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Todt warns McLaren appeal could backfire

BRUSSELS, Sep 17 (Reuters) Ferrari boss Jean Todt has warned Formula One rivals McLaren that appealing against their record 100 million dollar fine and loss of constructors' points could bring an even greater sanction.

Todt told reporters after Ferrari's one-two win at the Belgian Grand Prix yesterday that he felt McLaren's punishment for a spying controversy involving leaked Ferrari data had been ''too soft''.

With McLaren mulling whether to appeal the sentence imposed by the sport's governing body last Thursday, the Frenchman said any review of the sanction should consider taking away Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso's drivers' points as well.

Hamilton leads Alonso by two points with three races remaining. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, winner at Spa, is 13 points off the lead with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa a further seven behind.

''If you are guilty than you must be penalised,'' said Todt.

''If you get deeply into this sad story, you realise it is a very soft sentence.

''There is no meaning to speak about the drivers' championship because we know our major competitor has still time to make an appeal,'' he added.

DIFFERENT SITUATION ''It will be very important to see if they make an appeal or not...because if they make the appeal I think it would change quite a lot the drivers' situation.

''Probably the appeal will be judged before the Japanese Grand Prix and we may be facing a completely different situation,'' he added.

''I think the result should be different.'' International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley said on Sunday that he and lawyers on the World Motor Sport Council had been in favour of taking away McLaren's drivers' points.

However, they had not done so because of an amnesty offered in exchange for providing evidence.

Todt made clear also that Ferrari would not be stopping legal action in Italy and England against suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan and former Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney, accused of leaking the information.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who has been notified by Italian magistrates that he is under investigation, said at the weekend that McLaren may not appeal against their fine and points loss for the sake of the sport.

However, he said that he wanted complete closure on the controversy that has blighted the sport since July.

Todt said: ''For me, what matters is the interest of the team. Considering the civil case in England, the penal case in Italy, it has nothing to do with the FIA and it's not our responsibility in Italy, it's up to the judges.'' REUTERS SSC VC1926

Story first published: Monday, September 17, 2007, 20:11 [IST]
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