Renault escapes penalty

Max Mosley, the FIA president, raised more than a few eyebrows by declaring himself “absolutely at ease” with the decision not to penalise Renault, writes Alan Henry.

The Renault team were found guilty of technical espionage against their Formula One rivals McLaren-Mercedes but escaped punishment for what seemed much the same offence that three months ago cost McLaren a £50m fine, together with the loss of all their Constructors’ title points, for allegedly pirating Ferrari technical data.

Max Mosley, the FIA president, raised more than a few eyebrows by declaring himself “absolutely at ease” with the decision not to penalise Renault and made it clear that his reasoning would become clearer when a full rationale of the decision reached by the world motor sport council is published in Monaco.

“I wouldn’t say it was a fairly easy decision to take because the hearing took several hours,” Mosley said. “No decision is easy, it’s always complicated. But I am absolutely at ease with this decision.”

On the face of it the whole issue seemed similar to the McLaren proceedings which resulted in a swingeing £50m penalty for the British team after the world motor sport council found them guilty of the offence, but in Renault’s case no sanction has been imposed.

When the FIA fined McLaren and deducted their Constructors’ points Mosley made it clear he did not feel the penalty was severe enough, insisting that the team’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, should also have lost their points in the Drivers’ Championship because they had benefited from the performance of an illegal car.

McLaren remained sanguine about the latest verdict. “This whole business is about expectation management,” one team insider said wryly.

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s chief executive officer, stressed that he had instructed his legal counsel not to press for a severe penalty against Renault. “We made it very clear that we were not seeking a big penalty,” he said. “We would not wish the same sort of penalty which we received to be imposed on any other competitor.”

The Renault team managing director, Flavio Briatore, said: “I would like to thank Renault and all our partners for their wholehearted support during this sensitive period. I also wish to pay tribute to the team, which has handled the matter with integrity and dignity. We are pleased that we can now focus fully on our preparations for the 2008 championship.”