New war of words between McLaren and Ferrari

Ron Dennis has accused Ferrari of trying to influence the stewards at last week's Austrian Grand Prix hearing.

New war of words between McLaren and Ferrari

The McLaren team boss claims his championship rivals sent a letter to the three-man panel trying to get Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard kicked out of the results after they finished first and second.

"It was a blatant attempt to lobby the race stewards," said Dennis. "The three stewards ruled the letter was inadmissible but by then they had already read it.

"There is no mechanism for a team to participate in a stewards inquiry of this nature. They can only participate in a protest or appeal process. The content of the letter was surprising because it gave all the technical arguments that justified their conclusion that both cars should be excluded from the race."

Hakkinen's victory was under threat because a seal on the ECU of his McLaren was found to be missing. The FIA allowed the Finn to keep his win, but imposed a points deduction and fine on his team.

Ferrari is said to be deeply embarrassed that a private letter has been released to rival teams. They have said it was simply to ask a question of the stewards and was not meant to influence them. The letter has now been published in Italian newspapers. Teams are allowed to comment at an appeal hearing but not to stewards.

"Winning is important but far more important that wining is how you win," said Dennis in Hockenheim. "Some people are prepared to go to any lengths to win. But for us to go to those lengths would totally destroy the value of the win itself.

"The FIA have a difficult job. The stewards tried very hard to come to a decision which would fit well with everybody. It was not perfect for everybody. I think it was harsh but I was not surprised."

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