Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile // The FIA hand out 2007's trophies and publish hearing transcripts

Published by Mr. C

Yesterday was a bit of a busy day for the FIA. Firstly, there was the release of a document explaining Renault's non-penalty for unauthorised possesion. This was swiftly followed by the announcement that McLaren will have to wait until February for a conclusion regarding their 2008 entry. At the same time, a raft of proposals relating to next year's aero restrictions were listed, and then the FIA casually mentioned a plan to sue the backside off The Sunday Times newspaper.

Finally to wrap the day up, awards were handed out at the annual gala to Kimi and Ferrari for the 2007 drivers and constructors championships. Not your average day by any stretch.

The Renault decision

Reading through the text of the descision it would appear that there are a lot of similarities with McLaren's July hearing (where they too were found guilty, but received no punishment). Experience tells us that the full transcripts will be more revealing than words contained in a carefully selected summary, so we'll come back to this subject once they become available.

The McLaren decision

I am baffled by the reasons for deferring the status of McLaren's 2008 entry until February next year. One has to assume all is not well if there's a need to call an extraordinary general meeting.

Inviting members of McLaren, Ferrari and 'other competitors' to make representations based on the FIA Technical Department's report, suggests that all teams will have the opportunity read the details, which in turn inevitably means certain content will leak. We can expect more 'media campaigns' and 'clarifications' well into 2008, as teams battle for off-track supremacy as well as on.

Aero rules

The new aero regulations need more analysis, but I think it's pretty obvious that the teams need to find a way of renewing the Concorde agreement (that expires at the end of December) pretty damn quick. Otherwise, pretty soon they'll find themselves committed to a World Championship they have no interest in competing in.

That legal thing

Right at the bottom of the F1-related information contained within the FIA press release was the following sentence:

The WMSC has authorised the FIA to issue libel proceedings against English newspaper The Sunday Times, which ran an article claiming that the FIA was engaged in a witch-hunt against the McLaren-Mercedes team.

The article in question was penned by some commentator chap called Martin Brundle, and if you care to read it you'll note that it's not particularly damning. In fact, compared to a lot of things said about the FIA in recent months, it's positively benign. So why the case and why now?

My guess is the FIA are keen to exert yet more control on the way the media report on F1. Not content with deciding who gets paddock passes and who misses out, the Federation are now wielding the big libel stick, and casually waving it in the direction of anyone who dares raise objections to their rulings.

There's next to no chance that this case will succeed, but by picking a high-profile and very public target, it'll force anyone with a negative opinion to think twice before publishing anything. If paddock insiders weren't paranoid before, it's a safe bet they are now. Expect many more off-the-record comments as all and sundry watch their backs.

Awards and stuff

Max, Fernando, Prince Albert of Monaco, Lewis and Kimi
Credit: FIA

The day did end on a positive note though, as all good stories should, with Kimi picking up his WDC gong and Jean Todt getting his mitts on the Constructors trophy. The top three drivers were in attendance (as they are legally obliged to be), and Fernando Alonso had some suspiciously nice things to say about Team Macca.

This has been another exciting season because my car was competitive from start to finish. From this perspective the team did a fantastic job.

- Fernando Alonso

I'd love to know what the terms of his split with McLaren were, because he didn't pay them that many compliments when he was part of the team.

Conclusion

A hell of day in Monaco by all accounts. Formula 1 still isn't free from spying controversies and how McLaren go about preparing for the coming season is anyone's guess. The team have thus far remained silent regarding Thursday's hearing. The Italian motorsport authority managed to stir up enough media coverage to force an appeal back in July, we'll have to see if Ron and the boys fancy playing that particular hand.