Quotes of the week
BERNIE ECCLESTONE, President and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Association
"It came very close to McLaren being thrown out, it really was a genuine possibility," Ecclestone said. "A few of us sort of battled on and campaigned for the ($100m) fine instead. Even if it is a smaller team than McLaren, they're gone, without any hesitation," Ecclestone added. "The alternative to the fine was worse, being excluded from the championship for two years. It was much closer than everybody says it was." (McLaren also had its constructors' points taken away, and Ecclestone insisted that a similarly hefty fine - that would put many of the smaller teams out of business - would be dished out in the future for any more instances of espionage.)
MAX MOSLEY, President FIA
"Everyone can have an opinion, and this was the opinion of the majority," Mosley said, "but the simpler solution would have been exclusion for 2007 and 2008." He said it is his "personal opinion" that McLaren "logically" should have also lost the drivers' points as well. Mosley admitted that, "for the fans", however, it is better that the four-way battle for the 2007 crown was left intact.
"I’ve know Ron for 40 years, it’s very difficult for me when somebody I’ve known for 40 years looks me in the eye and says ‘Max I’m telling you the truth,’ with complete sincerity. And you believe him. It was only when I got the list from the Italian police, 323 SMS phone calls going over a three-month period between Couglan and Stepney. I thought there has to be more to this. You don’t get 300 messages arranging a visit to Honda. This is something serious. At which point I sat down and wrote the letter to the drivers. And then the rest is history. I’m just trying to run a fair and proper sport, and make sure there isn’t any cheating as far as I am able, and the World Council are the same. Something like this is very difficult, because a team like McLaren can have the best lawyers you can get your hands on, unlimited budget, they come in with literally tons of paper, half a Finnish forest has probably been cut down just to provide the paper. And it’s extremely difficult when you’re a relatively small organization like we are to deal with that. But we made a great effort, and we did deal with it.
“It’s a warning to everybody, all the teams, that that sort of spying is not going to be allowed. But you see that’s the great difficulty, you don’t know. They say for example in the e-mails, you’ve seen it, let’s try the wing, it’s two or three tenths, let’s try the brake, it's two or three tenths, let’s try the weight distribution, it’s probably more. Even if you were just two-tenths of a second quicker because you had that information than you would have been if you didn’t have it, just because of that, if you look at the grid and how close it is the whole season, it could completely change the championship. I’m responsible to the other teams. We’re the people who are supposed to make sure that it’s all fair and properly run. I think what we did actually was arguably less than we should have done, but it was the majority view on the World Council.
"In essence, what is done by people working for you in your company belongs to your company. And those people are not allowed to go outside your company and use it for somebody else if it's confidential. And all of this is covered by contracts, actually the individuals concerned. But, of course, where we get involved is when there is action which interferes with the sport where, for example, you've got a team with, not only their own intellectual property, but somebody else's as well and they add those two together. And if that happens to be the intellectual activity of their leading competitor, then of course that's serious."
RON DENNIS, Team Principal, McLaren Mercedes Formula One team
"The most important thing is that we go motor racing this weekend, the rest of the season and every season. This means that the drivers can continue to compete for the drivers' world championship," Dennis said. "However, having been at the hearing today, I do not accept that we deserve to be penalized or our reputations damaged in this way. Today's evidence given to the FIA by our drivers, engineers and staff clearly demonstrated that we did not use any leaked information to gain a competitive advantage. Much has been made in the press and in the hearing today of emails and text messages to and from our drivers. The WMSC received statements from Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa stating categorically that no Ferrari information had been used by McLaren, and that they have not passed any confidential data to the team. The entire engineering team, in excess of 140 people, provided statements to the FIA confirming that they had never received or used Ferrari information. We have never denied that the information from Ferrari was in the personal possession of one of our employees, in his home. The issue is, was this information used by McLaren? This is not the case and has not been proven to date."
"I put my integrity above everything," Dennis said. "My job is to win the world championship. My job isn't for people to love and hug me." (Dennis was reacting to Max Mosley's comments by denying that he lied to the FIA)
LUCA DI MONTEZEMOLA, President of Ferrari
"To win the world title at the table (rather than on the track) would in any case be a deserved victory," Montezemolo said. He added, "We would deserve it because it would have been won in the other case in a way that was not correct, not legal and not sporting. The less spoken about it the better," he agreed. "It interests us that this ugly chronicle is closed in a hurry but above all with the truth exposed."
MARIO THEISSEN, Motorsport Director and Team Principal, Formula One BMW Sauber team
"Even if the history books say something different, for me we will always be in the third place, because two teams were better than us," said Theissen.
FERNANDO ALONSO, reigning 2-times Formula One World Champion, Renault F1 team
"That is what you think," Alonso said. "If Ron [Dennis] said something it is because he wanted to. If Max [Mosley] said something, it is because he wanted. I am a racing driver and I will answer questions about tires, engines and things like that," Alonso added. "I didn't feel any change in the team," Alonso insisted, also rejecting the thesis that team members might now begin to favor Lewis Hamilton over him in the remaining races this year. (After qualifying behind both Ferraris in Belgium, Alonso refused to comment on claims that he tried to use his possession of the emails to either gain number one status or be allowed to leave the team.)
MIKE COUGHLAN, suspended Chief Designer, McLaren Formula One team
"I sincerely regret my actions in accepting the information from Stepney and the fact that I did not take more steps to stop him providing this information to me," Coughlan said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see how I should have handled matters very differently, but at the time, having found myself in an uncomfortable and difficult position, my indecision as to how best to deal with this led me to fail to take proper action at all. I wish to apologize to Ferrari. My passion and enthusiasm for race-car engineering design has caused me to exercise poor judgment in my dealings with Mr. Stepney. I enormously regret the unfair embarrassment I have caused to McLaren and to my wife. I can honestly say that McLaren received no benefit whatsoever in relation to their car or any aspect of its performance and that no use of any of the material has been made in relation to the car."
"He [Stepney] is not a close friend," Coughlan said. "We are acquaintances who are both in the business of Formula One and have maintained cordial relations over the years. Stepney contacted me for the first time in five years on March 1st 2007. He subsequently telephoned me and informed me that he was very unhappy with the direction his career was taking at Ferrari and Mr. Almondo's promotion above him. But he did not pass any technical information about Ferrari to me until mid-March 2007. Details of the floor device were sent to me by email to my McLaren work email address," Coughlan continued. "I showed the email fleetingly to Martin Whitmarsh, who asked me to take up the issue with Paddy Lowe, McLaren's engineering director. I produced a schematic drawing for Lowe, which I understand he forwarded to the FIA. The FIA subsequently declared the floor device as falling outside the regulations. Details of the rear wing device were also sent by email to me. I briefly showed this email to Lowe. I understand he reported this to Charlie Whiting of the FIA at the Melbourne Grand Prix, but he was of the opinion that the design was legal. As for the information about the subtle engineering technique, I felt it was inconsequential and so I did not show these details to anyone." An attack of conscience in April though, led to McLaren setting up a firewall to block any emails from Stepney and Coughlan arranging to meet Stepney to ask him to "stop communicating to me any further." However, that meeting instead led to Stepney handing Coughlan a "bundle of documents which he asked me to look at. My engineering curiosity got the better of me and I foolishly took the documents from him. I casually flicked through them over the course of 25 minutes or so the journey took for Stepney to drive me to the airport. I kept hold of the documents and took them home with me. I did not look further at the documents that weekend. I looked at the papers given to me by Stepney on only a few occasions," he stated. "Certainly the time I spent looking at them in total between receiving them and the search at my house on July 3rd was no more than one to two hours. I did not look at them in a discursive or methodical way, nor did I look at all of the documents. In the limited period of time I spent reviewing the documents, it was not possible to glean anything that would be of material use to McLaren that we did not already know from our own observation and photographs of Ferrari's car."
PAUL STODDART, Champ Car Minardi Team USA owner, former Minardi Formula One team owner
"What does FIA stand for? It stands for Ferrari International Assistance and that's been proven time and time again to be the case," Stoddart said. He pointed to the $100 million paid to Ferrari at a time the manufacturers were threatening to walk away and start a rebel series. "The FIA has consistently helped Ferrari all the way down the line. The only difference is that lately it's been so blatant even a blind man can see it. And the reality is that it's damaging the sport," Stoddart said. "People are frustrated by what they see as manipulation of the sport. Last year when Renault and Alonso won the championships and Mosley's interference came to naught, people were satisfied. Had (Michael) Schumacher and Ferrari won, people would have said that the whole thing was a farce. There's probably only one person in the sport hated more by Mosley than me and that's Ron [Dennis]. Max is a power junkie, I have no doubt about that," said Stoddart who believes Mosley is on the brink of ruining Formula One. "What he has done so far, in my opinion, has not yet affected the pureness of the sport. It's come close ... but this year he's sailing close to the wind," said Stoddart.
SIR STIRLING MOSS, Legendary former Formula One driver
“I’m absolutely staggered – this is terrible. The whole of motor racing has been shaken and the only thing they (the WMSC) have done right is to allow the drivers to keep points. Taking the points off the drivers would ruin the whole deal. McLaren are banned, fair enough – but I can’t believe a fine like that. Ron Dennis (McLaren team boss) is not an easy man but I feel he’s been done down I do really – I really do not believe he would know about it. Okay, he’s the captain of the ship but I would put a lot of my money on his integrity.” Moss continued, "“Obviously something should be done to the two guys in particular (Coughlan and Stepney). The damage they have done to the whole thing is unbelievable – but I’m not convinced McLaren were much enhanced by what they got. It’s awful for the public, we are seeing the best racing we’ve seen for years.”
SIR JACKIE STEWART, 3 times Formula One World Champion
"This isn't murder that has been carried out, this is something that has happened before and there wasn't even a fine or disciplinary action taken by the same governing body. There is something very strange going on, there is no doubt about that."
ALEX GURNEY, 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Champion (with teammate Jon Fogarty)
"They can say what they want about that contact, but I lost a lot of respect for them [Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates drivers]. Because that was some DIRTY stuff, I mean some really dirty stuff. Anyway, besides from that, hey, we're the champs. We did it! This team deserves it and we're stoked."
SCOTT PRUETT, finished 2nd, 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Championship
"Cheap shot. Big cheap shot. I mean he just came in and cleaned me right out the back. Congratulations to Bob [Stallings], but the drivers there [Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty] -- just no class. I don't know. And then with the Grand-Am, I'm coming up inside the 99 over there. We rubbed a little bit, and I get called for it. I just think that call shouldn't have been made. He didn't get off. He got up a little off line but no harm, no foul. So, disappointing end. I mean, I expected a lot more out of those guys, but I guess stupid people do stupid things."