McLaren boss hits out at driver ban warning

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has lashed out at an official warning that drivers who interfere with the world title fight will be banned

McLaren boss hits out at driver ban warning

Dennis said the new ruling from the FIA, the sport's governing body, was too vague and could outlaw team tactics which are an accepted part of the sport.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting told drivers on Friday they could be banned if they are deemed to have interfered with the world title scrap between McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.

Dennis described the new ruling as "arbitrary" and said it was unclear how the rules would apply. And he believes there is general dissatisfaction among the teams at the sudden implementation of the dictat, which he said should not come in until next year.

"Our perception is that the interpretation placed on circumstances is different now to that placed in previous races," said Dennis. "I don't think anybody's happy, clearly, because ambiguity is not good.

"Most of the problems we have now in F1 are ambiguity problems," he added. "I don't think anybody wants this. The question is what speed differential and what level of protecting one's position is going to deemed to be acceptable?

"A car on a heavier fuel load with a one-stop strategy could be deemed to be interfering with a car behind it on a two-stop strategy."

He said Formula 1 had entered a "land of ambiguity" over how the Suzuka race will be fought because the new rule appeared to outlaw team orders. And he said it interfered with the teams "historical right" [to use team orders] that has existed in Grand Prix racing for years.

"It has been practised numerous times in the last few years - and specifically last year at Malaysia and Suzuka," said Dennis. "We didn't complain. What we're told is that in those circumstances, if they exist tomorrow, then the driver could be penalised.

"It's an arbitrary, undefined measure".

Dennis said he did not believe there was a "level playing field" for all the teams involved.

McLaren are battling against the odds to win the world title as Hakkinen trails Schumacher by eight points. And the warning to drivers suggests Hakkinen's team mate David Coulthard will not be allowed to help Hakkinen, if the opportunity arises, by slowing Schumacher as he did at Indianapolis.

Ferrari used the tactic in Malaysia last year, when Schumacher blocked Hakkinen to help Eddie Irvine win and take the title fight to the last round.

"Clearly, it is not a change that is conducive to a possible strategy that we may wish to employ tomorrow which has been acceptable in the past," said Dennis. "While we don't agree with it, we have no alternative than to live with it.

"What we've been told is that, effectively, the race director will decide if a driver is driving in a manner that is not sporting. And, if at his sole discretion, he believes that to be the case, he will pull out a flag which must be obeyed and in the event that it is not be obeyed, there'll be a penalty. That is clearly in contradiction to the interpretations that have been put on racing team's functioning as teams".

"Everyone is desperately keen to maintain the value of the world championship."

Dennis also said he was not happy that one of the stewards, lawyer Roberto Causo, was Italian because he could have "nationalistic tendencies" in a championship contested against rival Italian team Ferrari.

"I have nothing against the individuals concerned, but I do feel uncomfortable that one of the stewards is Italian," said Dennis.

"I think again that whether the guy is impartial is irrelevant. We are at a very, very, sensitive time in the world championship and I feel none of the individuals should have a vested interest in the outcome of the world championship. We all have nationalistic tendencies.

"Politically it would be a little bit more sensitive to demonstrate as much impartiality as possible," he concluded.

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