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Fact is... the FIA will decide who gets punished

NEWS STORY
05/07/2007

It is all very well Bernie Ecclestone saying that should McLaren be found to have benefited as a result of the information allegedly passed from Ferrari's Nigel Stepney to its chief designer Mike Coughlan, only the team would be punished. But somehow that doesn't hold up.

Now, first off, let us make it absolutely 100 percent clear, that we do not believe McLaren has benefited, indeed we still find the whole sorry saga almost impossible to believe. Nor do we want to see either Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton 'punished'.

However, if the FIA rules that something untoward has happened Bernie Ecclestone will be allowed no say in the matter. For once, what he thinks, or what he wants, is irrelevant it is the governance of the sport by its ruling body that matters.

Also, if McLaren has benefited from having access to Ferrari's designs - even if it hasn't incorporated anything into its own cars - then its drivers have also benefited.

It's all very well Ecclestone claiming that the driver is not responsible, saying that "he's got a car, and he gets into the car", in other words that he is merely a pawn in the game and somehow not responsible.

At the height of the Monaco 'team orders row' he said something remarkably similar when it looked as though McLaren and its drivers might be punished.

"If there were instructions, it wouldn't be the drivers' fault," he said. "If I'm driving for you and you tell me to stay where I am and not overtake the guy in front, what can I do? It would be those who give the orders who should receive the punishment."

Fact is the lines are blurred. If, for example, a driver is penalised ten grid places for an engine failure over which he has no control, surely he has to bear some sort of penalty should he and his team be adjudged to have benefited by having access to a rival team's designs.

It's a horrendous scenario, but it is one that must be considered. And, at the very worst, it would be impossible to say to a team 'yes you cheated, you gained an advantage and you'll be punished but your drivers are OK'.

That would make F1 look even more ridiculous than it is rapidly becoming.

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