I have no wish to start scaremongering, but looking at Bernie Ecclestone’s comments in the Express that he wouldn’t rule out a ban of a few races for McLaren, makes me look through the F1 calendar at the races ahead with some nervousness.
The recent precedent was BAR, which received a ban over its fuel tank irregularities in May 2005. In that instance BAR was found guilty of ‘fraudulent conduct’ and the word ‘fraud’ was used again this week by Ecclestone in the McLaren case,
“It is about stealing a point and a place but those are worth money so basically it is fraud, although I am sure it started off more innocently without thought of the consequences,” he said.
Ecclestone also highlights the fact that McLaren will be back in front of the beak on similar charges to the ones they faced less than two years ago and it is never a good thing to show you haven’t mended your ways.
I’d be surprised if McLaren – and therefore Lewis Hamilton – missed races, but if he did, the timing might get a little uncomfortable for Silverstone. The hearing is April 29, very shortly before the Spanish GP. If handed a three race ban on April 29, it could be for Monaco, Turkey and British GP, the last at Silverstone, in June.
BAR were banned with immediate effect and forced to miss the next two races in the calendar after the decision, which were Spain and Monaco. They were also excluded from San Marino, the race where the illegal fuel collector system was discovered. Hamilton has already been excluded from Australia, where his offence occurred.
However BAR faced the international court of appeal, whereas McLaren face the World Motor Sport Council, who whacked them in 2007 over the spy story and who can issue more or less any punishment they see fit.
Exclusion from the constructors’ championship, or loss of constructors’ points again, as in 2007, remains the more likely option I believe, as that punishes the team and not the driver and carries a financial penalty as well, with loss of earnings from their share of the commercial revenues of the sport.