Mosley and BAR glare across the grey area

Spanish GP: Heat but no light in the row that shook the sport

Trust Bernie Ecclestone. You can rely on him to summarise a situation with comedic irony that would make Jack Dee proud. "The biggest crime when you are cheating is getting caught," he said, and therein lies one of Formula One's great truths.

Trust Bernie Ecclestone. You can rely on him to summarise a situation with comedic irony that would make Jack Dee proud. "The biggest crime when you are cheating is getting caught," he said, and therein lies one of Formula One's great truths.

But in Spain last week BAR Honda, booted out of the Spanish and Monaco grands prix and handed a six-month sentence, suspended for a year, by the sport's governing body, the FIA, were not universally judged to have cheated. In the hours after Jenson Button had finished third at Imola, the FIA's own race stewards - Paul Gutjahr, Katsutoshi Tamura and Giuseppe Muscioni - weighed and reweighed the car and ultimately declared it had not, as first suspected, contravened regulations demanding a minimum weight of 600kg. Then the FIA, in the shape of their president, Max Mosley, stepped in and appealed to their International Court of Appeal against their own stewards' ruling, accusing the team outright of fraudulent acts which included a "special compartment" to store fuel which was used as ballast after the car had run underweight in the race.

Last Wednesday this whole can of worms, lobbed at a sport that was beginning to revive its tarnished reputation after four great opening races, was reopened at the court in Paris. The following day in the Barcelona paddock, the F1 world awaited the verdict with bated breath. When it came, it proved devastating. The judges ruled that the team had failed to comply with the rules or to prove their case that their car did not ever run below 600kg.

The team refused to accept that they had been given a fair hearing - not the first time such an accusation has been levelled at a court that some still believe to be less independent than the FIA claim, despite the governing body making revisions recently in keeping with European law.

"BAR Honda is appalled at the decision at the FIA International Court of Appeal," their statement read, "and asserts that the judgment is contrary to all the evidence heard yesterday. The team proved that it complied with the current regulations and the FIA now acknowledges that the regulations are unclear. We repeat that at no time did BAR Honda run underweight at the San Marino Grand Prix, and this was also unchallenged by the FIA.

"While the International Court of Appeal rejected the FIA's original accusations of fraud and deception, BAR-Honda says that this penalty is wholly and grossly disproportionate. The team is advised by its legal counsel that the judgment is plainly wrong, based on the evidence presented, and it is currently examining its options."

In the end the team could not obtain an injunction against the penalty in time, and decided against further legal action. They took their licks and will return in Germany at the end of the month.

Justifying the ban, Mosley held a lengthy and robust press conference (in which he also outlined the governing body's take on every other controversial matter so far this season), but a transcript of the judgment was unavailable for 24 hours, allegedly because the FIA's lawyers were busily combing through it.

Cheating is a volatile word in the grey world of F1, where one man's illegality is another's clever loophole and the line between the two is often redrawn when matters come to be interpreted officially. The probability is that BAR Honda have not been alone in exploiting a grey area in the regulations. There may be as many as three other teams doing the same thing at times. According to the FIA, that is running their cars underweight during certain parts of races and then ballasting them back to the minimum weight with more fuel than is necessary at their final pit stop.

When one team feel that others may be doing that sort of thing, it is not uncommon for the spur of competition to seduce them into following suit. This is, after all, a game with very high stakes.

Views on the subject were divided. Some said that BAR Honda got what they deserved and that Mosley was absolutely right. Others suggested that, at a time when the governing body's president had made it clear that he was not going to have any truck with any of the so-called rebel teams who had not yet signed up to his plans for the sport beyond 2008, it was perhaps unwise to stick their neck out in any way that might leave them vulnerable.

The BAR trucks left the paddock on Friday, and Jenson Button kicked his heels during that day's practice before heading for home. The Englishman's path to BMW- Williams for 2006 has never looked smoother.

Button had left Spain by the time Kimi Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso indulged in yesterday's shoot-out for the overnight pole, which saw them all separated by a mere 0.075sec. Schumacher Jnr set the ball rolling for Toyota with 1min 14.870sec; Raikkonen beat that with 1:14.819 in a McLaren overdue a win; Schumacher's team-mate Trulli aced them both with 1:14.795; and then Alonso sent his countrymen hoarse with 1:14.811 for Renault. It was not quite enough, but between them there is nothing that cannot be overcome in final qualifying with race-fuel loads this morning.

With Michael Schumacher only seventh (though he will gain a place, as the fifth-fastest, Nick Heidfeld, will lose 10 grid places after an engine change on his BMW Williams), Alonso had cause for optimism for his fourth win on the trot. "We are well set up for tomorrow, for qualifying and the race," he said. "I will be able to attack even more."

Time was, you were on speaking terms with all the crowd at a Spanish GP. Not any more. Alonso's burgeoning profile has brought Spaniards flocking. Good job they are not Button fans.

News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star