SEPTEMBER 23, 2008

No big surprises in Paris

The FIA Court of Appeal has rejected the McLaren appeal from the Grand Prix of Belgium on the grounds that Article 152 of the International Sporting Code states that drive-through penalties are "not susceptible to appeal". The decision was made by Philippe Narmino (Monaco), Xavier Conesa (Spain), Harry Duijm (Netherlands), Thierry Juillard (Switzerland) and Erich Sedelmeyer (Austria).

"We are naturally disappointed with today's verdict, and to have received no ruling on the substance of our appeal," said Martin Whitmarsh. "No-one wants to win Grands Prix in court; but we felt that Lewis had won the Belgian Grand Prix, on track, in an exciting and impressive manner. Our legal team and witnesses calmly explained this, as well as our belief that the appeal should be admissible, to the FIA International Court of Appeal. It nonetheless decided that our appeal was inadmissible. We will now concentrate on the remaining four races of the 2008 Formula 1 season."

The decision is odd in that the Court of Appeal last year accepted an appeal by the Automobile Club dItalia on behalf of its licence-holder Scuderia Toro Rosso against a decision at the Japanese Grand Prix for an identical penalty which was given to Vitantonio Liuzzi, for having overtaken another competitor while a yellow flag restriction was in place. In that case the decision of the Stewards was upheld. None of the judges involved were the same but it is hard to see how one appeal is admissible and another is not. There is no doubt some convoluted explanation but the fans of F1 will not understand nor care.

Lewis Hamilton responded as one would expect.

"All I want to do now is put this matter behind me and get on with what we drivers do best: racing each other," he said. "We're racers, we're naturally competitive, and we love to overtake. Overtaking is difficult, and it feels great when you manage to pull off a great passing manoeuvre. If it pleases the spectators and TV viewers, it's better still."

The best response is to win more races and take the World Championship that way.