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.