Home » D21, Sports

No Throttle for McLaren

Posted on 5th May 2009. No Comment

Email This Comment Email This Comment

Winning is everything in the sporting world. Sporting professionals sometimes go above and beyond the rules of the sport in question in order to win. In pursuit of winning a race, the McLaren Formula One team lied to race officials about a particular incident that happened during a race. As a result, the team received a three-race ban suspended sentence. All they have really received though is a warning, a slap on the wrist, a one more strike and you are out. The question is do they deserve this final warning? Or, in showing leniency, is the Formula One governing body, the FIA, really doing what is right for the sport?

Looking back at past ‘cheating’ incidents from the sporting world, it seems that McLaren did indeed get off lightly. In the sport of athletics, drug offences are treated with the up-most seriousness, whether the competitor has deliberately or accidentally used an illegal substance. Dwayne Chambers, even after serving his two-year international ban from athletics, was also not allowed to compete for Team GB in last summer’s Olympic Games. Another example that springs to mind is Rio Ferdinand. He missed a drugs test and was banned from competition for eight months, causing him to miss half a Premier League season and the Euro 2004 international competition. The sentences in both these cases were severe. The significant difference between these two cases is that Chamber’s act of cheating was intentional while Ferdinand’s perhaps was not. McLaren’s offence was an intentional decision to mislead the race stewards in order to achieve a higher race position.

Eddie Jordan, an ex-Formula One team owner, has called the ruling “a massive let off,” and even Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of Formula, has admitted that McLaren got off lightly. This ruling has effectively condoned intentional cheating; standing out like a sore thumb in regards to the kind of model professionalism that has been enforced in the sporting world of late. Lewis Hamilton, as a role-model for young children, has been seen to get away with cheating. Rio Ferdinand received a near year-long ban for what was probably forgetfulness.

As well as signalling to the world that Formula One perhaps has lower moral standards than other sports, it is also another inconsistency in an already inconsistent sport. Two years ago, McLaren was severely punished for espionage; known as the ‘Spygate’ scandal. This involved the collection of technical data by McLaren from the Ferrari team. This was deemed, on discovery, to give McLaren an unfair advantage. For this McLaren was suspended from the constructor’s title championship and fined an unprecedented $100 million. The similarities between this scandal and the most recent one are striking. Both offences were committed by just a few individuals on the team. Yet in the ‘Spygate’ scandal, the team as a whole was punished. In this latest ‘lying’ scandal, the team was not punished, with only one member of the team, Dave Ryan, receiving the boot. This inconsistent treatment of the McLaren team just leads to confusion in a sport that has, in recent times, struggled to appeal to people.

As a life long fan of Formula One, I can understand why many people view the sport as elitist, boring, inconsistent, or just a complete waste of time. I often hear: “But it’s just a group of cars going round and round, how can that be interesting?” Yet despite all of this, I remain positive for the future of the sport. The hearing last Wednesday is hopefully the end of the matter, in an unpredictable Formula One season that is filled with promise. In true Formula One fashion, the team hierarchy has been turned on its head, with more ‘pure’ teams coming through, like Brawn GP, which is surely the story of the season so far. I’m glad to see the back of the scandal, despite its rather lenient ruling. Now we can get on and enjoy what is good about the sport.

Josh Butt

Comments are closed.