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The 2007 News Review, Part Three - July to September 18 Dec 2007

Ron Dennis (GBR) McLaren Team Principal arrives. FIA World Council Hearing, FIA, Place de la Concorde, Paris, France, 13 September 2007. World © Bumstead/Sutton Christian Albers (NED) Spyker F8-VII retires with the fuel hose still attached to the car.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 1 July 2007 (L to R): Victoria Beckham (GBR), with David Beckham (GBR) and Nick Fry (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2007 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR2.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2007 (L to R): Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) CEO Kingfisher with Colin Kolles (GER) Spyker Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007

From the McLaren-Ferrari courtroom dramas to Vijay Mallya’s buyout of the Spyker team, we take a look back at the stories that caught our attention from July to September in the penultimate instalment of our four-part feature…

July:
A victory for Kimi Raikkonen at the French Grand Prix puts the Finn - and Ferrari - back in contention for the world titles but things are less happy at Spyker, where Christijan Albers is blamed for pulling away from his pit stop with the fuel hose still attached. The incident forces the Dutch driver to retire early.

Honda’s technical recruitment drive picks up pace with the news that Williams’ chief aerodynamicist Loic Bigois and John Owen from BMW Sauber will join the team. Red Bull announce that the RB3s of Mark Webber and David Coulthard will race with a unique livery at Silverstone - photos of more than 30,000 fans will appear on the cars as part of a charitable endeavour.

Ferrari reveal long-time engineer Nigel Stepney has left the company after an ‘internal disciplinary procedure’ concerning the alleged theft of technical information. McLaren subsequently confirm the suspension of their chief designer Mike Coughlan, the supposed recipient of the information, and the FIA launches a formal investigation.

Red Bull confirm David Coulthard will drive for the team in 2008 ahead of his home event, the British Grand Prix. It is Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, however, who dominates the race, which is watched by a host of stars including David and Victoria Beckham. Spyker, meanwhile, announce that Christijan Albers is to leave the squad after ‘contractual difficulties’and that debutant Markus Winkelhock will take his seat for the European Grand Prix.

Honda Sporting director Gil de Ferran also waves goodbye to the Formula One fraternity, but the team’s former technical director, Geoffrey Wills, finds a new home at Red Bull. The Austrian-owned squad has even more reason to celebrate as they score their best-ever result, with Webber third and Coulthard fifth, at the Nurburgring.

Even after Winkelhock’s extraordinary debut, during which he leads the rain-swept European Grand Prix, Spyker announce that former Super Aguri driver Sakon Yamamoto will take over Albers’ empty seat for the rest of 2007. McLaren, meanwhile, escape penalty from the FIA, despite being found guilty of possessing confidential Ferrari data. The Italian team responds by calling the decision “incomprehensible”.

A subsequent plea by the Italian Automobile Club and Italian Motor Sport Commission (ACI-CSAI) on Ferrari’s behalf, prompts the FIA to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, while in other news, Scott Speed is dropped by Toro Rosso after reportedly clashing with the team’s management. He is replaced by BMW Sauber tester Sebastian Vettel.


August:
The battle between McLaren and Ferrari continues to rage throughout the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, but a different rivalry also grabs the headlines. A pit-lane incident between McLaren team mates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso during qualifying sparks a steward’s investigation and pole-sitter Alonso is subsequently demoted five grid places for impeding Hamilton.

Toro Rosso confirm that new signing Sebastian Bourdais will join Vettel in the team’s line-up for 2008. McLaren announce they are to appeal the decision of the stewards in Hungary, as Hamilton dismisses media claims about his rocky relationship with Alonso. Trouble brews at Spyker with the Dutch car manufacturer admitting they may sell some or all of its Formula One team as part of a strategic review.

With both its drivers enjoying several notable performances, BMW Sauber announce it will retain Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld for 2008. Despite trailing standings leader Hamilton by 20 points, Kimi Raikkonen returns from his summer break ready to tackle the remainder of the season with renewed vigour.

Spyker, however, hit another stumbling block with the Dutch squad delaying the launch of their B-spec challenger. Honda’s woes continue in Istanbul with both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello relegated to the back of the grid after engine troubles. Former Williams engineer Frank Dernie is appointed as a special advisor to Toyota, assisting the Japanese team with aerodynamic and chassis-related matters.

September:
Spyker receive a boost with the news that Indian businessman Vijay Mallya and Dutch entrepreneur Michiel Mol are set to buy the team. The team also announces that their B-spec car will be ready in time for the Monza race. Renault confirms that Alain Dassas, President of the company’s Formula One team, will leave his position to become Nissan's chief financial officer and will be replaced by Bernard Rey.

Retired seven-time champion Michael Schumacher wins one of Spain’s most prestigious sporting honours, the Prince Asturias sports award, for 2007. The FIA announces that “following the receipt of new evidence” the World Motor Sport Council will reconvene to make a fresh judgment on the McLaren-Ferrari ‘spy scandal’. It also reveals that it has written to McLaren drivers Alonso, Pedro de la Rosa and Hamilton after allegations arise that they may have information relevant to the case.

McLaren are also in hot water for using a new lightweight gearbox that had not been crash tested during the Hungarian Grand Prix - they are fined by the stewards in Monza. The legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, meanwhile, makes a welcome return to the Formula One calendar after a year-long hiatus for improvement work.

The month’s biggest news, however, is made in a Parisian courtroom. Following a second WMSC hearing McLaren are excluded from the 2007 constructors’ championship and fined US$100 million after being found guilty of breaching the International Sporting Code. A defiant Ron Dennis maintains that the Ferrari material found in the possession of suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan was never utilized by the team, even though the FIA reveals that a number of McLaren employees - including De la Rosa and Alonso - knew of the data. Determined to focus on racing, McLaren decide not to appeal the WMSC’s decision.

Toyota celebrates 50 years of motorsport in Belgium but it is Ferrari, who dazzle in the Grand Prix, enjoying a dominant one-two victory to assure the team of the constructors’ title. GP2 driver Roldan Rodriguez joins Spyker’s test and development line-up just as the Dutch team’s sale is agreed.

Red Bull’s David Coulthard pays tribute to his friend and compatriot Colin McRae, who was killed in a helicopter crash earlier in the month, by wearing a helmet in the colours of the world rally champion during the Japanese race. Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen celebrates his maiden Formula One podium place and Spyker clinch their first point at the rainy Fuji Speedway. Ferrari, however, complain that their own Japanese race was ruined by the late arrival of a communication from stewards ordering all cars to start the race on extreme wet-weather tyres.