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The FIA transcripts (Part 3) // Moving on to hear Renault's side of the story

Published by Mr. C

The FIA finally got around to releasing the transcripts from the Renault hearing yesterday. Presumably the delay was related to printing out and then re-scanning a massive 77 pages of documentation, just to be sure no confidential information can be uncovered.

We predicted recently that "producing hard-copy, before digitising content" is the most likely way the FIA will release sensitive documents in the future. So inept are they in the ways of digital distribution that they probably figure that this sort of thing didn't happen when they used fax machines, so why not stick with a tried and tested method. The net result of course is that everybody elses work is made a lot harder, and all because of an internal cock-up by the motorsport governing body.

This post is listed as The FIA transcripts (Part 3). Parts one and two relate to the July and September hearings respectively, and as this case appears to be a continuation of that process it makes sense to reference them as three related hearings.

As an aside, Pitpass have noticed certain favoured sections of the media, are getting early access to these documents. Surely such a noble and upstanding organisation as the FIA would never stoop so low as to contemplate manipulating the media in this way, would they?

If you're ever so slightly unhinged, or are suffering from acute insomnia you can download the PDF file and peruse the text at your leisure. Normally we'd use a screen reader to talk us through it, but sadly they struggle with faxed, photocopied and slightly-twisted pages... so read it we shall.

Contents therein

The first point of interest is this case came about because an ex-Renault employee, now working at McLaren read Flavio's comments following McLaren's non-punishment in July. Briatore had said:

Just read the regulations. For intellectual property theft, the punishment is exclusion.

Priceless stuff Flavio. We doubt the guy regrets much in his life, but if he could change one thing...

Moving on, we learn from Mr. Ian Mill QC that Renault offered McLaren the opportunity to send in Kroll to search Renault's workstations for incriminating evidence, but the team decided not to take up the offer because they were "engaged in other matters". Ian Mill then proceeds to suggest that it should be Renault's job to go and hang themselves, not McLaren's business to prove them guilty. An odd approach for a lawyer, if ever there was one.

By contrast the team from Enstone turned up with their superstar-lawyer, Mr. David Philips. This guy introduces himself as "the new boy on the block", something you don't imagine Nigel Tozzi ever saying, then he proceeds to describe his witnesses as a "reserve football team". If this wasn't such a serious hearing, I think he'd probably prefer to be addressed simply as Dave.

Phil Mackereth

No question about it, you do not want Mr. Mackereth in your pub quiz team. The guy can't remember a bloody thing. If McLaren employees suffer from selective amnesia, then what can you say about this guy?. He apparently has no clue what he did, when he did it or why he would have done so. His memory loss is so severe it's verging on becoming a medical condition. In the end Ian Mill managed to coax out the following admission:

I was aware of [the file's] sensitivity. I must have been trying to disguise it.

No.freaking.kidding.

Annoyingly, just as Ian Mill got into the swing of things and pushed Phil into talking about Renault's 2008 challenger, Max Mosely interrupted the flow. It seems a touch coincidental that at the very point the advantage appears like it might swing in McLaren's favour that the president chooses to pipe up. Grr.

Further into the same discussion, things start getting a bit technical and the concept of renaming a file comes to the fore. At this point Max seems somewhat stressed by such a radical concept, and asked if if he understood. His reply was:

I do not think any of us do!

Bless him, it's a complicated world isn't it?

Getting technical

From the details that have not been obscured we learn that McLaren are particularly proud of their seamless shift gearbox, but more importantly they're concerned about the information Renault have gleaned relating to their cars weight distribution and steering angle. These are the very things McLaren are accused of learning from Nigel Stepney and Ferrari. By all accounts we should witness some pretty close racing at the head of the field next year then.

When it comes to how Renault staff learnt certain technical details relating to McLaren's internal information, it would appear that many more members of the Enstone team have caught the memory loss virus. No-one appears have any solid recollection of any events at any time.

Selective amnesia is fast becoming a Formula 1 epidemic.

Closing

At times during this hearing it would appear that McLaren were on trial again. In fact Ian Mill's closing comments sum up his team's feelings well when he says:

McLaren considers that the very heavy sanction imposed upon in September 2007 was very harsh and, consistently with that, would not wish to see any other team put in the same position.

Max alludes to the real reason as to why this transcript's release was delayed, when he references what he calls a third investigation into McLaren. Had that conversation come out before McLaren fell on their sword last week, it could have caused endless amounts of speculation and controversy.

In conclusion

In all, this hearing seems less rushed than either of the previous two. There's a very good argument to say that important cases such as these should be deferred until the off-season, just so that nothing gets inadvertently brushed under the carpet.

Should Renault have been punished? It's a difficult call, because although there are many uncanny similarities between the two cases, and Renault don't come across as being anywhere near as open and honest as they like to think they are being, the two-way flow of text messages and phone calls didn't happen as it had with Ferrari / McLaren. The information that was gleaned, I'm sure, has many uses. Probably not much more than the teams discovered from the hearings earlier this year though.

One final point to make: There's no sidestepping the fact that Formula 1 teams, much like canine lovers, pick representatives with similar characteristics as themselves. Compare if you will Ferrari's Nigel Tozzi, a man who's name even sounds Italian, Ian Mill a man so corporate he probably positions his sleeve so that the sponsors watch is visible at all times, and finally there's Dave.

The spy hearings haven't been much of a laughing matter, but the traits shared between a lawyer and his team is beauty personified.