LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) McLaren have played down reports of a 'raid' on their factory by inspectors checking for signs of leaked Ferrari data in the design of the Formula One team's 2008 car.
The Daily Mail newspaper yesterday said a team of independent legal and technical experts had 'trawled through' McLaren's Woking headquarters over the last two days.
It added that they had examined the Mercedes-powered team's computer hard drives and design records and taken away boxes of data for further analysis.
''We are unable to make any comment other than to say that an inspection has always been part of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) decision and of course we are co-operating fully with the FIA,'' a team spokeswoman said.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) also had no comment.
McLaren were fined 100 million dollar and stripped of all this year's constructors' points by the WMSC after a dossier of Ferrari technical information was found at the home of the team's chief designer Mike Coughlan in July.
McLaren denied incorporating any of the information in the design of their current car.
However, incriminating e-mails between Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso, his compatriot and team test driver Pedro de la Rosa and Coughlan undermined their case at a subsequent hearing.
FURTHER SANCTIONS The FIA said in September that it would investigate McLaren further to ensure that no Ferrari data appeared in next year's car and raised the possibility of further sanctions should any evidence emerge.
The World Motor Sport Council's next meeting is in December.
''The punishment would not necessarily be preventing them from running,'' FIA President Max Mosley recently told the BBC when asked about possible further action.
''It would be more likely that they would be given a negative point allocation.'' That would mean McLaren, who have parted with Alonso but have Britain's world championship runner-up Lewis Hamilton as their main title contender, starting next season with a deficit to make up in the constructors' standings.
Mosley said inspectors would be looking for design ideas that could be traced to the Italian team rather than just copied components.
''The difficulty we have is that you're not going to find a part that was designed by Ferrari,'' he told the BBC. ''Instead what you may find are ideas.
''At this level of motorsport, if the idea is given to the chief designer, he will make a component utilising that idea which bears no relation at all to the component perhaps being used by the other car.
''So we will be looking for ideas.'' REUTERS TB HS1737