BAR to fight two-race suspension but Mosley describes it as 'lenient?'

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The Independent Online

BAR-Honda will seek an injunction to allow them to race this weekend, after the court of appeal of motor sport's international governing body, the FIA, ruled yesterday that the team had contravened the weight limit rules in the San Marino Grand Prix and suspended them for two races, to take effect immediately.

BAR-Honda will seek an injunction to allow them to race this weekend, after the court of appeal of motor sport's international governing body, the FIA, ruled yesterday that the team had contravened the weight limit rules in the San Marino Grand Prix and suspended them for two races, to take effect immediately.

On the exit from Barcelona airport, an inflatable BAR hoarding welcomed race visitors; somewhat symbolically, it was partially deflated. In the paddock at the Circuit de Catalunya, BAR felt exactly the same way. Besides being suspended from the Spanish and Monaco races, they face a six-month ban, suspended for one year.

The court met in Paris on Wednesday after the FIA took the extraordinary step of appealing against the verdict of its own stewards, who ruled Jenson Button's car had not contravened regulations demanding a minimum weight of 600kg, following protracted post-race tests after Button had finished third in Italy.

The FIA claimed that BAR used a supplementary tank designed to hold fuel that would act as ballast in post-race checks, and that without this the car contravened the regulations. It charged the team with acting "fraudulently," claiming that it "set out deliberately to gain an illegitimate and unfair advantage". The federation demanded the team's exclusion from the world championship, and a fine of $1.3m (£682,000).

It was surprising that neither the FIA nor BAR called the stewards to give evidence to the court. But the FIA technical delegate, Jo Bauer, said he accepted the BAR supplementary tank had a legitimate use. He told the court he had no concerns at the time about it and that the team had co-operated fully. The team produced charts and documents to establish that the car had been legal at all times and maintained its innocence throughout.

Yesterday, however, the court ruled that since the BAR car weighed only 594.6kg without fuel, it was illegal. Takuma Sato had a similar tank on his sister car, so he too was excluded from the results in Italy.

It was claimed that after the team had agreed that all of the fuel had been drained, subsequent inspection revealed that 8.92kg remained in the special compartment and a further 2.46kg in the bottom of the tank. The court was unable to substantiate the FIA's claim of fraud, but said: "BAR's actions at the time of the emptying procedure of the vehicle after the event, and the fact that they did not use their right in accordance with Article 2.4, to address a request for clarification of the rules to the technical Formula One department of the FIA, show at least a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency."

Besides the embarrassment, BAR will suffer financially if they miss Monaco, the jewel of the F1 crown Button would miss it for the second time in three years, having crashed in practice in 2003 and finished a fighting second to Jarno Trulli there last year.

Predictably, the president of the FIA, Max Mosley, wept no tears for BAR but sent a strong message to all the teams, several of whom are believed to be doing precisely what BAR were found guilty of. "We are now considering whether to select one car at random of the points scorers at every race, and stripping it to the last nut and bolt," he said. "That will give a seven-to-one chance that if you are cheating and finish in the points, you will get caught."

The BAR chief executive, Nick Fry, said: "BAR-Honda are appalled at the decision of the FIA International Court of Appeal and assert that the judgement is contrary to all of the evidence heard yesterday. The team proved that they complied with the current regulations and the FIA now acknowledge that the regulations are unclear.

"We repeat that at no time did we run underweight at the San Marino Grand Prix and this was also unchallenged by the FIA.

"While the court rejected the FIA's original accusations of fraud and deception, BAR-Honda say that this penalty is wholly and grossly disproportionate. The team are advised by their legal counsel that the judgement is plainly wrong based on the evidence presented and are currently examining their options."

Fry added: "Our objective is to race this weekend. We need to get some judgement from a court very soon. We need to get a fair hearing and to clear our name. Our integrity is being challenged. The penalty implies we are guilty and we are not."

Fry would not comment on suggestions that the FIA's actions were motivated by politics concerning the new 2008 Concorde Agreement and the seven teams who have threatened to break away to form an alternative championship.

Tank trouble Button and team-mate Sato stripped of San Marino points

The Rules

A Formula One car must weigh at least 600kg at the end of a grand prix. F1's ruling body, the FIA, claimed that Jenson Button's BAR-Honda was 5kg under the minimum weight after the San Marino GP last month.

The Accusation

That BAR deliberately left 15 litres of fuel in a separate section within the tank behind Button's seat (see above), after claiming the tank had been emptied, in order to meet the minimum weight requirement.

The Verdict

BAR banned for two races (Spanish and Monaco GPs). Button and team-mate Takuma Sato stripped of the points they won for finishing third and fifth respectively in San Marino.

Called to the BAR

The Team

Based: Brackley, England

Team principal: Nick Fry

Technical director: Geoffrey Willis

Drivers: Jenson Button (GB, aged 25) Takuma Sato (Japan, 28) Test driver Anthony Davidson (GB, 26)

Car: BAR 007 (powered by Honda V10 engine)

Tyres: Michelin

First Grand Prix entered: Australia 1999 (Melbourne)

First podium: Spain 2001 (Jacques Villeneuve, third in Barcelona)

Fifth overall in 2003; second overall in 2004

Milestones

1999: Team established on backbone of Tyrrell team after takeover financed by British American Tobacco

2004: Finish second in constructors' championship behind Ferrari

2005: Team bought by Honda and British American Tobacco

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