Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Thoughts on the McLaren verdict // A suspended three-race ban for the next twelve months

Published by Christine

Place de la Concorde sign

It all happened much quicker than we'd anticipated, but McLaren's hearing has been and gone and the result is in. The FIA have handed out a suspended three-race ban, with the charge being that old favourite bringing the sport into disrepute. The suspended ban essentially means that McLaren are free to go but if there are any more dismeanours in the next 12 months, then it could be brought into force.

As reported earlier in the week, Martin Whitmarsh attended the hearing alone, and having already written a letter of apology to the FIA, he reiterated the sentiments in person. Apparently he was only inside the FIA Headquarters for an hour, before leaving to await the sentence.

This, plus the somewhat lenient sentencing tells us several things.

Firstly, the FIA are pushing for a new, much more open and honest sport. There have been plenty of discussions in our comments over the last few weeks centering around the fact that McLaren are not the only people to have ever lied in F1. Of course this is true, but given the shift in FIA thinking over the past year or so, they had to take Whitmarsh to account for what happened.

With so much internet reporting, there is no room for lying, cheating or generally covering up small problems for the good of the sport. Whatever happens will be found out and the FIA need to be seen to act.

Having said that, they must have been slightly concerned about what punishment to hand out. To ban the team now would cause an outrage, just as the sport is having one of the best season starts they could ask for (in terms of racing action). We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the diffusers were deemed legal, and really, I think the same can be said for this result. Even though McLaren did wrong, it's hard to want the championship battle to be interrupted in anyway.

One of the biggest "storylines" of this season is whether McLaren can return to form and allow Hamilton back up the order to defend his championship. To mess with that now could prove disastrous. In the same way to have fiddled with the Alonso v. Hamilton championship battle in '07 would have brought F1 to it's knees.

On the other hand (how many hands do you have?), it can also be said that with Ron Dennis' convenient step aside, the FIA no longer have their arch enemy to rally against. The McLaren team have lost a key member of staff, some credibility within the paddock, and pretty much all contact with Ron Dennis on day to day matters. I'm not sure the governing body could have had a better result if they tried.

It may have been brave for Whitmarsh to face the judge and jury by himself, but I'm pretty sure all involved knew that the battle had already been won.