McLaren plead case for Brazil points

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The Independent Online

For the second time in four races, an appeal panel of the governing body of world motor sports met in Paris to decide the outcome of a Formula One race.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) convened its International Court of Appeal to hear McLaren's protest over the disqualification of David Coulthard from second place in the March 26 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Coulthard placed second behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher but was disqualified when stewards ruled the front wing of his car was two millimetres out of tolerance.

"We put forward our case in a strong way," Coulthard said after the hearing. "We're very comfortable with our presentation at the meeting."

Coulthard said his team argued that the track was "very bumpy in nature" and that "unusual circumstances" contributed to his car being out of regulation. He added that the car was clearly in regulation at the beginning of the race.

FIA spokesman Francesco Longanesi said the panel would announce its decision on Tuesday. If the appeal fails, F1's top team the last two seasons will be without a point in either the drivers' or constructors' standings after two races.

The court of appeals is comprised of FIA Chairman Philippe Roberti de Winghe and judges from the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.

Five months ago, an FIA appeal panel seemed to bend the rules by reinstating Ferrari's 1-2 finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix after stewards ruled aerodynamic deflectors were out of compliance by one centimeter. That took the victory - and the season title - from McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and forced the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix to decide the title. Hakkinen won in Japan and claimed the drivers' championship.

McLaren race director Ron Dennis charged the FIA with favoring Ferrari at the time and was cynical about the rule-bending, but now he is asking for the same kind of leniency to close the gap on Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who has won the first two races.

"They (McLaren) certainly have got a case, but also the scrutineers have a case, but that's what we have judges and courts for," said FIA President Max Mosley, who admitted in the Ferrari case measurements were inaccurate and the FIA rules fuzzy.

"It's always annoying when a race result gets changed after the cars have crossed the line, but this is bound to happen from time to time when you run post-race checks," Mosley added.

"If you do that and go to the edge, there is the risk that you will go over it. That's a problem all the teams have, not just McLaren," he said.

Mosley said Brazilian organizers faced a fine and the possible cancellation of their race after an advertising board fell on the track during qualifying, hitting Jean Alesi's Prost car while it was traveling about 170 mph (270 kph). No one was injured.

The FIA World Motor Council has summoned organizers to a Thursday meeting.

"I think when the World Council meets it may well decide that mustn't be allowed to happen ever again," Mosley said. "They (race organisers) face a substantial fine or possibly the race being banned."