‘McLaren witch hunt’ discussed at second spy hearing

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I’m still trying to get everything that happened in F1’s two spying scandals straight in my head at the moment.

While doing some work on it tonight I came across a passage that give further insight into Max Mosley’s thinking on the FIA’s pursuit of the Sunday Times and Martin Brundle over the ‘witch hunt’ article.

It was at the second hearing into the McLaren-Ferrari spy scandal that Mosley first referred to the idea that the FIA’s pursuit of McLaren was a witch hunt. Here’s what was said.

This excerpt from the transcript of the September hearing came after Nigel Tozzi’s summation of the Ferrari case and before Ian Mill began summing up McLaren’s position:

Mr Mill, before you begin, may I raise a point with you in the McLaren submission?

On page 25 is a document headed "non-discrimination and transparency". On page 27, there is reference to the assertion that: "FIA’s undertaking to the European Commission to act in an even-handed way as between competitors is fundamental".

On paragraph 59, I would have a lot to say about this, but we do not have time. Then, in paragraph 60, there are a number of "further serious concerns". It is stated that McLaren has been the subject of discriminatory treatment in the context of its preparation for this hearing.

Two example are listed under that. One says that McLaren has been faced with barrage of materials and subject to a series of extremely short deadlines in what the press now routinely describes as a "witch hunt". Is this a point that McLaren is actually making and wants to make: that this should be described as a witch hunt?

You will forgive those in McLaren who have taken quite enough "medicine" – Mr Tozzi referred also to a siege mentality – if they sometimes believe this to be the case. I do not know whether there is a witch hunt and am not here to make submissions on that either way. You will forgive those in the company if they sometimes think this is the case.

You say that you are not here to make submissions on that, but you do. They are here in front of us, in writing, and refer to a "witch hunt".

It says that the press refers to a witch hunt. Our point is simply that we have been met with no small amount of new material and have had a short period of time in which to deal with it. In other situations, not before this sporting body, a much greater period of time would have been given, and far greater time set aside for this matter to be dealt with. We would have had the opportunity to produce all of our evidence. We could have produced all of our engineers and done everything so much more effectively. The FIA takes its own course as to what it believes to be a just, fair and reasonable process. Other bodies might take a different view. All I can tell you is that we have done the best that we can in a very difficult set of circumstances. Factually speaking, this is the result of the deadlines imposed upon us. I am not telling you that you would have given Ferrari four months in a similar situation. I am simply saying how we find ourselves.

You adopted that phrase, "witch hunt". Do you still adopt it?

I am not here to support or deny. I am telling you only what my clients feel.

In the second paragraph, it says that "steps have been taken" – implying that these have been taken by the FIA –

Oh no. I am so sorry.

This is all about the FIA and our being non-discriminatory.

I am not suggesting and have no evidence to suggest that we have been subjected to particular treatment in that respect, specifically by the FIA. What is of very great concern to us is why we have been treated that way in Italy by those who chose that course of action. Let me make that absolutely clear. I am not here to suggest that you in any way orchestrated what happened in Italy. Our concern is what happened. We think it was disgraceful and those responsible for it ought to regret what happened.

If you list the European Commission and the concept of non-discrimination and transparency,

Will you take my apology as someone who has not had a great deal of sleep and who has done his best to produce a document for this body, in the time available to him.

Enough said.

May I make my submissions?


Although McLaren shied away from pressing the ‘witch hunt’ point they do refer to the speed with which the proceedings were conducted.

Throughout the transcript Mosley can be seen making references to the tight demands of time. (as above: “I would have a lot to say about this, but we do not have time.”) That’s understandable up to a point, but perhaps more time should have been allocated for the hearing in the first place?

And it’s not as if the council had any compunction about stretching the hearing over the fuel temperature onto a second day when that matter was heard in November.

Tangentially, while I’m think about the FIA’s battle with the press, here’s a final thought: I still think it’s odd none of the major news outlets reported on the FIA’s gigantic faux pas when it issued the original version of the September 13th transcripts with sensitive McLaren and Ferrari data that was supposed to be censored left visible.

Photos: Daimler | FIA

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “‘McLaren witch hunt’ discussed at second spy hearing”

  1. any sign of the transcripts from the renault hearing yet?

    the mclaren ones appeared a few days after the meeting in paris. seems oddly quiet this time around.

  2. That’s a strange affair :-(

  3. No nothing yet, I’ve only got round to re-filling the printer after the battering it took with the other two transcripts. All those big black censorship marks didn’t help…

  4. There’s supposed to be transcripts – I wonder if Max is hoping that the controversy will die down before he publishes them. Or maybe he’s briefing this transcript publisher that he/she is meant to publish the version WITHOUT the confidential technical information!

  5. As for the more serious accusation, plainly Max Mosely was feeling very sensitive – I wonder if Brundle’s column four days before the hearing had any bearing on this sensitivity? – it is clear that the FIA refused to handle any matter relating to the fairness of the WMSC. Hence why it is open to accusations of unfairness. It is also clear that nobody had briefed the McLaren lawyer about what to do with the “witch-hunt” line of argument, which is really strange too.

  6. I would say yes it is a witch hunt unless anyone can add further to the balance of information about the Mclaren & Renault spying :
    On the Mclaren side there was a presumption of guilt, Renault presumed innocent.
    Mclaren: no Ferrari docs found on computers or high level reviews of technical information reviewed, Renault: information on computers with high level reviews and J-damper simulations. Other information available but not on Renault computers was presumed not to have been used, but on Mclaren’s side FIA presumed use of all information.
    The further information Mclaren used in the form of emails was published as superficial (tyre pressures etc not detailed technical design?) and was used as the basis of $100 fine etc.
    The FIA should be more PR aware and say (if true) that Ferrari designs (naming them) have been designed in whose origins can be proven to be Ferrari and that the route to these designs being obtained is through the dossier and months of detailed correspondence to fully understand functionality. It must be pointed out that an engineer with designs which are limited by the elimination of other competitor’s designs will have a ‘performance advantage’
    In an ironic way spying is healthy for the sport, if it serves to equalise the performance more, and not found out, a wider spread of drivers should be more competitive.
    On a final note, if the FIA are to adjudicate with impartiality, given the interests & friendships would they, as a jury be suitable – I think not.

  7. Reading the excerpt you are showing above and recalling the whole performance of the McLaren lawyer I feel he was totally unprepared for what was waiting for him…

    It is probably not easy to face Mad Max but he should have known better …

    “I still think it’s odd none of the major news outlets reported on the FIA’s gigantic faux pas when it issued the original version of the September 13th transcripts with sensitive McLaren and Ferrari data that was supposed to be censored left visible.”

    It definitelly is… I remember one website reporting on it (not sure which one) but without much comment and only about a week after it first came out (on this blog :-) )

  8. Ad another chapter to that book he wants to write…

  9. McLaren apologised to the FIA, maybe other people need to reflect their perception of the FIA now as well?

  10. Max needs to aggressivly respond to Brundle’s ‘witch hunt’ story as otherwise the EU would have a justification to revisit the terms underwhich it allows the FIA to operate in Europe. In Max’s comments above about this it is clear he was trying to get Mills to confirm if this was formal complaint by Maclaren. Brundle and the Times are now literally between a rock and a hard place, the FIA and EU.

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