Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ron Dennis home raid stuns F1 world

McLAREN boss Ron Dennis’ Formula One future was plunged into doubt last night after police raided his Surrey mansion over the Ferrarigate spy scandal.

McLaren’s Woking factory and the homes of several other senior team members were also visited by Surrey police and Italian investigators.

The dawn raid is another destabilising blow for Lewis Hamilton’s outfit with the opening race of the season in Australia just 16 days away.

A team statement confirmed: “McLaren Racing has continued its co-operation with inquiries instigated by the Modena Magistrate.

“The Surrey Police accompanied Italian investigators to the homes of a number of McLaren executives as part of their ongoing investigation.


“A similar process has been performed at the McLaren Technology Centre.
"The police are completely satisfied with the co-operation they have received. These actions are part of a normal process and are supported by McLaren.”

McLaren are still under criminal investigation in Italy after a 780-page dossier belonging to Ferrari was found in the possession of suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan.

The team were hit with a record £50million fine, kicked out of the Constructors’ Championship and forced into a grovelling apology after revealing Ferrari data had been more widely spread than first admitted.

Dennis, executive Martin Whitmarsh and two other employees were due to travel to Italy last month to be questioned by a magistrate.

That had to be postponed leading to yesterday’s development just when Hamilton and McLaren were trying to focus on Melbourne as they ended pre-season testing in Barcelona. It will increase speculation whether Hamilton’s mentor Dennis — the man who has funded his career for over a decade — will with him Down Under.

Talks over Dennis, worth around £150m, selling his 15 per cent stake in the team he has led to nine drivers’ crowns and seven constructors’ titles are continuing.
Engine supplier Mercedes were unhappy at the publicity created by the spying scandal and the German car giant are keen to assume control by increasing their 40per cent stake.

Hamilton, 23, was yesterday slammed by Fernando Alonso who claimed his former team-mate only had himself to blame for being on the receiving end of vile racist abuse.
The Spaniard said the incident at the Circuit de Catalunya last month was caused by Hamilton saying Alonso had shown him ‘just how not to behave as a world champion’ during their bitter partnership last season.

Alonso, who has rejoined Renault, blasted: “I didn’t take any notice of what he said, but the very next week they whistled him in Spain for saying that. That’s the other side of the situation.

“If you talk like that, it’s no wonder they jeer you.”

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