'It's all true,' says McLaren boss - but will he pay $100m spying fine?

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The Independent Online

Ron Dennis, the McLaren Formula One team principal, said yesterday he is considering an appeal against the swingeing $100m (£50m) fine levied by FIA World Motor Sport Council in the sport's spying scandal.

Dennis admitted to the charges on which the FIA found his team guilty last Thursday when the team was stripped of their points in the world constructors championship. "Everything in the FIA judgment is true," he said. "It happened." But, he added, "we feel that the $100m fine is so disproportionate to the reality of the situation.

"I have six days now in which to decide whether to appeal. Or do McLaren take the $100m hit in the best interests of the sport?" And, he added, "if we do not appeal, it is because we want closure and to act in the interest of the sport. I hope that other teams would understand... that McLaren did not cheat but did everything to co-operate with the FIA investigation."

On Thursday the WMSC reconvened its hearing of 26 July, which had ruled that, while McLaren was guilty of being in possession of Ferrari's intellectual property, no penalty should be applied. The meeting was reconvened as new evidence confirmed that others in the McLaren team knew that rogue chief designer Mike Coughlan had Ferrari documentation, illegally obtained from Ferrari's former head of performance development, Nigel Stepney. McLaren drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Fernando Alonso also knew about it.

Dennis refused to implicate Alonso yesterday, even though the Spaniard is alleged to have attempted to blackmail him with the information during an argument in Hungary, in which he sought a clear path to the 2007 title in return for maintaining his silence. Dennis, instead, informed the FIA, which led to the second WMSC meeting and the subsequent fine and exclusion.

Of his conversation with Alonso, Dennis said: "Have you ever had an argument with your wife, and said things in temper that you deeply regret?... Fernando subsequently retracted his comments and apologised, and we have moved on."

Dennis refused to be drawn on whether the Spaniard will be at McLaren in 2008. And he said: "I am very generous, but my objective is to win races."