A 'frank and open discussion' at Spa
There was something of a war of words going on at Spa Francorchamps this weekend following Thursday's decision by the World Motor Sport Council to strip McLaren of its constructors' points and impose a 100 million US dollar fine on the
team for its part in the Ferrari espionage scandal.
Indeed, reports this afternoon claimed that FIA President Max Mosley has accused McLaren chief Ron Dennis of looking him in the eye and lying during the Formula One spying investigation.
In a television interview Mosley explained the sequence of events that led to the emergence of critical email evidence; evidence that would lead to McLaren's exclusion and fine.
Dennis confirmed on Saturday that Fernando Alonso
had approached him at the Hungarian Grand Prix threatening to leak damaging emails between himself and test driver Pedro de la Rosa.
Mosley told ITV his version of events: "On the morning of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ron rang me and he said, 'I've just had Alonso in the motorhome and he says he's got information and he's threatening to give it to the Federation.'
"So I said, 'What did you say Ron?' He said, 'I said, go on and hand it over.'
"I said, 'Ron, you said exactly the right thing.'
"And then Ron said, 'But there isn't any information.'
"So I said, 'So it's an empty threat?'
"And he replied: 'Yes, a completely empty threat.
There's no information, there's nothing to come out; I can assure you that if there was something, Max, I would have told you.'
"Now this was a week after looking me in the eye in the World Council and telling me there was absolutely nothing wrong and everybody had done exactly as they should do, so I believed him.
"I've known 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 the truth with complete sincerity' - you believe him.
"It was only when I got the list from the Italian police (showing) 323 SMS phone calls going over a three-month period between Coughlan and Stepney, (that I concluded) there had 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 (asking for their evidence), and the rest is history."
Dennis responded to Mosley on the same broadcast, insisting that he has acted with total integrity throughout the whole affair.
"I don't want to get into the detail, but I do want to address one thing, and that is that when someone asks me a question - and I've answered some difficult questions - at the time I made those answers I told the complete truth," Dennis said. "At the point of the first hearing, when I was asked the question did I know anything more, the truth was, I didn't. The emails that passed between our drivers were as big a surprise to me when I heard, as anyone else - and as I said, if they existed, what I said to Fernando was that he must give them to the FIA.
"I just want to be very clear that at no stage did I ever say any lie to anybody. I put my integrity above everything. I just want to be very clear about that particular point."
This evening the McLaren team released the following statement in which it seems that the war of words may be over for the time being…
“After a frank and open discussion with Max Mosley this afternoon, we reached full agreement on the relevant content and context of the discussions that took place on the Sunday of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Our subsequent recollections of these, which I repeated to the World Motor Sport Council on Thursday, will be contained in the transcript to be made available to the media next week.”
“It has been a difficult period in the history of McLaren but we have tried hard to co-operate with the FIA which has been committed to a transparent and thorough process.”
“In the interests of Formula 1, our Partners and our team, I am now considering how to achieve closure on this matter. Once I have formed my own opinion I will make a recommendation to my shareholders who will ultimately decide with me whether to appeal.”
Source AFP / McLaren