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Bahrain pits is McLaren penalty - report

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2006 World Cup

Apr.2 (GMM) McLaren's demotion to the bottom of the pitlane pecking order in Bahrain is an unofficial sanction by the governing body, a major German newspaper claims.

It emerged last week that, despite settling into the fifth allocation of garages at the opening two races of 2008, the Mercedes powered team would be relocated to the farthest end of the pits for the Bahrain grand prix this weekend.

McLaren's higher pitlane residence in Australia and Malaysia was the result of a deal with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, despite the team's exclusion from the 2007 constructors' championship.

But because the garage allocations are ultimately governed by FIA regulations, and not the commercial rights holder, the Paris body led by president Max Mosley has the final say about how the teams line up at races.

Ecclestone had agreed to the reprieve so that one of F1's two title contenders can still have access to the highest level of facilities at all the circuits this year.

At modern venues like Malaysia and Bahrain, the lower garage allocations still afford top class facilities that are comparable to the teams at the premier end of pitlane.

But at some of the later rounds, including at Barcelona, Silverstone and Brazil, McLaren will indeed be disadvantaged if the FIA has not agreed to let McLaren return to the business end of the paddock.

Some observers predict that, for example, McLaren will struggle to fit its huge 'Communications Centre' into the smaller paddock allocations at European rounds.

Bild claims that the FIA's annulment of the McLaren-Ecclestone concession is related to the governing body's understanding that - at the end of the 'spygate' scandal - Ron Dennis would be stepping down as team boss in 2008.

The Briton reportedly came close to quitting before the start of the season, but at the last minute turned up in Australia and even held aloft the winning constructors' trophy on the Albert Park podium.

Bild said the FIA is therefore "frustrated" with Dennis' position, and regards his Melbourne podium antics as "provocation".

"This is the result," the newspaper said, referring to the pitlane demotion.

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