Finn queried McLaren before signing deal

Sun, 16 December 2007, 01:38

Heikki Kovalainen clarified McLaren’s stance on the ‘Stepneygate’ scandal before committing to a long term contract with the British team, the Finn admitted on Saturday.

While gearing up for Sunday’s Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium, the newly-signed former Renault driver said he was concerned that the espionage case involving Ferrari might affect his new team in 2008.

Not only was Woking based McLaren excluded from the 2007 championship, the team has frozen development of three areas of its 2008 challenger while admitting that the damage to its image affected investment far beyond the $100 million fine.

“We respectfully request that the members of the (World Motor Sport) Council consider the significant disruption that has occurred within the team as a consequence of this matter,” chief executive Martin Whitmarsh wrote in a letter to the FIA body recently.

“Apart from the morale sapping consequence within the team, its ability to continue its task of generating investment has, as I am sure anyone can imagine, been made virtually impossible,” he added.

Britain’s The Times newspaper, however, claims that McLaren officials reassured Kovalainen that the team would re-emerge in 2008 still as a highly competitive force.

“Before I signed the contract I asked about the issue, and all I know is that it won’t affect our performance next year, and that was enough for me,” Kovalainen said in London.

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