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FEBRUARY 8, 2001

Dennis warns the FIA

MCLAREN chairman Ron Dennis has warned that the outcome of this year's world championship could be decided in the opening three races if the ruling body, the FIA, is not vigilant in clamping down on any technological cheating.

The McLaren team chief spoke out at Wednesday's launch of their 2001 challenge, when asked about the effects of the return of electronic drivers aids at the Spanish Grand Prix in April.

He said: "I hope the FIA will be vigilant because the outcome of the championship could be determined in those opening races. We need to see a clear contest in those opening grands prix."

Dennis believes that it was possible for teams using drivers aid illegally to gain an advantage before they were introduced again at the fifth race of the year.

He said: "Only one team did not want us to start the season with all of the drivers aid reintroduced at the opening race. Everyone else did."

He was hinting heavily that main rivals Ferrari were the team involved and that they might have been able to enjoy a possible advantage in the four races taking place before Barcelona.

Dennis also said he agreed with the widely reported view of most engineers that the tire war between Bridgestone and new arrivals Michelin could also result in controversy and disputed results.

"We will need to have much greater clarity on that from the FIA if it is to be avoided," he said.

Technical directors Adrian Newey of McLaren and Patrick Head of BMW-Williams both have warned that protests and disputes are likely when the season starts in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix next month (March).