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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
F1 'spygate' Q&A

By Adam Parsons
BBC sports news correspondent

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton and team boss Ron Dennis
McLaren driver Hamilton and Dennis will learn their fate in Paris
McLaren face the World Motor Sport Council for a second time on Thursday as the row over the team's possession of confidential Ferrari documents rumbles on.

At a WMSC hearing in July, McLaren were found guilty of fraudulent conduct but were not punished.

Now, the council has called McLaren back to defend themselves in the light of new evidence - and the outcome could have massive implications on how the spoils of the 2007 season are divided.

WHAT IS THE SPY ROW ALL ABOUT?

It is all about whether McLaren had confidential information that details exactly how the Ferrari team were running their season; the car, the tactics, and what they were going to do.

The suggestion is that Nigel Stepney, a very senior engineer at Ferrari, passed a dossier of data plus other bits and pieces to McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan.

Both Stepney and Coughlan deny any wrongdoing, but the allegation of why Stepney passed that information on is not really the issue.

The important thing is what McLaren did with that information once it came into their domain, and how many people saw it.

At a previous hearing, McLaren said only Coughlan had seen the information.

But the allegation now will be that actually more people than just him saw it.

WASN'T THE ROW RESOLVED AT A HEARING IN JULY?

The answer is no, although we thought it had been.

At that time, world motorsport's governing body the FIA said that McLaren were in possession of confidential information and they were charged with breaking the rules.

But they also said that there was insufficient evidence that the team had used that information to give themselves an advantage.

So effectively, the FIA gave McLaren a slap on the wrists, but there was a caveat.

The FIA said: "If it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship we reserve the right to invite McLaren back in front of the WMSC where they face the possibility of exclusion from not only 2007 but also 2008 championships."

SO WHAT HAS CHANGED NOW?

What has happened now is that further evidence is going to be put in front of the WMSC. The nub of the new evidence comes in two forms.

Fernando Alonso
Double world champion Alonso is now implicated in the spy row

One is an email exchange between Coughlan, world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa which is alleged to show that Coughlan passed on the information.

At the weekend, Alonso dismissed the claim but we are being told by people within the FIA that there is an email exchange.

Facts are difficult to come by but if there is a trail of information that links Coughlan and pretty much any senior figure at McLaren - and that would include drivers - then the initial claim that Coughlan had not passed on this information will be hard to substantiate.

The second is evidence that has been passed on to this inquiry by the communications police in Italy which appears to show that conversations between Coughlan and Stepney carried on long after it was suggested that they had stopped.

If either of those things are true, then McLaren would appear to be in big trouble.

WHO WILL BE PRESENT AT THE HEARING?

Lots of lawyers from both sides, the WMSC, which includes people like Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, Ron Dennis and Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt.

It may even be the case that McLaren will send one or both of their drivers because these are desperate times, but we are likely to have to wait and see who walks into the meeting on Thursday.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES?

If McLaren are found guilty, then they are in major trouble and the most severe punishment they face is a retrospective suspension from this year's championship.

In other words, losing all their points and a ban from next year's championship.

Nigel Stepney
Stepney is accused of leaking Ferrari secrets

A lot of people have put forward the suggestion that they might lose their constructors' points for this season but keep their drivers' points.

When the FIA declined to impose a punishment in July, they did raise the possibility of exclusion in 2007 and 2008 if there was evidence that McLaren cheated.

Having said that, they have to stick to it so if they find McLaren have cheated, I think the team could be thrown out of this year's championship and barred from next year's.

But how that affects drivers Lewis Hamilton and Alonso will be a very difficult question for the FIA to solve.

HOW SOON WILL WE GET A DECISION?

I would be surprised if we did not get a decision by Thursday afternoon.

This is not like a court hearing when you get the decision weeks and weeks later - they normally hear the evidence, talk about it and have a vote all within the course of a few hours.

So we should know McLaren's fate by Thursday.

WILL THIS BE AN END TO THE SPY ROW?

This is likely to rumble on and on, because whichever way it goes, it is going to infuriate one of the two biggest teams in the sport.

If McLaren are not sanctioned, Ferrari will be furious, but if they are punished then McLaren will be absolutely livid and face the possibility of going into a real downward spiral if they cannot compete next year.

If McLaren are not sanctioned, then I think Ferrari will consider an appeal against that decision.

If McLaren are punished they will certainly go to a court of appeal and, after that, I would imagine they would follow a high court process through the British courts.

SEE ALSO
McLaren set to learn spy row fate
12 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Stewart alleges bias in spy row
11 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton 'not worried' by hearing
09 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Spy row warning for McLaren trio
07 Sep 07 |  Formula One
McLaren face new 'spygate' threat
09 Sep 07 |  Formula One
Ferrari's spy row appeal date set
08 Aug 07 |  Formula One
Ferrari fight back in spying row
03 Aug 07 |  Formula One
Ferrari fury over McLaren verdict
26 Jul 07 |  Formula One
What does F1 spy verdict mean?
27 Jul 07 |  Formula One
McLaren off hook in F1 spying row
26 Jul 07 |  Formula One


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