Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton’

A lot of people are confused by the performance of Lewis Hamilton in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Rain is a great leveller in Formula 1. Talented drivers who do not have the car to compete in normal conditions can shine on a wet track and we have seen plenty of that over the years.

Wet races in the last couple of years seem to have been dominated either by Sebastien Vettel or by Hamilton. Hamilton delivered his masterpiece at Silverstone last July, but in Shanghai this weekend he had a very different kind of race, which showed that having the right car is just as important in the wet as the dry, especially with these 2009 cars.

He started brightly, attacking in the opening laps and making up places. He passed Raikkonen for 6th place on the first racing lap, then Trulli for 5th, then dropped back to 10th. He passed Kovalainen, Raikkonen again and was 4th on lap 24, with pace not too far off Button’s. He pitted on lap 33 and at that time his pace was comparable with drivers who were already on new wet tyres. So the tyres held up quite well in the first stint and all was going well. Perhaps the two safety car periods had given his tyres the right treatment.

But he pushed very hard in the opening laps of the second stint, fuel adjusted he wasn’t far off Vettel’s times. On lap 35 for example, he did a 1m55.153, a second faster than Button despite being significantly heavier and only 1.3 secs slower than Vettel (who was about to pit) despite his fuel weight slowing him by 2 secs/lap.

However he had taken too much out of the tyres. His pace dropped off after lap 44 and a spin on lap 49 lost him fifth place to team mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Here Lewis frankly admits that he didn’t deliver the kind of performance he expects of himself in those conditions. Perhaps the way the tyres held up in the first stint fooled him into thinking they’d be okay in the second. He didn’t think his way through the race..

That wasn’t what people have come to expect from you in the wet
“I love racing in the wet but I would say that was one of my worst wet weather performances. I made lots of mistakes. It was tricky out there, I was pushing hard, had quite good pace early on when I had some grip, but too many mistakes.

“You know me, I generally have good wet races, this one was incredibly tough. It was almost too dangerous to drive, you saw lots of people sliding off. I don’t have enough downforce on this car anyway, so it was a struggle but as least I scored some good points for the team.”

Did you push the car harder than it wanted to be pushed?
“All weekend I’ve been pushing that car beyond its limits and beyond what it is really capable of. Today when the tyres dropped off, I wasn’t able to avoid the oversteer moments.”

Why so many spins?
“There is nothing wrong with the car except the lack of downforce. I guess the guys with more downforce had no such a problem. My tyres were finished quite early so I was struggling with them. It was fun at the beginning when I had some grip. I don’t know if it’s the car or my driving style but it seems to destroy the tyres very early on. I remember I had just come out (of the pits) and they said I had 20 laps to go and my front left tyre was gone after 5 laps.”

What do you think about the performance of Sebastien Vettel?
“Congratulations to him, he did a fantastic job today. They have been very fast all weekend, so clearly they have one of the best cars.”

How long before you have a car which will allow you to race for a win?
“It’s going to be a good four or five races, it’s going to be some time. The guys are doing a fantastic job, so we’ve got to keep pushing.”

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The papers are full of the ‘rift’ between Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team over the Melbourne ‘lie-gate’ scandal. They talk of the relationship being ‘on a knife-edge’.

So will it happen? Will Lewis leave the team that has nurtured him since he left primary school? And if that were to happen, which team would he move to?

We have been here before with Lewis. He and his father Anthony were very unhappy about the politics swirling around the team during the 2007 championship, when McLaren were embroiled in the spy scandal surrounding Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan. Many things happened during that season, which took their breath away and made them wonder about whether to quit the sport. F1 is unlike any other level of motorsports because of the sheer intensity of the competition and the ferocity of the politics. Despite many years of studying for the starring role, Hamilton couldn’t believe the baggage that came with it.

And it quickly became apparent that being a McLaren driver, particularly that summer, made him even more of a target than he had imagined. The team seemed to be embroiled in one issue after another.

Hamilton’s reputation did not sustain much damage that summer as a result of the spy story, he was exonerated of any involvement, had no part in the email traffic between team mate Fernando Alonso and test driver Pedro de la Rosa which did for the team. There is no evidence that Lewis knew about the Ferrari data.

However, if you recall, McLaren told the first hearing into the spy story that the information did not pass beyond Coughlan into the organisation. With the subsequent discovery of the email traffic, they were forced to come clean and admit that the Ferrari data had penetrated deep into the company. It was a similar pattern of behaviour to what we saw from them in the days after Melbourne, initial denial, call it deception if you will, then getting caught out by fresh evidence, then grovelling apology. The two situations have significantly damaged McLaren’s integrity and reputation as a sporting institution. Hamilton was not damaged by association with the first, but definitely is through direct involvement in the second.

There were times during that period in 2007 and again in 2008, as Lewis was picking up penalties on the track, when you heard Anthony Hamilton openly wondering whether they should just get out of F1. But the raging ambition to win the world title, to fulfil what they saw as their destiny, kept them in it. Hamilton brought many of the penalties on himself, with his uncompromising approach, but somehow being on McLaren’s team seemed to make it all worse.

Now the Hamiltons are openly questioning whether they can stay at McLaren after all that has happened in the last week. They look across at Massa at Ferrari and Kubica at BMW and wonder why they are not constantly in the political cross-hairs?

Hamilton: "I'm sorry"
Malaysia has made Hamilton feel like Michael Schumacher did in 1994, when Benetton was getting hammered for ‘cheating’ over an illegal launch control system and a dodgy fuel filter. Schumacher was also banned for a few races that summer after ignoring a black flag at Silverstone. He and his manager felt that they had to get away from Benetton to stop the association of his name with cheating and that process led him to Ferrari in the summer of 1995.

Hamilton has grounds for feeling the same way now. It seems to have been established and accepted that he was ‘told’ to mislead the stewards, so should he move to save his reputation from further damage?

On top of that he looks at the team’s general situation at the moment. McLaren have built him a slow car, that’s not the end of the world, but they are likely to face some kind of heavy sanction for their behaviour in Melbourne and Sepang and that must impact on their ability to recover and move forward as a team. They have lost a key organisational figure in Dave Ryan and may yet lose their new team principal Martin Whitarsh, which would leave the ship pretty rudderless.

It would be an earthquake if he were to leave McLaren, given the history, but they are weighing up whether the team is just pre-destined to keep shooting itself in the foot and whether he’d be better off out of there.

So where would he go? Ferrari is the first name on the list, but his old nemesis Fernando Alonso has got their first. He has an agreement to join Ferrari in 2011, with an option for 2010 if Raikkonen underperforms this season.

BMW? There are several problems with BMW, first they already have Robert Kubica and may feel that they do not need Hamilton. Second they are not a team which spends big money on drivers.

Brawn? They have the fastest car at the moment, but that is because they bought themselves a big headstart by not showing up last season. They won’t be able to do that again so easily. The big teams will catch up.

However, if we get the budget cap of £30 million or more, then this will level the playing field in the favour of teams like Brawn. The manufacturers would not be able to beat them on resources alone.

I find it fascinating that the person in power to whom Hamilton appears to have turned for advice in recent days is Max Mosley. He’s clearly learned what Schumacher knew, that the best way to stay ahead of the others is to have a good relationship with the man who makes the rules. Brawn GP is important for Mosley because it is a blue print for his vision of the sport; a well engineered, lean team with customer engines. Low-cost, high quality F1.

The Brawn model is important now, just as re-invigorating Ferrari was in 1996.

If Hamilton were to join forces with Brawn, it would give the team huge commercial appeal, as Schumacher’s arrival gave Ferrari. Brawn says he is looking for ‘strong partners’ for the future. He didn’t say those partners couldn’t be drivers….

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Things are moving so fast here in Sepang it makes your head spin. Lewis Hamilton has just made an appearance in the media centre and given what has to be the most frank and open admission of guilt and sincere apology we have seen in this sport.

He sat alone on the stage and spoke for a little over ten minutes , his voice cracking at times, his body language full of anguish and regret.

“I went into the meeting wanting to tell the story and I was misled. I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information and that’s what I did. I sincerely apologise to the stewards for wasting their time. I’m very sorry for the situation. Sorry to all my fans, who have believed in me. Who I’ve showed you I am the past three years is who I am, I’m not a liar, I’m not a dishonest person, I’m a team player and every time I’ve been informed to do something I’ve done it. This time I realise it’s a huge mistake and I’m learning from it. It’s taken a huge toll on me.

“This is the worst thing I’ve experienced in my life and that’s why I’m here, because it’s right for me as a human being and as a man to stand up here in front of you all and tel you exactly what went on and say how sorry I am. I’m sorry to the team, to my family for the embarrassment.

“I’m sure that the FIA will act accordingly and in the right way.”

He also said that Trulli had driven a great race and that “it wasn’t my intention to get him a penalty.”
Actually by making such a frank admission, it’s likely that he will escape a ban or even a suspended ban. The damage to his reputation and the loss of the result in Australia are likely to be deemed punishment enough.

Hamilton and Ryan have been in the stewards’ room together on many occasions over the past two years and the only thing we didn’t get the chance to ask today is whether this is the first time Ryan “instructed” Hamilton to lie. I’m sure that the FIA will consider this when the world council look at the situation.

The FIA’s Alan Donnelly was at the back of the room listening and the event was televised by FOM’s TV crew, so it was a really public affair.

Hamilton has been criticised in the past for not putting his hands up and saying “sorry” often enough. He couldn’t avoid it on this occasion.

One thing he will have to deal with is the impression many of his critics have that he is a manufactured driver, not his own man. The fact that he went along with the deception, didn’t take a stand at the time, even though he knew what he was doing was wrong, will fuel that impression.

The room was full of media from all around the world, with the Fleet St boys on the front row. At the end there was a light round of applause from some journalists, as Hamilton walked from the room, his shoulders sagging.

How the public will view him now, only time will tell, but it’s been a savagely bad start to the season for Hamilton, for McLaren and for new team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

Other teams are surprised that McLaren has allowed this to come down to individuals, that they have not stuck together as a team. By singling out Ryan, they have acted in a way which is different from the team spirit of McLaren in the past.

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A sensational press conference has just concluded here in Sepang, where new McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitted that his sporting director Davey Ryan deliberately set out to lie to the stewards in Melbourne and that he told Lewis to follow his lead.
Martin Whitmarsh admits Hamilton was told to lie

Whitmarsh suspended Ryan this morning and the New Zealander is on his way back to England as we speak.

Speaking to a packed media centre, Whitmarsh said that this matter did not go any higher in the McLaren organisation and that he was not consulted before Ryan and Hamilton went to the stewards,
“We knew what had happened and there was a belief that a true and honest account of that would be given.

“Lewis got out of the car and gave a truthful account of what happened (to reporters). When they got to the stewards, Davey, who had been part of what happened at Spa (Hamilton’s penalty for passing Raikkonen) was highly sensitive and I think that in the heat of the moment his judgement was not to give a truthful account and I think Lewis was then led by that.”

When asked whether he would reconsider his own position, Whitmarsh said he could not rule anything out or in.

He said that, “We have lost a significant anchor to this team,” implying that Ryan’s suspension will become permanent.

One of the the things everyone wants to know is what was said in the original stewards’ meeting, as we have only the FIA stewards’ version of events as published yesterday. Whitmarsh said that he has not seen the transcript because one does not exist, “these things are not normally minuted and one of the stewards did not bring his notebook with him,” he said. “We have no access to that, all we can do is ask the driver and team manager what happened at the meeting.”

Hamilton himself will speak soon, at 5-45pm here in Sepang. He has lied, that much is obvious and as reigning world champion it puts a huge stain on his sporting integrity. He should have spoken to the media yesterday having first sorted out the details with Ryan and Whitmarsh, but instead, the whole thing has been allowed to be covered in the media with Hamilton’s reputation taking a hammering. He now has to say, “I lied, I was told to and I’m sorry,” after the event.

It will not improve things much for him, but it will help if he expresses regret. However the problem he will have going forward is that he is perceived by his critics as a manufactured product and the fact that he lied under orders will only emphasise that point.

I hate to keep comparing this to moments in Michael Schumacher’s career, but in 1994/95 he felt that he had to move away from Benetton because of all the allegations of cheating, from the FIA, which were piling up against the team and reflecting badly on him, he moved to Ferrari in 1996.

Steadying the ship generally will be Whitmarsh’s first priority, but after that he will have to work hard to persuade Hamilton that staying with the team is his best long term option.

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Here’s a snapshot of the reaction from some of my international colleagues in the media.

First to Germany, where, true to form, leading tabloid Bild have making mischief with Photoshop again. Last week Hamilton was morphed onto a snail’s body, today he’s got Pinocchio’s nose and is described as the ‘lying world champion’ Ouch!

Next on to Spain, where El Pais simply has the headline, “Lying for a podium.” They feel that this has been a damaging moment for the world champion, but do not feel that the matter requires any further punishment.

That said, many in Spain are rubbing their hands with glee. In AS, the strongest of the Spanish daily sports papers, the writer says that McLaren has lost all credibility. In a stinging attack it says that McLaren used to stand for all the best of British sporting values, but since the arrival of Hamilton that has been eroded. It questions how a team with such great resources and allied to such a prestigious brand as Mercedes, could make such stupid mistakes.

In Italy they are playing with a fairly straight bat. La Gazetta dello Sport, the leading sports daily just reports the facts, as does Corriere dello Sport. “Hamilton risks further sanctions, is the line they take,

Meanwhile in the UK there is some really tough stuff, particularly in the Daily Mail, where they really go for it,

Get this; “When the story of Lewis Hamilton’s career is written, it will record how he bankrupted himself in the counting house of reputation for the sake of one single point…. McLaren, the most arrogant team in the paddock, self-deluded in their own righteousness, are contaminated by a culture of cheating.”

I’m supposed to be going to a dinner tonight, hosted by Mercedes boss Norbert Haug and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh for seven or eight UK journalists, including the Mail, Times etc. Could be quite a tense evening….

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The fallout from McLaren’s Melbourne radio fiasco has begun with sporting director Davey Ryan suspended from duty and sent home from Malaysia. He is taking the rap for the heavy punishment the team and its driver Lewis Hamilton have received for misleading the stewards on an overtaking issue behind the safety car in Melbourne.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “In my 20-odd years working for McLaren, I doubt if I’ve met a more dedicated individual than Davey. He’s been an integral part of McLaren since 1974 and has played a crucial role in the team’s many world championship successes since that time.

“However, his role in the events of last Sunday, particularly his dealings with the FIA stewards, has caused serious repercussions for the team, for which we apologise. Therefore, I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this.”

Ryan left the circuit mid morning for the airport, apparently in tears according to eye witnesses. He has been at McLaren since the 1970s, when he was a mechanic on James Hunt’s 1976 world title winning car. With the changeover of leadership from Ron Dennis to Martin Whitmarsh some of Dennis’ oldest allies have left the team, including engineer Steve Hallam and Tyler Alexander. Team manager for many years, Ryan was given a promotion over the winter to sporting director and appeared to have a strong future at the team.

However with the damage to the team’s reputation caused by the implication of dishonesty, Ryan, who accompanied Hamilton to the stewards room and presumably briefed him on the way, has been fingered for blame.

The team is in a process of change, with Dennis handing over the reins to Whitmarsh and beneath him Jonathan Neale. Ryan was a commanding presence at the team, a real disciplinarian. He will not be missed by some members of the team to whom he gave a hard time, but his discipline might well be missed.

Whitmarsh will have to rally his team from this setback, albeit aware that there may well be more pain to come from the FIA World Council who will consider a disrepute charge. At the same time he will have some explaining to do to the Mercedes Benz board, who stuck with the team after the spy scandal of 2007, but will be disappointed by this fresh blow to the team’s image. Mercedes own just under 50% of the team with the rest of the shareholding split between the Bahraini royal family, Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh.

And behind the scenes, Hamilton and his team will be having some frank exchanges. Only they know whether he was told to say what he said to the stewards or whether it was his own idea.

Either way it has done damage to his sporting integrity.

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There is some very strong criticism of Lewis Hamilton and McLaren in the media today, a wave of hysteria in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s punishment for ‘deliberately misleading’ the stewards.

It has been written in some quarters that Hamilton could be banned for some races by the World Motor Sport Council, which is due to meet in June. An emergency meeting could be called sooner. An FIA spokesman has hinted that there could well be further repercussions for McLaren and Hamilton, “Given the seriousness of this matter, we cannot rule out further action at this stage.”

This situation reminds me a bit of Jerez in 1997. Michael Schumacher smashed into Jacques Villenueve in an attempt to win the world title. He failed and there was a general outcry for him to be banned from the first few races of 1998.

Instead he was thrown out of the 1997 results, the idea being that it set a precedent for the future to ensure that no-one would try that kind of thing again, knowing that the penalty was disqualification from that year’s championship.

At the time it was made quite clear by Bernie Ecclestone that there was no way F1 was going to start the 1998 season without its main box office draw. It would be commercial suicide and the same applies today. Schumacher was not prevented from racing and nor will Hamilton be a no-show at races later this year. Both have suffered a stain on their image as a result of the events. In Schumacher’s case, he never managed to shake it off.

But Hamilton might be given a suspended ban, in other words if he steps out of line again, the ban will kick in. Another whacking great fine for the team is not to be ruled out either. Here in Malaysia the perception of the foreign (ie no-British) media is also that McLaren have been stupid and that this is a serious matter. The other teams feel broadly the same way. In other words, it’s more or less unanimous.

Hamilton was the victim of muddled thinking and poor communication over the radio from his team. He knew he was in the right, passing Trulli when the Toyota was off the track and the team confused the issue. However the problem came in the stewards room and afterwards, when he and McLaren were happy to let Trulli take the rap and lose the 6 points for passing Hamilton behind the safety car.

It’s really surprising that they didn’t think this one through. Once the story about Hamilton telling reporters he had been told to let Trulli through broke late on Sunday night and others including myself here on this blog, referred to it on Monday, the team should then have voluntarily gone to the FIA and said that there had been a mistake. They would have stayed 4th, where Hamilton finished.

I don’t buy all this “McLaren were being paranoid about FIA” stuff, if that was truly the motivation for telling him to let Trulli past, then surely they would have wanted to be be whiter than white on Monday and explained that there had been a cock up on the radio, not Trulli’s fault, give Trulli his points back.

In the current climate, where the teams are trying to make a go of the association known as FOTA and to face up to the FIA and Ecclestone for control of the future of the sport, this would have been a fantastic opportunity to do something truly sporting, a sign of solidarity and brotherhood with Toyota, who were blameless in this. It’s the fact that they were happy for Toyota to suffer that makes it inexplicable to me.

Since FOTA held that press conference in Geneva, we have had the points system being changed twice, a €30 million budget cap being voted in, both McLaren and Toyota being shown up in the first race, Toyota for having an illegal rear wing, McLaren for misleading the stewards. We have three teams protesting three other teams which is going to drag out to an appeal….. and the season has only just started!

The spirit of brotherhood and togetherness is being severely tested. “FOTA.. Shmota”, as Bernie put it.

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I posted last night that Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team faced a tough day in front of the stewards and it has proved to be worse than we ever imagined.

When I left the track this evening, in the dark, sitting outside the McLaren team office was a thoroughly dejected looking team principal, Martin Whitmarsh with his communications staff, picking through the wreckage of their day.

Whitmarsh faced the media this afternoon and said that the team did not lie to the FIA stewards The stewards have released material this evening that appears to prove that they did lie. It appears hugely damaging for the team, once again and you have to ask how they got themselves in such a pickle over something so simple.

The FIA has published the radio traffic from Melbourne, which proves that Lewis Hamilton was instructed by the team to let Jarno Trulli through, something which contradicts his and the team’s version of events at the original stewards hearing on Sunday night.

An accompanying FIA statement says, “During the hearing, held approximately one hour after the end of the race, the Stewards and the Race Director questioned Lewis Hamilton and his Team Manager David Ryan specifically about whether there had been an instruction given to Hamilton to allow Trulli to overtake,” the FIA said in a statement.

“Both the driver and the team manager stated that no such instruction had been given.

“The race director specifically asked Hamilton whether he had consciously allowed Trulli to overtake. Hamilton insisted that he had not done so.”

There are some very simple but fundamental questions here. Both Hamilton and the team know that the radio is monitored by the FIA and by the TV production people. The following exchange could easily have been broadcast, had it not occured so late in the race:

“Lewis: The Toyota went off in a line at the second corner, …, is this OK?

McLaren: Understood, Lewis. We’ll confirm and get back to you.

LH: He was off the track. He went wide.

McLaren: Lewis, you need to allow the Toyota through. Allow the Toyota through now.


LH: He’s slowed right down in front of me.

McLaren: OK, Lewis. Stay ahead for the time being. Stay ahead. We will get back to you. We are talking to Charlie.

LH: I let him past already.”

So the team told him first to let Trulli through, then told him not to, a classic piece of indecision, by which time it was already too late, he had let him through. When I spoke to Jarno this afternoon he said that Hamilton slowed right down, to 80km/h which is virtually stationary in an F1 car and this must have been when this radio dialogue was going on. Clearly Hamilton was very distracted by it and then left confused by the team when they told him to stay ahead, after he’d already let Trulli through.

Knowing that this radio traffic was in the public domain and that Lewis had given an interview to a journalist in which he’d said the team told him to let Trulli through, it beggars belief that he and the team would then say anything different to the stewards. What were they trying to achieve by saying that the team had not told him to let Trulli through?

At its root, what happened on track is not serious. A misunderstanding over what position to take when a car has gone off the road behind a safety car is not a particularly big deal.

Hamilton would have been justified in holding position ahead of Trulli, while the team kept trying to get an answer out of Charlie Whiting, the race director. Charlie was busy monitoring the state of the track and so on, so did not have time to review tapes of the incident and give them an opinion with only a couple of laps to go in the race.

Afterwards the team could have demonstrated that Trulli went off and that they did their level best to do the right thing and check with race control. At worst Hamilton would have been put back to fourth.

Instead they have managed to create Watergate out of the smallest of issues and, just as in Watergate, it’s the cover up that gets you in trouble.

There is all sorts of nonsense being written about the FIA World Council excluding Hamilton from the championship or banning him for a few races. This will never happen, Hamilton is F1’s biggest box office draw and even if his reputation has taken a bit of a knock, the promoters, punters and TV companies want him at the races.

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There was a lot of energy in the paddock this afternoon as McLaren went into crisis management mode, with head of communications Matt Bishop (ex F1 racing editor) and Steve Cooper (ex F1 racing journo).

Scrums of TV crews and hardened journos waited around outside the teams offices in groups waiting for Hamilton or his boss Martin Whitmarsh to speak. The chat was all about what punishment they would be given. Many questioned how Hamilton could have told reporters straight after he got out of the car that the team had told him to let Trulli past, but then gone in to see the stewards and said the opposite. Apparently the The FIA will publish the radio traffic on the FIA and F1.com websites at around 1-30pm today, the first example of this since the new transparency policy was introduced.

These gaggles of journos, waiting for their prey, are a common feature of F1 life. When I was a pit reporter in the 1990s I was in the middle of it all. I had a break when I was a commentator and now I’m a reporter again, I’m back in the middle of it.

We have waited hours in the past for Schumacher after some fresh controversy, like Jerez 1997 or Monaco 2006. Hamilton seems to be slipping into Schumacher’s shoes as far as being at the centre of controversy is concerned. What was it Ron Dennis said in 2007? “Competitive animals know no limits.” He was speaking about Alonso but Hamilton is revealing himself to be every bit as ruthless a competitor.

Whitmarsh came out at around 5pm, standing in the doorway at the back of the McLaren garage where the press had moved to. The TV crews waited 20 metres away. A daunting sight and proof of the gigantic interest in the story. Before you ask, the woman in the black outfit works for Spanish TV…


Hamilton had seemed really down at heel in the FIA press conference at 3pm. He refused to speak about the matter under discussion, because it was still being considered at that time, but his body language spoke volumes; he knew he was going to get pasted.

He stared distractedly out of the window as huge flashes of lightening and peals of thunder dominated the sky. Rain like that on Sunday would stop the race, hell you could think about building another Ark..

The only smile he managed was when Jenson Button was asked what it was like having the best car and he said “It feels good.” Lewis was sitting behind him and smiled what looked like a smile of being genuinely pleased for the guy, but it could equally have been a rueful smile. His car is a long way from being the best. Button listed the cars he feels are now, or might become, his closest challengers; Red Bull, Ferrari and BMW. He did not mention McLaren.

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New McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has just come out into the Sepang paddock to speak to the media after the news that Lewis Hamilton and the team have been thrown out of the results of the Australian Grand Prix for ‘deliberately misleading’ the stewards over the incident with Jarno Trulli, involving overtaking behind the safety car.


“Lewis was instructed to give the place back to Trulli, “said Whitmarsh. “The team thought, having not seen the incident, that it was the safest thing to do. That instruction was given to Lewis and he didn’t agree. Before that discussion was finished, Trulli had been passed. If we look at the speed traces and compare it to other periods, he didn’t do anything abnormal and it’s quite clear that Lewis shouldn’t have passed him. As soon as that happened we spoke to race control to ask if we could retake the place. race control was busy and couldn’t answer us.”

He added that the team then thought when they met the stewards that they were aware of the radio conversations. This turned out not to be the case.

He went on: “The stewards now believe that we weren’t explicit enough about that radio conversation and thought that was prejudicial to the decision that they reached. We regret that and it was a mistake by the team.

“There is not implication that Lewis lied to the stewards. I don’t know what they meant by (deliberately misleading), you’d have to ask them. They clearly feel that the team didn’t give enough information about the radio conversation.

“They believe that the omission of the information about the radio conversation between the team and Lewis was withheld and that is what they believe was misleading.”

The suggestion being voiced here is that the FIA considers this matter so serously that it is considering taking this matter to the World Motor Sport Council where further sanctions might be applied.

Coming less than two years after McLaren was fined a record $100 million for the Ferrari spying scandal, the team is trying very hard to deflect the impression that it has acted dishonestly again.

Hamilton and McLaren being thrown out for misleading the stewards means that Trulli gets his third place back. Ironically he and his Toyota team had been thrown out of qualifying for having rear wings which were overly flexible and therefore illegal. Which of the two crimes is the worse?

These two incidents certainly make two of the big manufacturer-backed teams in F1, appear less than honest..and this is only the first race of the season.

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