SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
More information on the "new evidence"
The Formula 1 paddock at Monza has been buzzing with stories about what it is that the FIA has discovered that has convinced the federation to bring the matter back to the World Council rather than dealing with it in the International Court of Appeal. It is generally believed in F1 circles there must be solid documentary evidence to warrant such action rather than circumstantial evidence and hearsay. The suggestion is that the damning evidence against McLaren is a series of e-mails between Fernando Alonso and McLaren 's test driver Pedro de la Rosa, from which it is clear that information that originated from Ferrari was used to help McLaren with its set-up. There is nothing to back up these rumours because the FIA continues to refuse to say anything on the subject. It is a suggestion that could have some validity. De la Rosa has worked closely with Mike Coughlan at Arrows and at McLaren and so the two men have had strong links in the past.
At the same time the Italian media is reporting that there is evidence about the case that has come from the Italian police's investigations into the allegations that Nigel Stepney was sabotaging Ferrari and supplying McLaren with information. The suggestion is that the investigation led the Italian authorities to work with the Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni, which exists to combat electronic crimes such as credit card fraud and paedophilia rings. The organisation also has access to data transmissions such as e-mails and SMS text messages and the Italians are saying that this means that the police have full transcripts of all such activity between Coughlan and Stepney and a log of the dates and times of phone calls. It is unlikely that there are any recordings of phone conversations. If this evidence does not fit in with what was presented to the World Council in July this may also undermine the McLaren case. At the same time it may also cause problems for Coughlan because if there is evidence revealed that was not in his affidavit in Britain he is likely to be in very serious trouble and could even go to jail for contempt of court.
At the moment there is little more than speculation but clearly there is something that has changed the mind of the FIA and it is not surprising that the media is in hot pursuit. What is significant also is that there is much less information flowing from those involved than was the case in July when the story was first revealed, an indication that things have became much more serious than was the case then.
Ferrari has responded to the news of the new evidence saying that it will be present at the Council meeting on September 13 in Paris and "wishes to reaffirm its own strong wish that all the elements in this case are brought to light". The team says it is confident that "the truth will out".
The question that still remains unanswered is how the FIA is going to punish McLaren if there really is damning evidence, without doing enormous damage to the World Championship itself. If the evidence is as is being rumoured then there is no escaping the need for action but excluding McLaren from the World Championship in 2007 would mean that Ferrari would win the title by default - and the season would therefore be forever tainted because on the road that has not been the case and it is impossible to really judge how much gain there is on a stopwatch from information from another team.