Have McLaren been punished enough already?
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh celebrates his 51st birthday on Wednesday and it doesn’t look like being much fun.
You can bet he would rather be anywhere else than appearing before Formula One’s governing body in Paris to take the rap for his team ‘deliberately misleading’ race stewards.
Any naughty schoolboy caught lying to a teacher will know how he will feel.
Whitmarsh has put his hand up, apologised and accepted that he (or his team) has erred. Now all he has to do is step into the headmaster’s study (alone) and take the punishment.
Will it be a metaphorical slap on the wrists, a fine, six of the best (not perhaps the most felicitous of analogies given FIA president Max Mosley’s past involvement in a sado-masochistic orgy) or expulsion?
British bookmakers William Hill are offering odds on at 1/2 that the team will get a points deduction, with a suspension at 7/4. “We are confident that McLaren will not get off Scot free,” said spokesman Rupert Adams.
Their other odds: 10/1 no further punishment and, most intriguingly, 12/1 McLaren to win the constructors’ championship.
A poll on www.crash.net had 36.6 percent of respondents guessing there should be no penalty while 32.7 percent expected a suspension from one or more grands prix and 14.3 percent a fine.
A points penalty is probably the most likely outcome, although the FIA has plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Article 151c of the sporting regulations concerns bringing the sport into disrepute and covers a multitude of sins, including cheating and fraud.
McLaren were fined a record $100 million and stripped of all their constructors’ points for the 2007 spying controversy involving leaked Ferrari secret information — a sum that would pretty much polish off any team in the current financial turmoil.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has already gone on record saying that Mercedes are staying in Formula One but that “if circumstances should change, for example due to an unreasonable punishment, it is possible that we could reconsider our activities.”
That point is worth bearing in mind, particularly given first quarter results on Monday that showed Daimler’s earnings swinging to a loss before interest and tax of 1.43 billion euros.
World champion Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to be punished personally, with the governing FIA already saying he was put in an impossible position by his team, while team mate Heikki Kovalainen is not involved at all.
PHOTO: McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain prepares to start the third practice session ahead of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix in Manama April 25, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz