McLaren, Ferrari to resume duel

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Ferrari's rivalry with McLaren-Mercedes resumes this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix and tensions are high after new evidence emerged in the spy scandal.

Updated: September 08, 2007 08:24 IST
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Ferrari's rivalry with McLaren-Mercedes resumes this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix and tensions are high after new evidence emerged in the spy scandal.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has called a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on September 13, which could lead to a two-year ban for McLaren from the Formula One championship for obtaining confidential information from Ferrari.

"We're in battle," Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said ahead of Sunday's race at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. "Winning on the track and finishing in front of McLaren is my main concern. What happens off the circuit, isn't my problem."

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 possesion 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 a FIA 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.

McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton leads the series with 84 points, followed by teammate and two-time defending champion Fernando Alonso with 79. Massa and teammate Kimi Raikkonen are third and fourth with 69 and 68 points.

All four drivers have three wins apiece. "We are working hard everyday to win for Ferrari," Massa said. "I will give everything to try and win this world championship."

A Ferrari victory before a home crowd could reduce McLaren's 11-point lead in the constructor's standings _ although the British team is hoping to restore the points it was stripped of at the Hungarian Grand Prix at a FIA hearing September 19.

McLaren lost points after Alonso impeded Hamilton in qualifying for the August 5 race.

Ferrari won at Monza for the fourth time in five years in 2006, when seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher claimed a 90th victory before announcing his retirement.

The Italian outfit could struggle to repeat that on Sunday, as McLaren was over a second faster in the final two days of testing at the storied track last week.

Massa, who finished ninth last year, isn't concerned by his apparent lack of speed. "We are a lot stronger than it looks, that's for sure," the Brazilian said. "In testing, I've often lacked the conditions to run at my best."

Raikkonen, who was second in a McLaren in 2006, is expecting a close contest. But the Finn is hoping to emerge victorious on his Ferrari home debut.

"I think you can say that we have a fierce fight ahead of us. Traditionally Ferrari has been very competitive here, but also McLaren has been very strong. Winning the home race of Ferrari would be a great feeling," Raikkonen said.

Alonso failed to finish in his Renault last year, retiring with an engine problem while in third place. That followed a penalty hours before the race, when he was dropped from fifth to 10th on the grid, for impeding Massa in qualifying.

The Spaniard is hoping for a better showing this year. "Last year did not give me any good memories but it is a track that I would really like to win at, so hopefully we can make that happen," Alonso said.

"The Monza track is not like any other we race on during the season. It is all about high speeds. The cars always feel so different, very light and not always under control to be honest."

Monza is the fastest circuit in the series, where F1 cars can reach speeds of 340 kph hour. Hamilton finished third at Monza in the penultimate race of the feeder series to win last year's GP2 championship.

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