Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Selective amnesia - Putting the politics of recent days to bed, for good or bad

Published by Mr. C

Earlier in the year we were planning all sorts of fun things for the month of December, on the assumption that just like last year, it would be a very quiet month. We couldn't have been more wrong, and yesterday was just the icing on the cake.

Time for closure

Thursday started innocuously with Max Mosely threatening slick tyres may not necessarily be a shoo-in for 2009, unless aerodynamicists deliver on their promises to cut downforce by 50pc. If ever there was a story in need of burying, this was it.

Dutifully, Mutua Madrilena provided the necessary, by announcing they wouldn't be sponsoring McLaren next year. Allegedly this had nothing to do with Alonso leaving the team, despite the fact that they sponsored him at Renault and then followed him to McLaren for '07. You can almost certainly expect them to end up back at Renault early next year.

Said sponsors exit was rapidly followed up by a public request from McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, asking the FIA for a swift end to the spying investigations, because it was hurting their sourcing of replacement sponsors. The team issued an unreserved apology for it's inferred use of Ferrari data and suggested a development amnesty on certain parts of next year's car, in return for closure.

In response, the FIA produced a press release saying Max had asked the WMSC to consider this issue closed - in the interests of the sport, of course. They also managed to dig out a 21 page technical report detailing some of the findings discovered during the investigation into McLaren's 2008 car. A pretty impressive response, considering there's still no sign of the Renault hearing transcripts over a week after the case was heard.

Finally, just to end the day on a high, Ferrari released a statement stating that they respect the FIA's plan to bring closure to the situation, but are still planning to sue the backside off of all and sundry.


McLaren and Ferrari motorhome's at the Silverstone GP 2007

What did we learn from the information distributed yesterday? Not a heck of a lot as it happens. Given that over half of the technical document had been removed for confidentiality reasons and the appendices are missing. It's fun to note that this time the FIA decided to first erase the secret information, then print the document, before scanning it back in for digital distribution. Presumably this is their solution to document management in the modern era?

It is possible to fill in the missing information by using the September transcripts, but it'll take a while and in some cases will be no more than simple guesswork. A unique exercise for the future, maybe.

What we did learn is that several McLaren employees suffer from what is described as 'selective amnesia', whereby they've conveniently forgotten how certain information arrived at the company. We learn that there were more internal references to a 'whistleblower' and a 'mole', but nothing appears to be proven beyond a doubt. More than anything, this serves to justify the penalties brought about in September rather than suggest anything improper on next years car.

On that subject, we learn that McLaren's 2008 entry appears to bear some similarities to the length of this year's Ferrari, but I'm sure many teams will arrive with a longer wheelbase vehicle next year. Possibly that's why the FIA wanted other teams to review the document before the planned February hearing. Suspicious coincidences also surround the use of a unique rear braking system, presumably this is a double-rear master cylinder with a spring.

Beyond that, there's not too much to suggest McLaren would've had much to worry about next year. There's always a chance we've missed something significant that was removed for confidentiality reasons, but it's difficult to understand why the team decided to fall on it's sword, the way it did yesterday. Possibly, unless something was done very soon, the team would be in a sorry financial state come the start of next year and this approach was the lesser of two evils.

In Conclusion

Mercedes logo on a McLaren transporter at Goodwood FOS 2007

All said and done, a significant day in the history of Formula 1, if only because it's the first time this year that the various parties have finally got their act together and produced a coordinated set of press releases, instead of the 'he said / she said' ping pong we've put up with most of the year.

The sport finally looks to have it's house in order, although no doubt more details are still to come out from Ferrari's court cases and Nigel Stepney's planned book.

Assuming Max's request is accepted by the WMSC next week, McLaren can move on with it's 2008 plans and find a replacement sponsor (or several, as we're still expecting Vodafone to take over as the series title sponsors, sooner rather than later). Additionally as the supplier of the single ECU, the team have a material advantage over the rest of the field next year, so the amnesty on development shouldn't hurt them too much.

The FIA are happy, as on the surface their actions this year appear to have been vindicated. They got the apology they were after and 2008 should begin with a mostly clean sheet of paper.

Finally fans of the sport can begin to look forward, instead of back. No doubt there's more to be analysed and discussed, but the Renault hearing transcripts aside, the remaining few weeks of the year should be nice and peaceful.

Amen to that.