has spoken to the media, voicing his opinion regarding the most likely outcome.
Talking to Spain's AS newspaper, Joaquin Verdegay has said he is confident the Woking team will escape sanction because it would be difficult to prove the World Championship leaders, even if were aware of the 780 pages of documentation in Mike Coughlan's possession, had used it.
"It is very hard to prove that McLaren used the information," AS quoted Verdegay as saying. "Normally, and I hope this is what happens," he continued, "there would not even be a reprimand for (team boss) Ron Dennis since it is almost impossible to prove anything."
The Spaniard believes that the 'confidential' deal Ferrari reached with Coughlan indicates that the Italian team is confident that McLaren did not use information gleaned from documents in the design of the MP4-22, though he admits that if the Woking team has benefited from the information contained it would face punishment.
"The team and its drivers could lose points because they would have been using a car copied from another," he admitted. "But if Ferrari has reached an agreement with Coughlan, it is probably because they think McLaren did not use that information in their car."
Fact is, based on the current timescale, the MP4-22 was up and running long before any documents fell into Coughlan's hands. Incorporating Ferrari ideas into the McLaren is not the issue. What is the issue is whether McLaren benefited from having access to such information as the F2007's set-up, its fuel tank size, and most importantly, whether it was the 780 pages of documentation that tipped off the Woking team regards the so-called 'moving floor' on the F2007.
As we said, it is somewhat worrying that a member of the WMSC is talking to the media ahead of case, and even more worrying that he is already 'predicting' the outcome.
In a year in which McLaren is back on top once again, nobody wants to see the Woking team or its drivers unfairly penalized, especially when one considers the irreparable damage this might do to the sport in the eyes of the general public.
However, if cheating has occurred, and by that we mean a team has benefited from having inside information on a rival, then it must be punished, and punished in a way that deters any future transgressions.
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