BAR banned for two races

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The BAR Honda team were on Thursday banned from the next two Formula One races and stripped of their points from the San Marino Grand Prix - the toughest action against a F1 team for 21 years.

The team will miss Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix and the Monaco race two weeks later and were also excluded retroactively from the San Marino race at Imola last month, during which they breached F1 rules. BAR's Jenson Button had finished third and his Japanese team-mate Takuma Sato was fifth.

The British driver's car was scrutinised by stewards after the race, but was eventually cleared by them of being underweight. But the FédérationInternationale de l'Automobile, F1's governing body, then appealed against the decision to a court of appeal in Paris on Wednesday. The FIA urged the court to ban BAR for the rest of the championship and fine them €1m (£680,000).

However, the court said in a statement after its ruling yesterday: "It is not possible for the court to find that BAR Honda deliberately committed fraud." But the team displayed "a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency".

The hearing in Paris centered on the legality of two fuel tanks in the car, one of which, the team said, pressurised fuel before it was injected into the engine.

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

Nick Fry, BAR chief executive officer, said they were appalled by the decision and were considering legal options. "This penalty is wholly and grossly disproportionate," Fry said.

The punishment is the stiffest since 1984, when Tyrrell were expelled from the championship for using an illegal device.

Meanwhile, McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya will race in Barcelona this weekend after missing the last two races with a shoulder injury.

* The top four teams in the Premier League at the end of this season will enter next season's Champions League, the Football Association said on Thursday. This means that, even if Liverpool win the Champions League later this month, they will have to overtake city rivals Everton if they want to play in Europe's premier club competition next season.

"This will not be changed whatever the outcome of Liverpool's Champions League Final in Istanbul on May 25 [against AC Milan]," the FA said. "The FA also believes that if Liverpool win in Istanbul and do not finish in the top four in the Premiership, an extra place should be allocated to them in the Champions League next season. This is ultimately a matter for Uefa [European football's governing body] but the FA will continue to make representations on this issue at the highest level."

Uefa's position shifted slightly in favour of Liverpool this week following an intervention from president Lennart Johansson. Although its regulations stipulate that a maximum of four sides from any one country can take part in the Champions League, Johansson said Uefa's executive committee has the power to overrule and enforce any changes. No action will be taken, however, until after the final itself.

* In cricket, Nottinghamshire off-spinner Graeme Swann and Hampshire seam bowler Chris Tremlett were the only two unexpected names in the first 25-man development squad announced by England's selectors.

The aim of the squad is to enable Duncan Fletcher, England's head coach, to monitor more closely the development of players and better prepare them for the international game.

The first one comprises all 12 of England's centrally contracted players and 13 others regarded as the next best. It includes nearly every player involved during England's winter campaigns in southern Africa.

The selectors have also recalled Swann, 26, who failed to impress the national coach with his attitude during his first tour to South Africa in 1999-2000 but shone during the winter for England A. Tremlett has also enjoyed an impressive start to the season with Hampshire, claiming a career-best 6 for 44 against Sussex. Development squad: Vaughan (Yorks, capt), Trescothick (Somerset), Strauss (Middx), Butcher (Surrey), Thorpe (Surrey), Flintoff (Lancs), G Jones (Kent, wkt), Giles (Warwicks), S Jones (Glam), Hoggard (Yorks), Harmison (Durham), Anderson (Lancs), Kabir Ali (Worcs), Batty (Worcs), Solanki (Worcs), Collingwood (Durham), RT Key (Kent), Bell (Warwicks), Pietersen (Hamps), Wharf (Glam), Lewis (Gloucs), Tremlett (Hamps), Gough (Essex), Read (Notts, wkt), Swann (Notts).

In the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy first round, Derbyshire gained a thrilling one-wicket, last-ball win over Durham at Chester-le-Street.

The visitors needed 14 off the last over, bowled by England paceman Steve Harmison, to overhaul Durham's 234. But some lusty blows and sensible shots from Ant Botha and Kevin Dean saw Derbyshire home, with Botha hitting a four off the last ball when only one was required.

By contrast, Scotland suffered a 10-wicket thrashing by Worcestershire at the Citylets Grange. The home side's modest total of 134 was overhauled by Worcestershire with more than 30 overs to spare.

* Tim Henman slid out of the Rome Masters tennis when he suffered a 6-3 3-6 6-3 defeat by unseeded Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia. The British number one, seeded fourth, started poorly, making unforced errors and losing his serve three times in the first set alone.

Having regrouped to level at one set apiece, a lucky netcord in the fifth game of the decider forced a defensive volley by the Briton, from which Hrbaty conjured up a crosscourt pass to gain the decisive break and a place in the fourth round.

* Joan Laporta, president of Barcelona Football Club, is reported to be in China trying to seal the club's first ever shirt sponsorship deal.

Barcelona have previously resisted sullying the famous shirt with commercial names, but the prospect of a five-year deal worth at least €19m (£13m) in the lucrative Asian market appears to have proved too tempting for the Spanish league leaders.

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