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Ecclestone: It's fraud

NEWS STORY
08/04/2009

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes McLaren could be facing a ban when the World Motor Sport Council convenes at the end of April, claiming that the Woking team has essentially committed fraud.

While some believe the whole affair is being blown out of proportion, others point to 2007's spy saga, when, despite protesting its total innocence, the Woking team ultimately had to issue a grovelling apology, in addition to handing over $100m to the FIA.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the sorry affair, there is a feeling that no matter who is ultimately responsible for what happened in Melbourne action must not only be taken it must be seen to be taken. One F1 insider told Pitpass that should the FIA fail to act, such behaviour - misleading the Race Stewards - could become common place, almost acceptable, much like the 'professional foul' in soccer.

Bernie Ecclestone, looking at the bigger picture, doesn't merely point to the result in Melbourne, but how the points gained by McLaren would affect the team's championship position and ultimately its prize money.

"We need to investigate closer what went on," he told the Daily Express. "It is about stealing a point and a place but those are worth money so basically it is fraud, although I am sure it started off more innocently without thought of the consequences.

"There are many options open if the charge sticks," he continued, "and it would be a terrible thing if any team were banned from races. But it could happen. It is not so long ago that McLaren were in front of the Council and it is never good for anyone if you are back in court quickly for something similar."

With the hearing due to be held after the Bahrain Grand Prix, the fear is that a ban could see the Woking team miss the F1 PR highlight of the year, Monaco, as happened to BAR in 2005.

While some claim the saga is damaging the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and the team which has backed him since the age of thirteen, others question what alternatives the 2008 champion really has. Brawn simply doesn't have the funding to sign him while those who point to Maranello appear to be forgetting that Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica are already on the Italian team's shopping list.

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