Analysis: BAR Escape Ultimate Penalty

BAR may feel pretty hard done by with their two-race ban for the fuel tank irregularity that was discovered at the San Marino Grand Prix, but FIA's appeal court judges did at least clear the team of the 'deliberate fraud' allegations that their bosses had feared the most

Analysis: BAR Escape Ultimate Penalty

The threat of exclusion from the 2005 Formula One World Championship had been hanging over the case, as that was the recommendation of the governing body for their appeal court judges, but such a Draconian penalty would only have been possible if proof of bad faith had been discovered.

BAR's barrister David Pannick spent much of his court defence pleading with the judges not to hand down the ultimate penalty because he was adamant that the team had not gone out of their way to cheat and mislead the FIA.

In his closing statement, which some could have viewed as a form of plea-bargaining, Pannick even suggested that while the judges may not agree with the team's views on the minimum weight limit rules, it was a world away from 'fraud.'

He said: "There is no evidence that can begin to sustain the grave allegation of their personal integrity. There is no record that BAR-Honda have acted in a way deceptively or fraudulently in a previous occasion."

BAR may have won the battle there to shake off the 'bad faith' allegations, but they did lose the war in trying to claim that BAR truckie Chris Fry's statement to an FIA official on the Sunday night after the race that the car was empty ("That's it!") was merely in response to whether a 'lifted pump out' had been completed.

The judges were also not impressed that BAR had not gone to the FIA to clarify the use of the secondary fuel tank, and the team's decision to count fuel in the collector tank as overall car weight, prior to its operation.

The judges ruled: "It is not possible for the Court to find, on the basis of the evidence that it was provided with, that Lucky Strike BAR Honda deliberately committed fraud, their actions at the time of the emptying procedure of the vehicle after the event, and the fact that they did not use their right in accordance with Article 2.4, to address a request for clarification on the rules to the Technical Formula One Department of the FIA, show at the least a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency."

BAR's argument that there is nothing in the Formula One regulations that state cars must be weighed without fuel did not wash with the judges at all - who clearly believed that the 'dry-weight' element exists through a mixture of various regulations, and that proof that cars do not fall below the 600kg limit through computer data and fuel-consumption figures is not satisfactory.

The judges were also insistent that fuel cannot be used as ballast on the car - even though BAR tried to argue that fuel had to count as some of the car's running weight since it cannot run without petrol on board.

BAR may be paying the price for breaking the rules, but all their rival teams will now know for sure that there are no grounds for getting around the minimum weight limit in Formula One - and that emptying the tank after the race, really does mean emptying it.

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