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article imageMcLaren Formula One hopes rest on FIA hearing

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By dpa news     Sep 12, 2007 in Sports
Formula One leaders McLaren could see their season wrecked when allegations it used leaked Ferrari documents goes to a hearing Thursday at motorsport's international federation FIA.
Coming just three days before the Belgium Grand Prix and with three races remaining afterwards, Formula One fans may seen the outcome of an exciting season come to a premature end.
There has been speculation that McLaren could be excluded from both the 2007 and 2008 world championships if they are found guilty of gaining an advantage from documents obtained from rival Ferrari.
That would put an end to McLaren's hopes of a first drivers' title since Mika Hakkinen in 1999 and a first constructors' title since 1998.
After failing to win a race last year, McLaren have taken seven of the 13 Grands Prix to date, are leading the constructors' standings and have two drivers vying for the drivers' title.
Britain's Lewis Hamilton (92 points) and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso (89) of Spain now have a comfortable cushion over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen (74).
However the outcome of the FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris is completely open, with the English-based team and its German engine partner Mercedes insisting they have done nothing wrong.
"I expect that what we have always said will be confirmed. We can say categorically that we have done nothing that is not permitted," said Norbert Haug, head of Mercedes sports.
"We have copied nothing but have constructed a car with our own ideas. I do not expect for a millionth of a second that we will be excluded from Formula One."
The World Motor Sport Council will be examining for the second time this year whether McLaren used documents that its chief designer obtained from Ferrari.
According to Britain's Times newspaper, the new evidence against McLaren in the spy scandal that will be presented at Thursday's hearing is reported to run to 166 pages.
McLaren were cleared of using stolen Ferrari documents to their advantage at a hearing in Paris two months ago.
The case focused on claims that former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney handed technical information to suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan.
The Times said the information at the heart of the new evidence predates the transfer of the 780-page dossier between Stepney and Coughlan in late April and is thought to centre on incidents in March.
It is thought to focus not just on e-mail traffic between the McLaren test driver, Pedro De La Rosa, and Alonso, but also on details of the phone and text message traffic between Coughlan and Stepney supplied to the FIA by the authorities in Italy.
The evidence reportedly shows how the rate of calls and messages between Stepney and Coughlan allegedly matches e-mail traffic between Alonso and De La Rosa.
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has been refusing to comment on the forthcoming hearing saying, his and the team's focus has to be on racing this week ahead of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
Meanwhile Ferrari boss Jean Todt has said that regardless of the result of the hearing on Thursday, his team would continue their legal proceedings against McLaren in Italy and Britain.
"For us it is something which is too important and we will move forward in Italy and we will move on with the civil case in the UK as well," he said after the race.
Todt said he expected a different conclusion from that of the original hearing in July where McLaren escaped unsanctioned, but did not say what he felt would be an appropriate punishment.
"I think that we are sorry that it is happening in Formula One, but we are in the position where we want the truth to appear.
"And that's all that we want, and all that we have been working on and doing, and we are confident that the truth will come through." dpa vg bw
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