Button, Sato must sit out two races

PARIS -- BAR-Honda's Formula One team was banned for two
races after an appeals court ruled Thursday that Jenson Button's
car raced illegally at the San Marino Grand Prix last month.

Button was also stripped of the six points he won for finishing
third at Imola on April 24, and teammate Takuma Sato lost his four
points for finishing fifth. The sport's governing body, FIA, wanted
the team to be disqualified for the season.

But the FIA's international court of appeal said in a statement
that "it is not possible for the court to find that BAR-Honda
deliberately committed fraud.'' However, the team displayed "a
highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency.''

BAR-Honda, which will miss the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona
this weekend and a race in Monaco on May 22, explained to the
appeals panel Wednesday why Button's car ran 11 pounds under the
minimum 1,322-pound weight at Imola.

The FIA's arguments centered on the possibility of a concealed
mechanism in Button's car. BAR-Honda chief executive officer Nick
Fry denied the claims and threatened to go to civil court if his
team was expelled.

"BAR-Honda is appalled at the decision ... and asserts that the
judgment is contrary to all of the evidence heard,'' Fry said.
"The team proved that it complied with the current regulations and
the FIA now acknowledges that the regulations are unclear.

"At no time did BAR-Honda run underweight at the San Marino
Grand Prix.''

The hearing centered on the legality of two carbon-fiber fuel
tanks in the car's main tank, which the team said pressurizes fuel
before it is injected into the engine.

"BAR were asked to pump the fuel out of their car. They left 15
liters in the tank and told us it was empty,'' FIA president Max
Mosley said. "Under the circumstances, we feel they have been
treated rather leniently.''

BAR-Honda argued that deliberately racing underweight would have
led to possible engine failure. But that didn't convince the FIA,
even though officials originally ruled Button's car was the correct

The FIA challenged its own ruling and called for the 18-member
tribunal to exclude BAR-Honda for the season and pay $1.29 million.

"We all agree that there are specific rules for all the teams,
and if you are not inside the rules you are at a risk to have a
penalty,'' said driver Fernando Alonso, who won the San Marino GP
and leads the drivers standings with 36 points.

The team can return to racing May 29 for the European Grand Prix
at Nurburgring, Germany.

The last team to be banned was Tyrrell, which missed the last
three races in 1984. The team was banned because the sport's
governing body ruled that a performance aid was found in the water
that was sprayed over Martin Brundle's engine air intake trumpets
at the Detroit Grand Prix.