Source AP ©

Formula One team satisfied with sanctions against Alonso and Hamilton

Late Thursday, McLaren was fined US$100 million (EUR 72 million) and kicked out of the constructors' championship in the F1 spy scandal - but its drivers escaped any punishment and can continue to chase the more prestigious Formula One drivers' title.

"The most important thing is that we will be going motor racing this weekend," team leader Ron Dennis said.

With Ferrari slowly fading, the most important question becomes whether it will be two-time champion Alonso or current leader Lewis Hamilton who will take the title over the last four races.

After winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, Alonso is on a roll. The Spaniard trails Hamilton by a mere three points, 92-89, compared to a 14-point gap after the French Grand Prix on July 11.

Raikkonen is in third place with 74 points and needs to repeat his 2005 win to stand a chance of a belated surge toward the title.

Early Friday, the Finnish driver earned a confidence boost by going fastest around the hilly 7.004-kilometer (4.325-mile) course through the hills of southern Belgium.

Raikkonen was clocked in 1 minute, 47.339 seconds, holding an edge of 0.542 seconds over Hamilton and 0.655 over Alonso. Raikkonen's Ferrari teammate, Filipe Massa, skidded off the track early and did not register a time.

Up to Sunday's race at Monza, it was a tight contest between McLaren and Ferrari, but the Alonso-Hamilton 1-2 finish drastically changed the picture.

Spa-Francorchamps is returning to the F1 circuit after a one-year gap for renovation to the longest track on the tour. Alonso and Hamilton should be happy to be driving at all.

In Thursday's ruling by governing body FIA, McLaren escaped the harshest possible penalty _ banishment for it and its drivers from the 2007 and 2008 championships. The England-based team said it will wait for FIA to publish its findings before deciding whether to appeal.

The case broke in July when a 780-page technical dossier on Ferrari cars was found at the home of McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, who was later suspended. Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney, who allegedly supplied the documents, was fired.

The $100 million (EUR 72 million) fine imposed on McLaren is 40 times larger than the previous F1 record ($2.5 million, EUR 1.8 million).

Still, Dennis argued the fine is effectively halved because McLaren doesn't have to forfeit any revenue it's earned this season. He added that the financial strength of McLaren also would help absorb the impact of the fine.

FIA said it did not penalize McLaren's drivers "due to exceptional circumstances" because they provided evidence in exchange for immunity.

Dennis said the evidence given by his drivers, engineers and staff on Thursday clearly demonstrated that his team did not use any leaked information to gain a competitive advantage.

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