JULY 20, 1998
McLaren appeal to be heard after Austria
THE FIA International Court of Appeal will not meet until the day after the Austrian Grand Prix to decide on what can be done about the mess at the British Grand Prix. McLaren is protesting Michael Schumacher's victory, arguing that the race result should be overturned because Schumacher did not pay any penalty for overtaking Alexander Wurz's Benetton under yellow flags. His margin of victory at the end of the race was 22secs and McLaren will argue that a 10-sec stop-go penalty would be more than that allowing for the necessary slowing down and speeding up.
McLaren's original protest against the result was NOT formally rejected by the stewards at Silverstone although it appeared to be the case and it is significant that the protest fee was returned to McLaren - which is usually only the case when a protest has been successful. This may provide the FIA with a way of rejecting the McLaren appeal - one cannot appeal a rejected protest when the protest has not been officially rejected. If this is the case the result will remain the same.
It is highly unlikely that the result of the race will be overturned with Mika Hakkinen being declared the winner because it is unfair to penalize Schumacher for an error made by the stewards. It is possible that the result will be annulled as happened some years ago on an event counting for the World Rally Championship when stewards made a similar mess of proceedings.
Coming the wake of the decision not to black flag Schumacher in Canada and the start light fiasco at Magny-Cours, cynics in the F1 paddock are suggesting that the FIA is helping out Ferrari in its quest to beat McLaren. The team has been quick to disassociate itself from such speculation.
"I want to stress that the FIA is not doing this on purpose," said Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug last week. "It is important to say that, but I feel when you add all the facts together all these issues are not helping us. It will change around."
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