As the hearing into the 'illegal fuel' case got underway at the FIA Court of Appeal in London today (Thursday), a lawyer for McLaren has insisted both Williams and BMW-Sauber must be thrown out of last month's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix - a decision that could potentially hand the title to Lewis Hamilton.

Barrister Ian Mill told the four independent judges present that since both teams had broken the rules by running with fuel cooler than the sport's rules permit, the penalty must be disqualification from the race.

"The principle is clear," news agency Reuters quotes Mill as saying. "If there was a breach, it was performance-enhancing. The sanction, I'm afraid, has to be disqualification."

Mill also stressed it was important to remove the case from its immediate context - that of deciding the fate of the 2007 world championship - and to treat it on the same level as if the incident had occurred at any other point during the season.

"I ask you to address this as though it was any team at any stage of the season," he urged, speaking to the judges. "Whenever in the past there has been a disqualification, there has been a re-classification. All we ask you to do is what normally happens."

One argument that could well count against McLaren in the final reckoning - as the Woking-based outfit seeks to depose Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen from the world drivers' throne - is that in the earlier spy saga row, whilst the team was disqualified - and fined a record $100 million - its drivers were not. Should the FIA elect to follow a similar course of action in London, the Finn would remain world champion.

"The driver may be entirely innocent," Mill added, "but he has the benefit of the infringing car. It must be right that if the team is disqualified, the driver loses the points as well. In the other case, the drivers were offered immunity if they assisted the FIA."

While Interlagos race stewards initially deemed there had been 'considerable discrepancies' in the fuel readings of the four Williams and BMW-Sauber cars in Brazil, no action was taken to punish the teams. McLaren subsequently decided to appeal, despite Hamilton himself insisting he wanted to win the title on the race track rather than in the court room.

Indeed, even if the Court of Appeal agrees with McLaren's argument and elects to disqualify the offending cars, the stewards are not necessarily bound to move the Brit up the race order.

The opening hour of the hearing was devoted to the issue of whether the appeal was admissible. Lawyers for Williams and BMW have yet to present their cases, whilst a final decision on the outcome of the appeal is expected tomorrow (Friday).

 

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