I popped onto OneF1 a few minutes ago and found this....
FIA to sue the Sunday Times
Apparently "The FIA intends to sue English newspaper the Sunday Times for libel, after the action was authorised by the World Motor Sport Council at its meeting today in Monaco.
A statement issued afterwards said the decision was taken because the newspaper had "ran an article claiming that the FIA was engaged in a witch-hunt against the McLaren-Mercedes team."
It is believed the matter refers to a column that former Grand Prix driver and ITV commentator Martin Brundle wrote on race day at the Italian Grand Prix.
It was headlined: "Witch-hunt threatens to spoil world title race" and was critical of the manner in which the FIA had handled the McLaren spying affair. "
The article in question was from the Sunday Times 9th September 2007. I actually have the paper copy of this around somewhere at home, but here it is:
Witch-hunt threatens to spoil world title race
The sport’s focus is going to be on a courtroom in Paris that no Formula One fan cares about by Martin Brundle
MONZA is one of the greatest theatres of motorsport, an emotive, historic parkland venue built in 1922. The trees shade the track. With five races remaining and four drivers in the hunt for the title, this is the perfect place to be. Or it was until they threw a bucket of cold water over it.
On the eve of the race weekend, at Ferrari’s home track, the governing body, the FIA, reopened the McLaren/Ferrari espionage case, citing new evidence. Having reserved the right to throw McLaren out of the 2007 and 2008 championships if information came to light that the technical blueprint of the Ferrari car had spread beyond a rogue McLaren employee and into the organisation, the hearing will be held on Thursday, just before next weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
For me this has all the feel of a witch-hunt, driven by the very people who have a primary responsibility to the sport. At a time when we should be excitedly micro-analysing the performance of the contenders, we’re caught up in this story. Many worldly and wise friends in the paddock yesterday, such as Sir Jackie Stewart and Murray Walker, expressed sadness at events
Fernando Alonso and tester Pedro de la Rosa have been thrust to the front of the story after the McLaren drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, were invited to tell what they knew. They are being positioned as whistleblowers. Apparently this new “information”, shared in an e-mail in March between the Spaniards, is not exactly a smoking gun.
But it is a fact that the information has gone further into the organisation than McLaren claimed in the original hearing. In all the leaked letters and positioning there is the feeling of a plan, an end game – and it’s difficult not to see that through the prism of past controversies, often at around this time of year, involving Ferrari’s fight for the world championship. Think back to Alonso’s incorrect grid penalty here last year in the midst of his title fight with Ferrari. Think back to three years ago when the Michelin tyres used by Ferrari’s rivals were suddenly declared too wide, having been the same size for the previous three years.
If McLaren have broken the rules, they should be punished. But if the FIA finds them guilty and bars them from this year’s championship and probably the next, it will have a profound effect on the sport. Manufacturers and sponsors will all react to the damaged credibility.
We have two magnificent grands prix coming up in the next week, yet the sport’s focus is going to be on a courtroom in Paris that not one fan cares about or really understands. Inside the paddock we can’t fathom how, previously, two Toyota F1 employees can be handed prison sentences for industrial espionage using Ferrari software, yet the FIA was not interested in getting involved, and how Colin Kolles from Spyker could walk down the pit lane with a drawing from rival Toro Rosso presented as evidence of cloned cars, yet the FIA took no action.
So what is the driving force here? Does it involve the threatened breakaway GPMA series that Ron Dennis was involved in? Did Dennis try to torpedo key people out of their jobs? Is the FIA looking for McLaren heads to roll? I think McLaren are in for major pain next Thursday even though the root cause of this whole issue is a disaffected Ferrari man.
We can hope that Bernie Ecclestone will play his hand and say, “You are not interrupting the drivers’ championship,” but even he doesn’t always win. He tried hard to sort out the tyre fiasco at Indiana-polis in 2005 but was unable to.
If the FIA takes further constructors’ points from McLaren, it will cost the team tens of millions of pounds and generate potential difficulties with sponsor and driver contracts, but at least it will not wreck the future of Formula One. If it bars them from the remaining races in this year’s championship and beyond, it will be like hitting the self-destruct button.
Let’s finish on a sporting note.
The low downforce challenges of Monza, with 225mph straights and 77% of the track driven at full throttle, is tough on engines, as is next weekend’s race in Spa. All four Ferrari and McLaren drivers are on fresh engines this weekend that they must use for both races to avoid penalties. The cars dance on the narrow, moderately bumpy 3.6mile track as the drivers wrestle with the low downforce and drag configuration, bringing the cars down from more than 200mph to 70mph in less than 100m.
Kimi Raikkonen had an enormous accident when apparently the dynamics of the braking and bumps combination simply turned him into the barriers at tremendous speed. He lines up only fifth today. McLaren lock out the front row, with Alonso looking about a tenth of a second faster than Hamilton. Both are comfortably quicker than the Ferraris. Form here suggests that McLaren should take a bigger championship lead into the Paris hearing this week.
It gets better though. Martin Brundle made his response in todays Sunday Times. (This is just the online version, I haven't seen the paper copy yet)
How can Formula One justify blatant double standards?
The FIA’s decision not to punish Renault for ‘spying’ makes no sense by Martin Brundle
AS A RESULT of my Sunday Times column we have received a French writ from Max Mosley and the FIA with regard to comments I made in September about the so-called Ferrari and McLaren spy scandal and the ensuing $100m fine for McLaren. We even appeared on the impressively named World Motor Sport Council’s agenda approving the use of the FIA’s money to pursue us. I had previously debated the energetic manner in which Mosley was apparently pursuing McLaren.
As a former Formula One driver, I have earnt the right to have an opinion about the sport, and probably know as much about it as anybody else. I have attended approaching 400 grands prix, 158 as a driver. I have spilt blood, broken bones, shed tears, generated tanker loads of sweat, tasted the champagne glories and plumbed the depths of misery. I have never been more passionate about F1 and will always share my opinions in an honest and open way, knowing readers will make up their own minds.
The timing of the writ is significant, in my view, given the FIA’s decision to find Renault guilty of having significant McLaren designs and information within their systems, but not administering any penalty. It is a warning sign to other journalists and publications to choose their words carefully over that decision. I’m tired of what I perceive as the “spin” and tactics of the FIA press office, as are many other journalists. I expect my accreditation pass for next year will be hindered in some way to make my coverage of F1 more difficult and to punish me. Or they will write to ITV again to say that my commentary is not up to standard despite my unprecedented six Royal Television Society Awards for sports broadcasting. So be it.
This past couple of weeks I have attended many functions where I have met high-level F1 people, among many others. The discussion always moves to “how will the FIA get themselves out of this corner by not punishing Renault despite the outcome of the McLaren case”. That was the perception of many, and remains the billion-dollar question.
I have no issue with Renault or McLaren, they are both former teams of mine and I remain good friends with many in the teams and admire all they have achieved. But very few drivers or key team personnel in F1 can look you in the eye and honestly say they have never witnessed or been part of a transfer of information between teams. The purpose of poaching other team players is to fast-track the development and performance of the car. It’s a question of where the line is drawn about transfer of knowledge and intellectual property.
The immensely successful former F1 designer Gordon Murray made a good point when he said that years ago it would have taken several vans to carry the paper-based designs from one team to another. With the digital age and the massively increased complexity of today’s cars, along with the pressure created by the billions of dollars of funding from the manufacturers and sponsors, the stakes have changed and the line needs clarifying. Of course the FIA and any legal system engaged in the process are right to investigate this.
Many drivers and team bosses will be mighty relieved they haven’t been dragged into this. The guillotine fell as McLaren went under it and Renault have passed unscathed. It is enlightening to read the transcripts from the separate cases. The McLaren judgment is about negativity and suspicion of possible use of Ferrari information, but no real show-stopper I could see. Even now the decision to punish or exclude McLaren for 2008 has been deferred.
The Renault decision is one of an understanding and supportive nature and one only of occasional “strong disapproval” despite clear and confirmed evidence that information was loaded on to their mainframe IT system, including drawings of McLaren’s shock absorber, fuel system, mass damper and seamless shift transmission. Some drawings were printed off and idly laid on a key desk before being handed back after a disinterested glance, said the verdict. I laughed out loud on that one. And just as McLaren protested Ferrari’s floor back at the Australian Grand Prix, Renault used information taken from a McLaren “J-Damper” drawing to seek rule clarification with the FIA. It was deemed that, as with McLaren, it could not be proven Renault benefited from it. Surprisingly, although the case is left open if further information surfaces, unlike McLaren, the Renault team will not be investigated with regard to their 2008 car. Why would that be? I accept there was an element of “live” transfer of unpublished information over three months between Stepney of Ferrari and Coughlan of McLaren, but it seems the actual proof of information within the Renault team was significantly more damning.
This issue badly needs clearing up, but the Renault verdict muddies the water. All teams now know the ground rules have changed a lot. To an extent Ferrari, McLaren and Renault are all culpable for being careless with their systems and personnel with regard to the security and transfer in and out of their critical designs and operating procedures. How that many people and that much information can be defined and controlled is another matter. It seems like a good memory might be a strong quality for future designers.
This is ridiculous. Seriously, I have to agree with others here. I dont know whether to laugh or cry, but at the moment I'm rather angry. EVERYONE else was talking about the same stuff that weekend, but at least Martin Brundle had experience of F1 and real knowledge of it, unlike other people. There were also other articles in that particular piece of paper commenting on similar things! Why this column? Why?! There were even other papers that weekend talking about the same things, I know, because I read them!
To quote Ross on OneF1 here "FIA: F***ing Inconsistent Actions?" I think so, especially at the moment. They severely punish McLaren for having Ferrari data (I'm not saying that they shouldn't have punished McLaren, but $100,000,000 is rather a lot), but then they drop the fuel irregularities in Brazil (again, I'm not saying thats a bad thing because I'm glad Lewis didnt win) and now with Renaultgate... they drop that too. Seriously. The FIA are clutching at straws here. They're going down and they know it.
To quote Suzanne on OneF1 here "It's getting to the point where no one is allowed an opinion now unless it is FIA approved!! It's beyond a joke now. They've lost all credibility this season, not that they had much to begin with!" Well, yes. Opinions are hereby relegated. All must pertain to the FIA views. Those who do not will be disqualified and or be killed. But yeah, if the FIA had any credability left, they most certainly do not anymore.
If they succeed in sueing The Sunday Times, then its really the end of the road for everyone. The FIA will have succesfully screwed themselves over and really won't be fit even to call themselves the FIA anymore, let alone do anything. If they sue one paper, then why just the one, every other paper was saying the same thing. If they win though, then it opens the door for even more people to sue the papers in this country, which means that it probably wont be long until someone from McLaren comes along and says 'Oh we can sue these people for printing pictures of Lewis Hamilton saying that he didnt win the world championship' etc and then everyone ends up screwed.
If the Sunday Times are sued, then their reputation is tarnished, as is Martin Brundle's, and he will probably get dropped by them, and may get dropped by ITV and then we'll end up with James Allen doing all the commentary for F1 and then we will all either stop watching because we are so fed up and annoyed with James Allen or we'll be watching it in mute. I can see this downward spiral already, and its really not looking good. At this rate, after all the good stuff thats happened, 2007 will be a year to forget. Why can't they just leave it alone now. That article was written 3 months ago, and its taken you, what, that long to realise it was there? Or realise that you can make some money out of it? What, what is it? Surely if it had been that much of a problem, then firstly, it wouldn't have been printed, and secondly, someone would have picked up on it sooner.
If its a match between the Fans and the FIA, the FIA will lose. They have nothing left. Their little dictatorship is going down, one way or another, and they should accept that, rather than trying depserate measures to try and hold on and keep themselves afloat. Yes, read this Max Mosely: its a lose - lose situation for you. Just give up now, and leave us all in peace. What's that you say? No? Oh then. Why dont you try this: sue the world next. You've succeeded in screwing half of it up already.
Edit: Although this can actually be found in the middle of the second article, heres a link to a news article about a particular paragraph that everyone should read (even though its actually split into two here..) http://f1.gpupdate.net/en/news/2007/12/09/brundle-fumes-at-fia-double-standards/
The FIA are clueless to what losing someone like Martin will do to the viewing figures.... lets just hope ITV aren't :-|