As expected on Sunday last weekend, there was a lot of news flying around the Formula One paddock this week. Scott Speed talked about his altercation with team boss Franz Tost, Spyker have announced who will drive their second car for the remainder of the season, and McLaren received the verdict from the FIA regarding their involvement in Stepney-gate. Here goes…
Speed: In or Out After All The Shaking About?
Following the Grand Prix of Europe last weekend, it became evident that all was not well in the Scuderia Toro Rosso camp. Both Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi retired from the race just three laps in, and upon returning to the pit lane received strong words from boss Franz Tost. However, Speed was fuming and lashed out at the management, saying that Tost and co-owner Gerhard Berger wanted to get both drivers out of the team. And then, in a somewhat surprising interview for SpeedTV, Scott went further by describing what happened between himself and Franz.
According to Scott, while walking out of the rear of the garage, Tost approached him and spun him around by grabbing his arm. Some unkind words were thrown back and forth and Tost pushed Scott up against a wall. From Scott’s point of view, he was close to losing control. This incident led Scott to say that he would not continue to drive for the team with the current management and he even posted a “Season Finished” notice on his official website in replace of the countdown timer to the next race.
As far as my future in F1 is concerned, you couldn’t pay me enough money to race for those two people again. Scott Speed.
One would imagine that this episode, fact or fiction, would inevitably lead to Speed not driving for the team again. Either Scott would refuse, and possibly press charges if he were forced to drive (due to his contract), or he would be fired for lying in an effort to destabilise the team and bring its name into disrepute.
However, at Spain’s Jerez circuit on Wednesday, Scott was driving for the team at a test session, and also completed laps today. Despite a strong stance initially, it seems as though Scott may continue with STR for the foreseeable future. It is almost certain though, that he will be replaced by either Sebastian Vettel or Sebastien Bourdais next year.
Sakon Returns To Spyker
After Spyker sacked their reasonably experienced driver (Christijan Albers) just prior to the Nurburgring race, it was announced that Markus Winkelhock would get the drive for one race only, where upon the team would re-evaluate its options for the rest of the year. Markus ended up actually leading his first race for a few laps, although admittedly only because of the dreadful weather conditions. While it wasn’t known at the time, many people were secretly hoping Winkelhock would be retained for the rest of the season.
However, an announcement on Wednesday from the Dutch team quashed these hopes as Sakon Yamamoto returns to a Formula One car since his last race in Brazil for Super Aguri last year. Sakon debuted with Jordan (which ultimately became Spyker) at the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, and then replaced Yuji Ide at Aguri after it was suggested by the FIA (and just about everyone else) that Ide needed to practice some more. Yamamoto completed eleven races last year, and was retained by the team as their test driver.
Sakon was competing in the GP2 championship this season, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete in motorsport’s top formula again.
I am very pleased to get the opportunity to race in Formula One again. I also know the team from my test in 2005 so I feel ready for the chance. I want to do the best I can and help the team achieve their objective of moving up the field. I’m looking forward to working with them. Sakon Yamamoto.
Needless to say, I expect Spyker to remain at the back of the grid for the remaining seven Grands Prix.
McLaren Found Guilty, But Escape Punishment
And the big news from today. The FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) held an extraordinary meeting today at the FIA’s headquarters in Paris. McLaren were required to attend as the meeting centered around the dispute between Ferrari, former-employee Nigel Stepney, McLaren, their suspended-employee Mike Coughlin, and a certain document belonging to the Scuderia.
I’m sure you all know the details by now, so I won’t regurgitate the whole torrid affair: Click here and here for previous posts detailing the saga thus far. McLaren were required to attend the meeting today in order to find out if the Woking team had broken the International Sporting Regulations by using the information contained in the leaked document to their advantage.
The team have been found guilty of “possession of unauthorised Ferrari documents”, however, it has been decided that McLaren will not receive any punishment as of now as there is no evidence of this data being integrated into the current MP4-22 car. The WMSC have reserved the right to recall McLaren to a further meeting should they suspect or discover new evidence which may lead them to believe otherwise. The repercussions of this (should it happen) would almost certainly mean an exclusion from the 2007 championship, and also a possibility of being excluded from the 2008 campaign as well.
Here is the complete press statement from the FIA following the meeting.
The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula One World Championship.
We therefore impose no penalty.
But if it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite Vodafone McLaren Mercedes back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship but also the 2008 championship.
The WMSC will also invite Mr Stepney and Mr Coughlan to show reason why they should not be banned from international motor sport for a lengthy period and the WMSC has delegated authority to deal with this matter to the legal department of the FIA. FIA Press Statement.
Luigi Macaluso, the Italian representative at the WMSC, and therefore the one who most will look at with close scrutiny, actually gave a frank and professional response when asked about the hearing.
There was no proof McLaren had an advantage. It was a very technical hearing, very professional. The fact is that there was no obvious proof against McLaren. Ordinary justice will handle the single individuals. Luigi Macaluso.
It looks as though Stepney and Coughlin will be next in the dock as the pair will be invited to attend a hearing in order for them to defend themselves to the WMSC over this damaging affair. Should either of these be found guilty of the charges, they could be banned from international motorsport for many years. And of course, there are also the legal ramifications on Stepney.
Ferrari, as you can imagine, are incensed at this decision at the moment. They too released a statement basically outlining how they do not understand how a team can be found guilty of a charge, but not punished. I however, completely agree with the FIA. Yes, McLaren employee/s were found to be involved in the Stepney-gate saga, but really it isn’t the job of the FIA to control that. It is up to the individual teams and their processes that attempt to ensure information doesn’t ‘go missing’. The job of the FIA is to ensure that the teams are following the rules of the sport, and today it appears they have done just that. Ferrari will be continuing their legal action both in Italy and England.