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McLaren Fined in Formula-1 Scandal

Formula-1 racing's governing body, the International Automobile Federation, has fined the McLaren team a record $100 million after one of its engineers was found with data belonging to a rival team. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

The decision in Paris Thursday is part of a saga that began in July when McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan was found in possession of a 780-page dossier of Formula-1 rival Ferrari's technical data. The information allegedly had all the data on the Italian team's 2007 car.

Team McLaren will also lose this year's constructor points, effectively handing the title to the Ferrari team.

But the developments in Paris stopped short of disqualifying the McLaren drivers, British rookie Lewis Hamilton, who is currently leading the championship standings, and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, the defending world champion.

McLaren maintained that Coughlan was acting independently and it had not used any of the information in the documents on the McLaren car. Coughlan says Ferrari senior engineer Nigel Stepney passed on the documents to him.

In July, McLaren was found guilty of possession of unauthorized Ferrari material. But they escaped without any punishment when the International Automobile Federation's World Motor Sport Counci ruled they had not benefited from it.

McLaren was warned it could be kicked out of next year's competition if new evidence to the contrary emerged.

Eddie Jordan, the founder and former owner of Jordan Grand Prix, a Formula-1 car builder that operated from 1991 to 2005, said the verdict will have serious ramifications for McLaren.

"It is the severest penalty they could dish out," he said. "In other words, most teams would not survive it. I think McLaren possibly can, they have got very well-heeled [rich] backers and sponsors. But then do sponsors want to be associated [with McLaren]? Effectively, the FIA has come out and said we never believed you, you did take other people's information."

Jordan said losing the constructor championship, which McLaren was on course to win this year, means a loss of about $70 million and this will create serious problems for McLaren. Ferrari is second and likely to benefit from McLaren's loss.

Motor racing experts say the decision not to strip the McLaren drivers of their championship points was a pragmatic move, as Hamilton is the most exciting thing to happen to Formula-1 for a long time. He is the first black driver to compete in Formula-1, has already broken a number of records in his rookie year and he is leading the championship race by three points, with four races to go.

It is widely believed McLaren will appeal the decision.