McLaren got lucky let-off, says Trulli

McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso should have been thrown out of this year's Formula One title race, Toyota's Jarno Trulli told Reuters on Tuesday

McLaren got lucky let-off, says Trulli

Formula One's governing FIA fined McLaren a record US$100 million and stripped them of their 2007 constructors' points for being in possession of Ferrari technical data.

But Hamilton and Alonso, currently locked in a fierce battle for the drivers' title, escaped punishment after being offered an amnesty in return for providing evidence.

FIA president Max Mosley has said he would have taken away all points won by Alonso and Hamilton had he got his way following the damaging "spygate" scandal.

Trulli agreed that the McLaren pair had been lucky.

"It's very difficult to judge the spy story. You never know the truth if you're not inside the team," the Italian said in an interview before this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

"But if you disqualify a team you should probably disqualify the drivers as well because they're all involved and work for the same team.

"It's difficult for me to judge so I don't want to say any more. It's just a shame Formula One has suffered. The sport has been hit hard by this spy story all around the world."

Trulli compared the damage done by the spy case to the farcical 2005 US Grand Prix when only six cars - those using Bridgestone tyres - raced due to safety concerns.

"It's hurt the image of F1 like when we didn't race in the USA," he said. "This is part of the sport and part of the business of F1. That's what it is - a business.

"We have to get back on the track and put on great races and try to rebuild the sport's credit in the future."

Trulli's Toyota teammate Ralf Schumacher took a more conciliatory line, however, saying that penalising the drivers would have been too severe.

"I think it's only fair that they are not punished," the German told Reuters. "The drivers are not really involved in the development of the car.

"I don't know about the other drivers but for myself, and the people I've talked to, they should not be punished."

Ferrari were confirmed as constructors' champions on Friday after McLaren dropped plans to appeal the FIA's sanctions.

The spy scandal began after 780 pages of Ferrari technical information was found at the home of McLaren's now-suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan in July.

Schumacher doubted McLaren, in particular Hamilton and Alonso, had gained any unfair advantage despite the feuding team mates being first and second in the drivers' standings.

"It's honestly very difficult. It was clear they had some information at some point," Schumacher said.

"But I don't think it was ever clear McLaren or the drivers benefited from what they got."

Hamilton leads Spain's double world champion Alonso by two points as the Briton bids to become the first rookie since 1950 to win the Formula One title.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, winner of the last grand prix in Belgium earlier this month, is third in the title race 13 points behind Hamilton.

Schumacher insisted that stripping the McLaren rivals of their points would have made a mockery of the 2007 championship.

"It would be unfair," he said. "It's always arguable but I think for the championship it's important that everything stays as it is.

"I had it four years ago at Williams. I finished third but there was some mistake in measuring the brake ducts and my third place got cancelled.

"The brake duct was slightly too big but by three millimetres or so. I mean, what's the driver's mistake in that?"

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