De Conink seeks suspension, huge fine

Updated: May 4, 2005, 2:06 PM ET
Associated Press

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.''

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press