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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May 2005, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Wheels come off BAR bandwagon
By Andrew Fraser

BAR's ban for breaking the rules at Imola is the latest sideshow to distract attention from what is starting to develop into a fascinating Formula One season.

But what will be the ramifications for Jenson Button's team, F1's rulemakers and the championship as a whole?

BAR HIT ROCK BOTTOM

A posse of executives from Honda and British American Tobacco had planned to descend on Barcelona this weekend to watch their team in action.

Instead they will have plenty of time to grill team boss Nick Fry on how he intends to pick up the pieces of BAR's shattered season.

BAR mechanics pack away their equipment in Barcelona
While BAR continue to protest that they did nothing wrong, they have effectively been found guilty of cheating after failing to prove their car complied with the rules at all times at the San Marino GP.

And the fact they have abandoned hope of overturning the ban means there will be no quick fix, with the two-race lay-off expected to cost in excess of 5m.

Drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato will return for the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on 29 May with a grand total of zero points.

And increased optimism about the performance of the car will be dampened by the fact that it must now be made 5.4kg heavier to avoid a repeat of the Imola episode.

Added to all that is the fact that Button will almost certainly be free to leave at the end of the season.

Button has a clause in his contract allowing him to join Williams if he has less than 70% of the points of the championship leader after the British Grand Prix on 10 July.

MORAL VICTORY FOR FIA

On the face of it, motorsport's ruling body, the FIA, did not get what it wanted on Thursday, as president Max Mosley had called for BAR to be thrown out of the championship.

But the guilty verdict against BAR proved that the FIA was right to challenge the decision of its own stewards at Imola to clear the team of any wrongdoing.

We're considering whether to choose one car among the points scorers and take it to bits
FIA president Max Mosley
For a first offence, a season's ban would have been harsh, particularly as the appeal panel decided it could not be proved that BAR deliberately broke the rules.

But Mosley will take comfort from the fact that the sanction is the toughest taken against an F1 team for 20 years - surely enough to put any potential rule-breakers on red alert.

The fact the FIA's appeal court went against the ruling body's recommendations went some way to supporting the FIA's contention that the panel is independent.

But that is unlikely to change the suspicion within F1 that disciplinary standards are not applied equally for all teams.

And critics will ask why BAR have been hit so much harder than the Benetton team in 1994, who escaped punishment for having an illegal traction-control system.

GAP ON THE GRID

BAR's absence will have a visible impact on the championship, with two grid spaces lying empty in Barcelona and Monaco.

But early-season pacesetter Fernando Alonso is unlikely to see Button's lay-off as a massive boost to his title chances as the Spaniard is more worried about the threat to Renault from Ferrari and McLaren.

Of greater significance to the F1 teams is Mosley's warning that he will step up post-race inspections.

"We are now considering whether we should choose one car among the points scorers at each race and take it to bits," said Mosley. "It would be 7-1 against you being caught every time you do it."

While there is no suggestion that any of the other teams have been breaking the rules, the essence of Formula One is to push them to their very limits.

And, in the eyes of F1's disciplinarians, BAR crossed the line.

SEE ALSO
BAR will not fight two-race ban
06 May 05 |  Formula One
Angry BAR 'appalled' at race ban
05 May 05 |  Formula One
BAR and Button get two-race ban
05 May 05 |  Formula One


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