BAR Suspended For Two Events

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In a move that makes NASCAR's recent penalties look like nothing more than a hand slap, Formula One's governing body came down hard on one team Thursday.

BAR-Honda has been suspended from competition in both Spain and Monaco. In addition, the team will lose the 10 points earned from Jenson Button's third-place and Takuma Sato's fifth-place finishes at San Marino.

The International Court of Appeals ruled in Paris May 5 that the team failed to comply with sporting rules regarding the weight of its vehicles in competition. The No. 3 car came under investigation after post-race analysis at the Grand Prix of San Marino found the car to be underweight when drained of all its fluids.

On site in San Marino, the team came under normal post-race scrutiny. According to appeal documents, the team drained the car's fluids and declared "'That's it' when asked if the draining process was completed." After BAR's declaration, and under further inspection, a special compartment was found within the fuel tank, which held 8.92 kg of fuel. Additionally, a further 2.46 kg remained in the bottom of the fuel tank.

When this fuel was drained the car was underweight at 594.6 kg. A Formula One car with the driver, must be at a minimum weight of 600 kg after the race. "In Article 4.1 ... the weight of the car with its fuel tank completely empty at the end of the race, must weigh at least 600 kg." The court felt that the special compartment fuel was used as a ballast.

The argument given by BAR-Honda that the car must be weighed with the remaining fuel after the race was not supported by the sport's code and regulations. The team also presented fuel consumption data from the race to try and support its argument that the car met the weight requirements throughout the race.

"We repeat that at no time did BAR Honda run underweight at the San Marino Grand Prix and this was also unchallenged by the FIA," Nick Fry, CEO of BAR-Honda said in a statement about the decision. "The team is advised by its legal counsel that the judgement is plainly wrong based on the evidence presented and it is currently examining its options."

The FIA argued that with the special fuel compartment the car could run below the 600 kg limit during the race and be brought up to weight in the final pit stop by filling this tank. They had asked for BAR-Honda to be suspended for the whole season.

BAR contends that the tank is a collector used to distribute fuel more efficiently.

In addition to the two race suspension, the team is suspended for a period of six months after the two events. This penalty, however, has been postponed for one year.

The points penalty alters the Grand Prix of San Marino results, moving McLaren's Alexander Wurz into third place. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve moves to fourth and Toyota's Jarno Trulli takes fifth, rounding out the top-five with first-place finisher Fernando Alonso and second-place Michael Schumacher.

The San Marino finish was Button's first podium finish this season. In another stab to the team, Button is reportedly able to leave the team in 2006 if he fails to get within 75 percent of the total points in the 2005 Championship. After 2004, Button wanted to join Williams but was blocked from doing so.

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