Analysis: BAR Wait to Hear their Fate

BAR could be thrown out of the Formula One Championship if an appeal court finds against them on Wednesday

Analysis: BAR Wait to Hear their Fate

Alternatively, the Honda-powered team and Jenson Button could emerge from the Paris hearing as contenders for victory in Spain this weekend.

For the second time in a matter of months, BAR and their highly-rated young British driver must wait for a legal verdict that threatens to have a profound effect on their futures together.

If all goes well for BAR the ruling, expected on Thursday, will confirm Button as the third place finisher at the April 24 San Marino Grand Prix and rubber-stamp the legality of his car.

Should the evidence persuade the court that BAR are guilty of cheating, however, the team risk the ultimate sanction of a suspension.

BAR, among the favourites for Sunday's race in Barcelona, are confident the facts will clear them of all suspicions that Button's car was running light at Imola or had a second, concealed, fuel tank.

"We are hanging on the basic belief that right will prevail at the end," said team head Nick Fry. "At no time was the car light and I don't think that we've done anything wrong."

Button, caught in a bitter contract tug-of-war between BAR and Williams last year, could still be stripped of his only points so far this season even if the team are cleared of deliberately bending the rules.

With a performance clause allowing him to join Williams next year if he is not within striking distance of the leader by a given point in the Championship, that would only hasten the Briton's departure.

Important Questions

The case arose after the governing FIA decided to appeal against its own race stewards who cleared Button's car after six hours of post-race scrutineering.

FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer had earlier informed the stewards that he believed Jenson Button was able to run below the minimum weight limit of the 2005 FIA F1 technical regulations.

The FIA is now expected to present new information to the court that was not available to stewards on the day.

There is also the question of whether Takuma Sato, BAR's Japanese driver who finished fifth at Imola, had similar machinery.

If the answer is yes, then his points will also be in jeopardy. Should it be no, then there will be more uncomfortable questions about why Button was racing with different equipment.

Another question will be whether, as some have suggested, the FIA were tipped off about what to look for by former BAR employees.

Since the start of the 2003 season there has been an offer of a $1 million reward for any Formula One whistleblower offering evidence of a team cheating, although nobody has claimed it so far.

The FIA may consider themselves to be in a win-win situation, with the due procedures seen to have been carried out in a transparent manner whatever the outcome.

But if BAR are found guilty, the sport will suffer just when it promises to offer the most competitive season in years.

Any suspension would also have a major knock-on effect with the field reduced to 18 cars, below an agreed minimum of 20. The likelihood then is that some teams will have to run third drivers to make up the numbers.

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Series Formula 1
Author Alan Baldwin
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