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.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice