NASCAR & Auto Racing

McLaren, Ferrari resume duel at Monza while off-track controversy simmers

MONZA, Italy – Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren has a mental edge over Ferrari in the Formula One world championship despite the discovery of new evidence in the spy scandal.

“If you look at what’s gone on, I do think we are the stronger team,” the McLaren driver said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

The International Automobile Federation has called a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on Sept. 13, which could lead to a two-year ban for McLaren from F1 for obtaining confidential information from Ferrari.

That would spell the end of Hamilton’s title challenge, but the 22-year-old from Britain, who leads the series in his rookie season, is thinking only about Sunday’s race at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.

“I’m trying to get on with my job and act as if it’s a normal weekend,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been oblivious to what’s going on.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who trails Hamilton by 16 points in the driver’s standings, said the mood in the Italian team’s camp was positive.

“As a team we have a very good atmosphere,” Raikkonen said. “(The case) doesn’t affect our racing.”

One of the most open championship races in years has been overshadowed by the July discovery of a 780-page technical dossier on Ferrari cars at the home of McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who was later suspended.

Nigel Stepney, the Ferrari mechanic who allegedly supplied the documents in April, was fired.

After a hearing in Paris in July, the World Motor Sport Council ruled that McLaren had possession of the Ferrari documents, but it did not punish the team because there was insufficient evidence the material was misused.

FIA president Max Mosley sent the matter to an appeals panel to allow Ferrari to present its case and to ensure “public confidence” in the result – although the hearing has now been canceled in light of “new evidence.”

Ferrari and McLaren have won all 12 races between them so far this season and with five races left, the title race likely will go down to the wire.

Hamilton leads the series with 84 points, followed by teammate and two-time defending champion Fernando Alonso with 79. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Raikkonen are third and fourth with 69 and 68 points.

All four drivers have three wins apiece.

“We are working hard every day to win for Ferrari,” Massa said.