Saturday October 7th, 2000
By Timothy Collings
McLaren team chief Ron Dennis has attacked the 'new' rules introduced for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
He also said the inclusion of an Italian steward for the race was unsatisfactory.
Dennis, speaking on the eve of a race in which Michael Schumacher could clinch Ferrari's first world drivers' title for 21 years, said the new rules were arbitary and worked against his team and their choice of tactics.
He said the inclusion of Italian lawyer Roberto Causo as one of the three race stewards on duty was wrong because it was "not right that a steward should have a vested interest in the outcome of the world championship."
Causo, who represented various parties at the Italian manslaughter inquiry following the death at Imola of Ayrton Senna in 1994, was also in the Ferrari legal team which made a successful appeal against their disqualification from first and second place in last year's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Dennis believes that the appointment of a lawyer who has worked for Ferrari was wrong - particularly if an issue arises on which the stewards' judgment is crucial to the outcome of the race or the world championship.
Dennis's criticisms of the stewards' composition and the new interpretations of unsporting driving explained to the drivers by the International Automobile Federation's (FIA) race director Charlie Whiting on Friday, are certain to intensify his strained relations with FIA president Max Mosley.
Whiting told the drivers that unsporting moves, including blocking, would not be tolerated and may result in disqualification and three race bans.
Only last week, Mosley described the attitude of many teams towards the notional prospect of the ruling body favouring Ferrari to win this year's championship as "paranoid." A month ago, Dennis was reported to have led a move by several team chiefs to try to oust Mosley from the presidency.
Dennis said on Saturday: "Our perception is that the interpretation placed on circumstances is different now to that placed in previous races. Whilst in principle, we don't have a problem with any change, I think such changes should be made at the end of the season."
"Clearly, it is not a change that is conducive to the possible strategy we might wish to employ tomorrow -- which has proved to be acceptable in the past. We don't agree with it, but we have no alternative but to live with it."
Talking about the inclusion of Causo, he avoided identifying him by name, but said: "It's unsatisfactory in a race which could decide the world championship that one of the stewards is Italian."
He said the McLaren team had raised the issue with the ruling body "but had been presented with a fait accompli. But everyone is desperately keen to maintain the value of the world championship."
In the past, several teams involved in title showdowns have used their second drivers in aggressive or defensive roles to enhance their partner's championship bids and asked them to slow down, block, baulk and obstruct other drivers.
Schumacher - who claimed pole position on Saturday - goes into the Japanese race with an eight points lead over McLaren's defending world champion Mika Hakkinen.
In Japan last year, McLaren successfully used David Coulthard to help Hakkinen win the race and take his second successive world title just two weeks after Schumacher had blatantly held up the field after conceding the lead of the Malaysian race to his then Ferrari team mate Eddie Irvine.