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BAR get off with two-race ban

Barcelona: The Honda-backed BAR team have been banned for the next two races after breaking Formula One regulations at the San Marino Grand Prix. The team will miss Sunday’s Spanish GP and the Monaco round on May 22. They were also excluded, retroactively, from the San Marino GP ' the toughest action against a Formula One team for 20 years.

BAR’s Jenson Button had finished third and his Japanese teammate Takuma Sato was fifth at Imola last month.

The Briton’s placing was confirmed only after six hours when stewards had summoned BAR representatives and weighed the car with and without fuel. The FIA, the governing body of Formula One, then appealed against the decision of the stewards not to take action over the weight of Button’s car. The FIA called for BAR to be banned for the rest of the championship at an appeal court hearing Wednesday, and fined euros 1.0 million euros.

After the court announced on Thursday it had upheld the appeal, FIA president Max Mosley said BAR had got off lightly. 'The team was asked to pump the fuel out of their car,' he said. 'They left 15 litres in the tank and told us it was empty. Under the circumstances, we feel they have been treated rather leniently.'

A six-month ban to come into effect after the Monaco GP was suspended for a year, Thursday’s statement added.

The court said it found no evidence of fraud by BAR. 'It is not possible for the court to find, on the basis of the evidence that it was provided with, that BAR deliberately committed fraud.'

It said, however, they had shown 'a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency'.

Button’s exclusion means Austria’s Alexander Wurz, who was standing in for injured Juan Pablo Montoya, moves up to third place for McLaren. Jacques Villeneuve, driving for Sauber, moves to fourth after Sato’s exclusion.

The Tyrrell team were banned for the rest of the championship in 1984 after it was discovered they had been using a special device to pump water and lead ballast to raise weights of their cars to the legal minimum.

'I was shocked actually that they put them out of the races,' said Montoya. 'We all agree that there are specific rules for all the teams,' said Fernando Alonso, winner of the last three races for Renault.

BAR said in a statement that they were appalled. 'BAR Honda is appalled at the decision of the FIA International Court of Appeal and asserts that the judgement is contrary to the evidence heard yesterday,' according to team boss Nick Fry. (Reuters)

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