September will be a crucial month for the McLaren team, both on and off the track. Three races are scheduled for this month (Italy, Belgium and China) and with the strained relationship between the drivers, the action could be interesting to watch and the results potentially sealing the title race one way or another. But aside from the actual event of racing, McLaren will also be spending a couple of days in Paris standing before the International Court of Appeal. On the 19th, the team will hear the result of their appeal against the penalties imposed in Hungary, and six days prior on the 13th, Mike Coughlan will hear the verdict that could see the Brit banned from international motorsport for many years.
The whole Stepney-gate thing is probably less of a worry to the Woking-based team. They will have already worked out a game plan for either result and will simply put pre-determined procedures in motion accordingly. But the appeal against those 15 points not awarded in Hungary will almost certainly play a critical role in the 2007 championship.
Currently Ferrari are sitting on 119 points, while McLaren lead with just a 19 point advantage on 138. With just 6 races left the win in Hungary would have lifted McLaren substantially away from immediate danger. But with the current points system, Ferrari could easily claim a couple of one-twos and put McLaren’s title chances in serious jeopardy.
I for one would not like to see the 2007 championship decided in court, and I fiercely oppose the taking and re-instating of points to a team and driver. It puts the sport in bad light and can easily confuse new fans. Imposing financial penalties on teams is one way, but as we all know, the fines rarely make a dent in the company’s budget. Banning a team for a race or two? Well, it isn’t good, but at least the message is clear and to the point. I guess my beef with taking points away is that the drivers raced, risked their lives and added to the pockets of the ringleaders. But to then be told that it was a pointless exercise, that is just wrong in my eyes.
I’m sure team boss Ron Dennis will have a lot to say in mid-September, and the Formula One fraternity (and global media) will be looking to Paris rather than the race track for the action. It is a shame that these things happen, and F1 is slowly starting to resemble football in this regard. Some people will see that as a good thing, what with increased media attention and all. But others, real fans of the sport, will only see a soap opera unfolding and spoiling a sport they love.