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Renault escape sanctions in F1 spy-affair

Formula One team Renault escape punitive actions despite them being found guilty of breaching the sporting code.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2007 16:51 IST

Renault on Thursday escaped punishment in the latest spying row to rock Formula One.

The sport's governing body, the FIA, found the French team to be in breach of regulations when they were accused of being in possession of technical data of rivals McLaren.

"The World Motor Sport Council found Renault F1 to be in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code but imposed no penalty," said a FIA statement.

"Detailed reasons for this decision will be issued on December 7 and a transcript of the proceedings will be published as soon as possible thereafter."

The decision could clear the way for former world champion driver Fernando Alonso to return to the team with whom he won two titles before his ill-starred switch to McLaren in 2007.

Renault F1 chief Flavio Briatore said he was delighted with the decision not to punish his team.

"I would like to thank Renault, our title sponsor ING and all our partners for their wholehearted support during this sensitive period," he said in a statement.

"I also wish to pay tribute to the team, which has handled the matter with integrity and dignity. We are pleased that we can now focus fully on our preparations for the 2008 championship."

Renault had vehemently denied any wrong-doing.

They had been accused of receiving information that included the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren car.

McLaren were fined 47.5 million pound and kicked out of the constructors' championship after being found guilty on a similar charge in September.

But the French team denied confidential data brought to the team by a former McLaren engineer was used in their 2007 F1 car.

Renault, who won the drivers' and constructors' titles in 2005 and 2006, insisted they had nothing to hide and revealed that engineer Phil Mackereth was suspended on September 6.

They admitted the information was brought to the team by Mackereth, who loaded it onto their F1 file system "without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team."

Renault said they immediately informed McLaren of the situation and then notified the FIA.

Renault finished third in the constructors' championship behind Ferrari and BMW Sauber last season.

But the case was further muddied Wednesday when McLaren admitted to misinforming journalists over the scale of the allegations against Mackereth and Renault.

The FIA forced McLaren to acknowledge that there were just 18 technical drawings of its cars on the 11 computer disks it said Mackereth had, not 780 outlining the entire blueprint as it had previously leaked to the press.

Thursday's decision could make it easier for Fernando Alonso to return to Renault after quitting McLaren in the offseason. The Spanish driver won the F1 world title with Renault in 2005 and '06.

Renault has said it suspended Mackereth in September as soon as it had learned of his actions and then alerted McLaren and FIA.

Renault said the information it had covers only four 'basic systems,' one of which was obsolete, and denied it influenced the design of its racing car in any way.

McLaren's punishment was much more severe. As well as the record fine, it was also kicked out of the manufacturers' championship, although Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton were not docked points.

Hamilton finished second and Alonso third in the drivers' championship.

Following an examination of McLaren's computers, the FIA will rule today on whether any of Ferrari's ideas or components have been incorporated into McLaren's car for the 2008 season.

The FIA could force McLaren to remove any illegal parts, setting back the car's development by months and crippling Hamilton's hopes of winning next season's title.