Crack racing team McLaren has avoided any sanctions in the “spy” scandal that has rocked Formula One in recent weeks. The verdict was handed down because of insufficient evidence.
After a six-hour hearing of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris, the FIA’s highest power, the result was “no penalty.” After the month he’s had, that must come as a huge relief.
This means that McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who currently leads the Drivers’ Championship, will not have any points deducted as he bids to become world champ in his first season in the sport.
The European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany was simply a lottery, characterized by farcical episodes and disrupted by bad conditions.
Lewis Hamilton was recovering from a bad attack of ‘flu and crashed out at 150mph in qualifying. He was then left recovering from both, plus the anxiety of an inquiry on Thursday which could rob him of points in the Drivers’ Championship for no apparent fault of his own. His run of good fortune seems spent at last, and rapidly turning into its opposite.
Rain drenched the circuit before the first lap, and after just 13 minutes it was halted by a red flag.
Lewis Hamilton started from tenth on the grid following a crash in qualifying on Saturday. He moved rapidly up to fourth after the first few corners. This was helped by a sizzling overtaking manoeuvre on the approach to the first corner, which was aided by a collision between the two BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld.
But it was downhill from there as the young ace appeared to have a mechanical problem with his car and he started to drop back through the field.
Kimi Raikkonen, who had started on pole made a clean getaway. But rain caused a frantic rush to change tyres before the safety car was introduced.
In monsoon conditions, officials decided to restart the race.
The race result was as follows :
1 F Alonso Spa McLaren
2 F Massa Bra Ferrari
3 M Webber Aus Red Bull
4 A Wurz Aut Williams
5 D Coulthard GB Red Bull
6 N Heidfeld Ger BMW Sauber
7 R Kubica Pol BMW Sauber
8 H Kovalainen Fin Renault
9 L Hamilton GB McLaren
10 G Fisichella Ita Renault
It was the first time in ten races that Hamilton had finished off the podium.
So what does that old master F1 driver Alain Prost think of the current situation in the 2007 Drivers’ Championship?
Here are a few extracts from a recent interview he gave with the UK Mail on Sunday.
“Lewis is a breath of fresh air. He has changed everything in the sport. I love a human story in motor racing and we have one this year, for sure. The fight between two drivers in the same team, one a youngster new to Formula One, and the other slightly older, more experienced and twice the world champion, makes it exceptional.”
Prost likens the Hamilton/Alonso duel with his own against Ayton Senna, also with McLaren. “I can understand just how Fernando must feel. When Ayrton came to McLaren, he was the new guy who everyone wanted. It’s the same now with Hamilton. Fernando really wanted to go to McLaren, he had all these ideas of going there as world champion. But once he got there I think he found it was not like his dreams. In fact, he got there and found out he is not even the No. 1 when the other driver is a rookie.”
“Fernando will be able to deal with any ordinary technical problems but, on top of this, he has discovered that Lewis is quick. He did not expect him to be so fast. From the first race I could see that Alonso was not driving the car in the same way as Hamilton. Lewis is really driving the car perfectly. Alonso, though, is driving too aggressively. He is fighting to find the speed. Lewis is just there with it.
He goes on, “What I like most about Lewis is his attitude. His approach is the best one to have. He seems to possess the whole package. He is the best newcomer the sport has ever seen. Just think, when he’s 25 years old, he’s going to be unimaginably good.”
Rich praise indeed.
More damaging allegations about who knew what and when at McLaren mean that Lewis Hamiltonâ€™s prospects of being penalised for the McLaren-Ferrari spying scandal increased dramatically yesterday.
The defence that only one man at McLaren â€“ Mike Coughlan, the designer who has been suspended â€“ knew about the 780-page dossier of technical information stolen from Ferrari. This is critical to McLarenâ€™s defence against a charge by the FIA, the sportâ€™s governing body, of â€œfraudulent conductâ€. But it is being steadily undermined as more allegations arise, especially in the Italian press.
In the High Court in London last week it emerged that Jonathan Neale, the McLaren managing director, knew about the dossier, though exactly when has not been confirmed, and, on Saturday, La Repubblica, the Italian daily newspaper, reported that several other team members had also been shown the documents.
It’s not looking good for Lewis Hamilton’s previously plausible championship hopes.