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De Conink seeks suspension, huge fine

5/4/2005

PARIS -- Jenson Button's BAR-Honda team should be thrown out
of the Formula One championship because it raced an underweight car
at the San Marino Grand Prix, a top official from the sport's
governing body said Wednesday.

BAR-Honda representatives appeared before an appeals body to
explain why Button's car ran under the minimum 1,322-pound weight
at Imola last month. FIA general secretary Pierre de Coninck said
the team should also be fined $1.29 million in addition to the
suspension.

A decision is expected Thursday. The appeals panel could also
deliver a lesser penalty to strip Button of six points.

"These are very grave allegations and would not be made without
real and serious grounds,'' de Coninck said. "BAR failed to comply
with the rules systematically.''

BAR-Honda's chief executive officer Nick Fry said he would take
the matter as far as the civil court if his team was disqualified.

"What happens next depends on the hearing,'' he said. "If we
were excluded we'd have no choice but to take it further. The civil
court is our final port of call. These allegations are abhorrent in
the extreme.''

Button's car was found to be 11 pounds below the minimum
requirement after he finished third at Imola on April 24.

The hearing centered on the legality of two carbon-fiber fuel
tanks in the car's main tank. The team says the tanks pressurize
fuel before it is injected into the engine.

"A flexible fuel compartment allows a car to stay out for two
or three laps when a legitimate car would have to pit,'' de Coninck
said. "This enables cars to complete more laps than a genuine
600-kilogram car.''

The BAR-Honda team, represented by David Pannick, repeatedly
denied there was a concealed mechanism in the car.

"There was no secret chamber in this engine,'' Pannick said.
"At worst, there was a minor misunderstanding. A modest fine would
suffice.''