SEPTEMBER 13, 2007

McLaren loses 2007 Constructors' points and gets $100m fine (updated)

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has lost its points in the Constructors' World Championship for 2007 and will not be allowed to score in the final four races - and has been fined $100m, although this will be reduced because the team will be credited the money that it would have won this year.

The points in the Drivers' World Championship will remain as they are.

The punishment has now been officially confirmed by the FIA but the stories in Paris come from reliable sources. The team is expected to appeal.

The initial impact of such a collosal fine is going to make front page headlines around the world tomorrow and that will be a punishment in itself as the team will suffer from that bad publicity. Any reduction of that fine under appeal will not be widely reported.

The decision came after a day of high drama in Paris with a string of witnesses including Lewis Hamilton, Ross Brawn and Ron Dennis appearing before the World Council.

The key point is that the team was not excluded from the Constructors' title, a subtle but important difference as this may avoid the team automatically losing sponsor contracts. It will however make life difficult for the team because sponsors are not going to be happy. It remaisn to be seen whether McLaren decides to take any civil action as a result of the damage done but this must remain a possibility.

The FIA has yet to explain how the teams can be punished without hurting the drivers - leaving open the possibility of claims that the Drivers' championship is not fair. The FIA says that it will issue a full decision tomorrow and that as soon as it possibly can it will put out full transcripts of the hearing today and the hearing in July, to show that the team has been treated in a proper fashion. This is aimed at reducing the suggestion that this is part of a vendetta against the team. Whether this is successful is another matter.

There has been no reaction from McLaren as yet but there is no doubt that the team will be upset by the decision. Ferrari has reacted saying it is satisfied "that the truth has now emerged".

Whether it is the whole truth about all the teams remains to be seen.

If Ferrari is really satisfied to win what is without doubt a tainted Constructors' Championship observers will be forgiven for suggesting that the team's attitude is that victory is the only important factor, not how it was achieved. BMW boss Mario Theissen said at Monza that he would not be happy to finish second in the Constructors' Championship if McLaren was thrown out - which seems a more sporting reaction.

The questions raised and implications of the decisions will be debated all weekend at Spa but the question that needs to be answered above all else is whether the punishment really fits the crime. That is not something to be decided without a great deal of thought - and a lot more evidence.