Saturday October 23rd, 1999
Following the Court of Appeal's decision to uphold Ferrari's appeal and reinstate the results of the Malaysian GP, McLaren team chief, Ron Dennis, held a press conference in Woking, England, where he said he and the team "are not disappointed and not really surprised."
"It's really a bad day for the sport," Dennis said. "A way has been found to provide a reason for the appeal to be upheld. It is our firm belief, and a belief held by every technical director in Formula One, that the 5mm tolerance rule, that has been used to explain this error on the Ferrari car, is in fact a tolerance [clause] that does not apply to that part of the car. The rule was made in the early 80's specifically designed to accommodate the manufacturing of the flat bottom and had nothing to do with the vertical side.
"Furthermore, a piece of [FIA] measurement that costs millions and has been used all over the world, has now come into question. The equipment that the FIA have used for several years have suddenly been brought into question. Well, it should be known that this equipment uses laser beams for measurement, which bodes well in measuring millimetres and is extremely accurate.
"We are not disappointed and not really surprised. We think the push now for our sport has inevitably become quite commercial. But I think we paid the price for it. I am convinced [Ferrari's missing 10mm] was a mistake [and not cheating]," Dennis added, "But I think that it's slightly hypocritical to say there's no performance gain, because this is an aerodynamically critical piece of the car, and they even covered it. But even if there is no advantage - that is also irrelevant, because the regulation states that if it doesn't comply, then it doesn't matter if there is no advantage gained."
A short while before, Mercedes sporting director, Norbert Haug, revealed that McLaren indeed told the FIA about Ferrari's illegal barge-board at the Malaysian Grand Prix but said the team did not notice the illegal piece before that. Speaking on the German television RTL, Haug said Ron Dennis himself spotted the irregularity of the deflectors after the race, when he was having a look at Ferrari's tyres. "After the race, our engineers spotted the barge-board (being outside the rules) and they talked to the FIA people. They said there was no need for us to place a protest because they were going to have a look at it anyway."
Haug added that, had they known about the illegality before and were set to hurt Ferrari the most, they would have notified the FIA after the qualifying session, so the two Ferraris would be disqualified then and have to start the race from the back of the grid.