McLaren remain defiant having been found guilty by a Paris court of spying on their main competitors Ferrari, and subsequently excluded from the 2007 F1 Constructors’ Championship and fined a record $100 million USD. This evening, Ron Dennis, Team Principle of the McLaren team, and CEO and Chairman of the McLaren Group, sent a clear message that no punishment, however severe, would ever dampen the Woking based teams desire to go racing.
“The most important thing is that we will be going motor racing this weekend, the rest of the season and every season. This means that our drivers can continue to compete for the World Championship. However having been at the hearing today I do not accept that we deserved to be penalised in this way.â€
Although it had never disputed that it held technical information on Ferrari, the evidence brought before the court today failed to convince the FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de l’Automobile that the team had not used the data to their own advantage.
“Today s evidence given to the FIA by our drivers, engineers and staff clearly demonstrated that we did not use any leaked information to gain a competitive advantage.â€
“Much has been made in the press and at the hearing today of emails and text messages to and from our drivers. The World Motorsport Council received statements from Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa stating categorically that no Ferrari information had been used by McLaren and that they had not passed any confidential data to the team.â€
“The entire engineering team in excess of 140 people provided statements to the FIA affirming that they had never received or used the Ferrari information.â€
“We have never denied that the information from Ferrari was in the personal possession of one of our employees at his home. The issue is: was this information used by McLaren? This is not the case and has not been proven today.â€
“We are also continually asked if McLaren didn t use the information, what was the reason for Stepney and Coughlan collecting all this data about Ferrari? We can only speculate as neither Coughlan nor Stepney gave evidence at today s hearing, but we do know that they were both seeking employment with other teams, as already confirmed by both Honda and Toyota.â€
“There will be no issue for the 2008 season as we have not at any stage used any intellectual property of any other team.â€
The outcome of the trial will have been a bitter blow for McLaren, having fought hard with Ferrari this season and having already been punished for behaviour that led to a loss of Constructor points from the Hungarian Grand Prix. However, Dennis remained optimistic that McLaren would win the Drivers’ World Championship, which could see Britain’s Lewis Hamilton become Champion in his debut season.
“We have got the best drivers and the best car and we intend to win the World Championship”, concluded an emotional Ron Dennis. The FIA are expected to make a statement tomorrow, Friday 14th September.