Interview with Martin Whitmarsh
Q. What is this fuel rule all about and why is it important?
Martin Whitmarsh - McLaren F1 CEO: It has been around for about 20 years in fact, so it is not new. Cooler fuel gives an advantage in terms of more power, greater reliability and quicker flow of fuel into the tank. The teams even carry fuel chillers around with them to races to achieve this.
In order, however, to prevent extreme measures being adapted to cool fuel temperatures a limit was determined that the fuel in the rigs not being allowed to be more than 10 degrees C below the ambient temperature.
Q. What went wrong if this had been around for 20 years?
MW: The FIA has always, as far as we are aware, measured compliance by looking at the FIA timing monitors in respect of the ambient temperature and the on-board fuel temperature by measuring the fuel in the rig. This might not be perfect but it was the system and everyone knew it was the procedure that they had to comply with. In fact at each race the FIA make a report using these benchmarks and this is what happened in Brazil.
Q. Do you think McLaren have a chance of victory in tomorrow's FIA International Court of Appeal hearing?
MW: I don't want to anticipate the verdict of the FIA International Court of Appeal judges. Besides, it depends what you mean by 'victory'. Like all true devotees of motor sport, we would never like to see a World Drivers' Championship decided in court rather than on track. Finding a way to award the World Drivers' Championship to Lewis retrospectively is not at all, however, what this is about.
Q. So why appeal then?
MW: Because we were mystified by the FIA Stewards' decision. According to the FIA Stewards' own colleague, the FIA's Technical Delegate Jo Bauer, the Williams and BMW-Sauber cars were found to have been refuelled with fuel that had been chilled to a level below which we thought the regulations would allow, thereby giving a performance advantage.
The FIA Stewards, however, decided not to exclude those cars from the race classification. We didn't understand why that was then, and we don't understand it now.
So 'victory', for us, would be a clarification of the rationale behind the FIA Stewards' decision at the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix - a clarification, indeed, that we regard as essential not only for us but for all our competitors, to enable all teams to race in compliance with the regulation regarding fuel temperatures throughout the 2008 Formula One season.
Q. Okay, but what verdict do you expect the FIA International Court of Appeal to record?
MW: As I say, it's not for me to second-guess the deliberations of the FIA International Court of Appeal.
Q. You say that what you're seeking is a rule clarification rather than a retrospective drivers' championship for Lewis - but surely a retrospective drivers' championship for Lewis is a possibility. Would you reject such a result, if it came out that way?
MW: We will abide by the decision whether we agree with it or not.
Q. But wouldn't it be bad for the sport if Lewis were awarded the drivers' championship retrospectively?
MW: It would not be good but we do all need to know how the rules and procedures will operate going forward. We ourselves lost a constructors' championship at the International Court of Appeal in 1999 when it was, in effect, retrospectively awarded to Ferrari when the ruling of the Stewards that their bargeboards were illegal was overturned. We were upset but we accepted it.
Q. Bernie Ecclestone had suggested that your appeal might be inadmissible, and that he hopes you therefore withdraw it.
MW: It's up to the FIA International Court of Appeal judges, not to us or even to Bernie Ecclestone, to decide whether or not our appeal is admissible or inadmissible.
Suffice it to say that when our appeal was presented by our Team Manager, Dave Ryan, to the FIA's Chief Permanent Steward, Tony Scott Andrews, in the Interlagos paddock, it was accepted. So Scott Andrews and his fellow Stewards clearly thought it was admissible. As, however, this doubt has been raised, it is also important that we have clarity over future procedures in this regard as well.
Q. Why did you not protest the Williams and BMW-Sauber cars as soon as it was known that there might have been irregularities with regard to the temperature of fuel with which they had been refuelled?
MW: Once the FIA Stewards had made their decision, it seemed to us ridiculous and inappropriate to protest the cars in question and cause the Stewards to repeat their deliberations - especially as Scott Andrews had readily accepted our appeal.
Indeed, the FIA formally acknowledged our appeal, and even published the provisional results of the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix in writing as being "Subject to the an appeal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes". Why, then, would we need also to lodge a formal protest?
Q. McLaren has been accused of behaving like bad losers in this episode. Do you reject that accusation?
MW: I do but I can understand some who don't understand the nature of top level competitive sport perhaps thinking that. In any serious sport the rules have to be clear. Any competitor who thinks they are not needs to get clarity.
Q. Is McLaren appealing the race result the only way to achieve that?
MW: We did ask the FIA to appeal or refer the Stewards' decision to the International Court of Appeal but it did not at this stage wish to do so. We believe therefore that it is, yes - and therefore, over the past few weeks, we have been assembling a comprehensive dossier of information in order that clarity can be achieved.
It would therefore be extremely unfortunate, not only for us but for our competitors as well, if, despite the fact that the FIA's most senior Steward had accepted our appeal when it was presented to him by our Team Manager in the Interlagos paddock, the FIA International Court of Appeal were to decide not to hear our evidence owing to a technicality - that technicality being that we should have lodged an official protest against the Williams and BMW-Sauber cars rather than merely an appeal against the existing FIA Stewards' decision.
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