It was welcome, if not exactly surprising news that Mercedes-Benz - the 40 per cent shareholders in McLaren, in addition to being engine supplier to their Formula 1 team, weighed in energetically by expressing total support for the British team after they were fined $100 million by the FIA World Motor Sport Council and deprived of their constructors' championship points.

Norbert Haug, the Mercedes motorsport vice president, has made it absolutely clear that his company stands behind Formula 1, as they did before the uncomfortable verdict was delivered.

"Of course we do," Haug insisted. "This is not up for discussion. We also stand by our partner McLaren - and we refrain from putting the blame on anybody."

Asked if he therefore had no worries about a possible Mercedes withdrawal from F1, he replied: "No worries at all. And I don't see any sign of the image problems some people say we are supposed to have. On the contrary, we get a lot of support and encouragement from outside."

Haug's comments followed on from a formal statement from Mercedes expressing their disappointment that the FIA did not accept an invitation to check the specification of their MP4-22 challenger when the controversy broke out.

"Our partner McLaren repeatedly suggested to FIA that our F1 car should be examined and checked against the competitor's documents," ran the communiqu?. "However, [the] FIA has not made use of this offer to this day.

"No evidence of any culpable action has been submitted or made known to McLaren to date, and McLaren states that the team has not been involved in any culpable action whatsoever."

To say that this troubled issue has blighted the F1 scene would be a dramatic understatement. Life is all about perception, in my view, and the image of a sport dishing out a penalty which would be big enough to build a decent-sized NHS hospital is not only utterly tasteless, but the manner in which many people who should have known better were prepared to acquiesce in such a punishing fine indicated an almost wilful desire to prove themselves out of step with the day-to-day world.

Don't get me wrong here, even though this whole process kicked off with the maverick Nigel Stepney feeding confidential Ferrari data into the communication chain which led to McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, there is certainly no doubt that Maranello was entitled to a scrupulously full and detailed account of how events unfolded over the subsequent weeks.

Unfortunately for McLaren, the explanation they offered was not sufficient to persuade the FIA World Motor Sport Council that they were innocent.

Max Mosley offered the view that McLaren's behaviour had 'polluted' the world championship and he believed that both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso should be stripped of their drivers' world championship points in addition to McLaren losing their constructors' points.

I have some sympathy for this view simply because I don't understand how, if a car is deemed illegal, a driver may benefit from its performance to score points. But set alongside the wider issues of the moment I'm delighted that Mosley's viewpoint did not prevail.



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