Poll: McLaren – was it a cover up?

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Hanlon’s Razor says you should: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

When McLaren first investigated Mike Coughlan’s possession of 780 pages of Ferrari information they found little evidence of its widespread use within the team. But after two hearings the team were found guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute and a document published by the FIA last week quoted senior McLaren staff referring to Nigel Stepeny as the ‘mole’ in Ferrari.

Did McLaren try to cover up the truth? Did they simply make mistakes in their original investigation? Or is there another explanation? Vote and discuss below…

This poll is closed. The results are as follows:

McLaren made mistakes in their investigation – 53 – 26%
McLaren were trying to cover up how widely the material had been used – 119 – 59%
Neither – McLaren’s version of events is entirely accurate – 17 – 8%
Don’t know – 14 – 7%

Result of previous poll: 50% of readers said that customer cars should be allowed in F1.

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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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30 comments on “Poll: McLaren – was it a cover up?”

  1. funny, I was just writing on a related topic today …

    I voted “I don’t know” because for me the whole saga raises more questions than it gives answers

    On one hand I would like to believe Ron Dennis – Him trying to cover up the whole thing would mean underestimating Max big way and Dennis seems smart enough to avoid making a rookie mistake. This points to “Neither – McLaren’s version of events is entirely accurate”

    But on the other hand him as a team principal and a shareholder not knowing what is the team doing somehow does not make sense. This make me to say “McLaren were trying to cover up how widely the material had been used”

    That’s why I voted “I don’t know” :-)

    I am also not sure what to make of Martin Whitmarsh doing all the talking on behalf of the team, and the only talk from Ron Dennis in the past week came when he denied he is about to quit …

  2. How the mighty have fallen! Wait! Did the press write about how WRONG they were? Did the press write about how they were played by Macca PR? Did the press write how it was not a “witch-hunt”? Did the press admit that FIA (even if for once and ohh i hate their daft rule changes, believe me) were right? So many questions and not all somewhat answered.

    McLaren, i voted chose to do a cover-up. I mean, how obvious does it have to be? If you think, from the start (Oscar winning performance of “Sir Dennis”), Lewis calling Alonso a traitor and what all, it smacked of something very, very fishy, which i’ve been saying ever since.

    Not to take away from the fact, Ron, him i respected a lot. Immensely. I could not think, not even once, that he would do such a thing. All this, while i was never a McLaren fan. Now, i would never be a McLaren fan. Erring is something, but, denying it foolishly, in the hope people would believe you, is something else!

    How many say, McLaren got away easy, as Mosley correctly said after the second hearing? I think so, for one. Minimum punishment, if it were Ferrari, would have been nothing short of a very PUBLIC HANGING of all leading Ferrari figureheads. Infact, people were saying, that Ferrari were instigators of it all, all in the midst of Spy-gate. Come on people, let Ferrari be. That is what they are fighting for! For their work not to be compromised.

    Well, getting inspired is different from, shall i say, “cheating”?

  3. I voted that there were mistakes in mclarens initial investigation – I have seen too many times that when there is a problem at work that initially there seems very little fault but when you dig a little more then you can find more people have been not following proper procedures and it can be a bigger issue – but public hanging?? – sri I said before the ideal thing to wath for you will be A1 next season – 24 ferrari’s should save youre blood pressure and no reason to check if the other teams are using illegal devices – perfect for the ferrari fan!!

  4. I Really do not know what the truth is, I am only puzzled as to why, the FIA , will suddenly want to close the case on the basis of an apology.

  5. Alan, it was not a matter of Ferrari right or Ferrari wrong. Ferrari were wronged. I cheered for Williams, Sauber(now Sauber-BMW), Jordan, BAR(LOL… i was wrong), Toyota(boy that engine sounded very good in 2002) and Minardi for that matter. I still cheer for those teams, some with different names and colours. Please check your bias quotient, if you could.

    Let me ask, wasn’t and even now Ferrari being castigated to certain extent by McLaren fans? Media did say, Ferrari should have been punished, when McLaren were punished for bringing disrepute to the sport. That is what am talking about. Can you deny that media were defending McLaren, without even considering for once, that Macca could have erred? Could you? They were hounding FIA when they sought to act against McLaren, by saying Max was out with vengeance on his mind. Isn’t it true?

    If you did not read, let me add, that even i believed Ron would have nothing to do with this. September hearing however, it changed it all. Malice seemed rooted much deeper in somewhere in MTC. Coughlan admitted to start with Johnathan Neale, Oatley, Whitmarsh and couple of others saw those documents(in the beginning, that is March, 07). Then some more things and i could bet they had a fish-market going there (MTC is quiet a piece of architecture though).

    Oh, about that A1 comment of yours, let me add, that they are managing equality with 12 teams. McLaren could not even manage with two drivers. Which they claimed always. Remember DC moving over for Hakkinen twice in Spain and Australia? Could not think of any more popular example. You did believe it was equal opportunity team? Awwwwww! You must also believe in Santa-clause then?

    I would now like to apologise to you Alan, unconditionally. You however are still offended aren’t you? Well, now do you see? Macca did just this. The difference is, i really do mean to apologise, to have had hurt your sentiments, by whatever i’ve said, expressed here (if i did). Macca, they want to race in 2008. I smell hypocrisy. I mean i do not like people proclaiming whiter than white, when we are only human:D

    By the by, i do not watch A1 and would perhaps never. F1, it will also stop, what with FIA’s dumb rule changes(read my quote more carefully). I mean, am never a fan of the rule changes they make. On the basic principle that F1 should remain the pinnacle of motorsport.

  6. Hmmm… I think it’s a bit of both. Macca may have initially made mistakes in their investigation. When they did find out, the cases may already have been in the middle of being tried. So they decided to limit the damage and cover up what new info they had.

  7. Interesting one Oliver, the only thing that comes to mind is, McLaren does have a fairly prolific history in F1. No matter however much Max may dislike Ron on a personal level. I’d tend to think that he’d let them stay afloat. That’s my thought. Precisely what reasons, it will be only Max who could reveal. However, it smacks of it!

  8. The answer seems to be very clear to me. Mclaren just tried to covered how widely the Ferrari confidential data be distributed within the team. Still I think all those apology thinggy is completely a deal between Mcc, FIA and Ferrari.

    Not only Mike Coughlan knew about Ferrari data, in fact Alonso and de la Rosa also knew about this, and without the help of the engineers he couldn’t test it in the simulator, so at least someone else knew about this too, incidentally or not. Therefore, the option saying that mclaren version is completely true appears to make no sense.

    back to the first race, how do mclaren knew so clearly that Ferrari had an illegal floor. while they then made an official complaint to the FIA and had to changed their floor after that too, I don’t think any team with just “spy photos” can do what cannot be sure about other team and clearly brought disadvantage to ur own team. or don’t tell me that all the “official complaint” was made by the one and only Mike Coughlan since that would be riddiculous. So i found no mistake in their investigation and the only choice is that they try to cover up everything.

  9. Quote “Result of previous poll: 50% of readers said that customer cars should be allowed in F1.”

    One could say it should be fully legal for McLaren to use customer Ferraris, they paid for it.

  10. Gud one Tols

    LOL… quite some sense of humour mate!

  11. sorry that Iupset you sri and you dont need to apologise – i dont beleive in sc but I can see why you were upset – as we are only commenting on the info thatis drip fed from very secretive organisations – sometimes we can pick up on the wrong point or miss the point because its hidden among a load of hyperbole – there is a word for that be wont use it – so sorry and keep on posting

  12. I don’t know about this, but I’m tending to think they tried to cover it up. The recent “apology” and “we’ll stop investigating” exchange, it just makes me think that they found something that would be hugely damaging to the whole of F1, not just McLaren, if it came out, and that the FIA got McLaren to apologise so they would have an excuse to not (publicly) find it. That’s just the feeling I got from how staged it all felt! And my natural cynicism!

  13. No worries mate!

    I like to be able to share my opinions. People here are fairly knowledgeable and it’s a pleasure to learn (i do learn a lot) from what’s published (thanks to Keith)and views of others.

    Keep up the good job everyone!

  14. I wish people would understand that the people who suggested there was a witch hunt did not say so because they said McLaren was not guilty. They said so because everytime McLaren is thought to be guilty of anything they get hammered even when it is nothing to do with the team. Take the qualifying nonsense at Hungary as an example. Alonso gets it into his stupid head to behave like a spoiled brat but McLaren lose all their constructor’s points. Why? Ferrari didn’t lose theirs when Schumi parked his car at Monaco. Alonso’s action only affected his own team whereas Schumacher’s affected an other team.

    McLaren have been found guilty of this spying case and have been hammered. Renault have been found guilty of more or less the same thing and have had no punishment. Nigel Stepney in his open letter to Max has said he was receiving McLaren info in return but Max won’t investigate that. Toyota had two of its ex-Ferrari employees jailed for taking Ferrari data to another team. No investigation. Colin Kolles walked down the pitlane at one race early last season showing all and sundry STR drawings to prove the car was a Red Bull. He presented the drawing in evidence to the FIA to get STR banned. No-one in the FIA asked where he got it from. No investigation has happened.

    So there are 5 cases where a team has been in possession of another team’s data. Two out of five have been investigated and one out of five have been punished three times. They got the biggest fine in sporting history. They lost their 2007 championship points despite there being no proof at all that their possession of the Ferrari data interfered with the championship. Then they get put through the ringer for 2008.

    Does all this seem fair and even-handed to anyone or does it seem more like witch hunt?

  15. I’m shocked at the response! I really don’t think it was a cover up.

  16. Too many people who know Ron seem to think he is honest and trustworthy to have honestly deceived the FIA – whether the other people at the top of his organisation are the same I don’t know.

    There doesn’t seem to be any doubt now though that the FIA were right not to trust what they said in the first instance and it’s this distrust that really caused all the problems – had McLaren been able to say what the reality of the situation was from the outset then it would have saved a lot of bad publicity.

    The fact that they couldn’t (or didn’t) points me to the suggest their initial investigation into the whole thing was flawed.

    Hopefully the whole scenario is coming towards a conclusion now and it can be forgotten about – fat chance!

  17. WOW! There’s nothing left for me to say.

    Concerning the question: Did McLaren try to cover up the truth? Or is there another explanation?

    There is a possible answer that wasn’t offered in the question….. McLaren didn’t actually USE any Ferrari data.
    I don’t think they got much beyond analysing the 780 pages, the story broke before they implimented anything of value.
    There’s a line between wanting to benefit from the data and crossing the line to use it. They got caught before they could make the final step.

    And I might add Ron Dennis (through Whitmarsh) probably made things worse with the last apology. The last one was un-necessary except to perhaps get MadMax off McLaren’s back.

    86 days to the 2008 season…..

  18. Steven,

    “Take the qualifying nonsense at Hungary as an example. Alonso gets it into his stupid head to behave like a spoiled brat but McLaren lose all their constructor’s points. Why?”

    I do not if I misunderstand what you mean, but…

    Who behave like a spoiled brat? I want not to mention the name (or two names) again.
    What Mclaren lose? I would say much more that they could think in that time, but officially it was Alonso who lose something, not Mclaren.

    About the poll, really I do have many doubts about and I do not know what they did, but I think some things in the Fia reports could indicate towards the B option or a mix of A and B. I think the C is difficult to believe even for a Mclaren fan.

  19. I think he was referring to McLaren’s constructors’ points from the Hungarian Grand Prix being confiscated.

    More on this:

    The stewards’ full verdicts on McLaren & Alonso
    Alonso & McLaren punished by stewards

  20. How about a cover up with another explanation? Ron has a reputation as a tough task master to work for, so if the engineering types were using Ferrari IP it would be in their own self interest to keep Ron in the dark. How else on earth would Ron proclaim their innocence time after time if he KNEW they were looking at Ferrari IP for the 2008 car? Ron may be arrogant, but he’s not an idiot.

  21. There is no way Ron knew about any cover up, but I still reckon there was one, there is no way that Ferrari intelligence just sat in McLaren’s head offices not being used.

  22. AmericanTifosi
    17th December 2007, 16:59

    I think that there was a cover-up but it was probally not by the entire team or by Ron Dennis. Those who had been found in possesion of that material most likely tried to cover up to save their own necks. I do not doubt the integity of Ron or the McLaren team as a whole. They did however, employ some very flawed indidviduals.

  23. Carlos,

    As Keith pointed out the FIA took away the constructor’s points for both cars for the actions of one of its drivers. I know Hamilton triggered Alonso’s behaviour by breaking their agreementinstructions but Alonso attracted Max’s attention which is a bad thing to do unless you happen to be sitting in a Ferrari.

    The point is not my description of Alonso’s behaviour it is simply that McLaren were given a punishment no team in 58 seasons has received for the behaviour of its driver.

  24. Steven,

    I think Carlos’ point is that the penalty came as a result of a complaint lodged by Lewis Hamilton. Alonso’s action of its own did not attract the stewards attention.

    What I find quite interesting about this post and subsequent debate is how Ron Dennis is being given the benefit of the doubt. I always thought it was unfair that Alonso was never given the same courtesy.

  25. Was it proven that Hamilton appealed? I don’t remember hearing that it had been (and it’s the sort of thing I hope I’d remember!)

    I know in the same session Fisichella was penalised for obstructing Yamamoto, and I don’t think he or Spyker appealed.

  26. Keith,

    Interestingly you chose to address the first point and not the second! :-)

    It may not have been reported in the press over here but I remember hearing Alonso on el Larguero, the spanish radio programme, say that he had never seen anything like it before, a team getting pole and second and then going to the stewards to complain. I’ll try to find a transcript.

  27. According to the BBC link below and others I have read McLaren and its drivers were summoned to attend a meeting. I can find nothing anywhere to say McLaren instigated the whole thing. I have no doubt once they got to the meeting things were said that should not have been said but there is no way McLaren would protest their own driver. Even at the height of the Senna/Prost era when they were deliberately crashing into each other the team did not protest.


  28. It was not the whole Mclaren team who instigated against Alonso, in fact Alonso said the behaviour of Mclaren was right. I was talking about Hamilton (He is young, I know). The links are in spanish, sorry, I can not find in english.



  29. I have managed to translate the first link. I cannot see how Anthony Hamilton alerted the FIA. The TV coverage I saw picked it up within seconds of the lollipop going up to release Alonso and figured out why he had done it before he moved. I left home immediately after qualifying and on the radio they were discussing the situation.

    Anthony Hamilton cannot make any kind of official protest. Come to that Lewis Hamilton cannot make an official protest. At any level of motor racing all communication with the organising body must be made by the entrant. In F1 that is the team.

    I know the FIA do some odd things but they must have noticed Alonso sitting there preventing Hamilton from pitting. They would have understood immediately how it would have been reported in the press. Why would they need it brought to their attention?

    To me the matter should have been left to the team to deal with or at worst the FIA should have had a word with both drivers to never to do anything similar again.

  30. To Number38..

    Quote: “There is a possible answer that wasn’t offered in the question….. McLaren didn’t actually USE any Ferrari data.
    I don’t think they got much beyond analysing the 780 pages, the story broke before they implimented anything of value.
    There’s a line between wanting to benefit from the data and crossing the line to use it. They got caught before they could make the final step.”

    Check this out my friend!

    You’ll definitely find it useful to form some opinion of Macca. Even i did not believe that McLaren, a team known world across, for their engineering prowess(along with team Willy), would do such a lowly thing. Guess what? We are all human!

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