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McLaren pleads guilty…
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McLaren pleads guilty…
Posted By:   |  24 Apr 2009   |  2:21 pm GMT  |  48 comments

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has written to the FIA ahead of next Wednesday’s world council meeting, essentially pleading guilty to all five charges of bringing the sport into disrepute over the issue of lying to the stewards in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, according to the Times.

“Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, has written to Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, informing him that his team accept that they are in breach of Article 151c of the Formula One sporting regulations, which covers bringing the sport into disrepute. The letter also contains a full apology from Whitmarsh for this latest serious transgression by the Woking-based team, ” the paper says.

By acting this way the team is essentially saying to the FIA, ‘Look, we accept that what happened with the stewards was wrong, we’ve taken steps to correct this with Lewis’ apology in Malaysia, key people leaving the team and a new chairman coming in who will provide a new style of management, just tell us what the sentence it, ‘

Whitmarsh appears to be taking a pragmatic approach to this crisis. There is now no need for the motor sport council to carry out an exhaustive investigation into what happened on April 29th, no need to call Hamilton, Dennis or Ryan into the courtroom to give evidence.

But the world council has a hard job on its hands in deciding what the punishment should be. Some experienced hands here are talking about a points deduction, which would also have a financial penalty to it as the lower they finish in the constructors’ championship, the less prize money they would take home. Others still talk about a two race ban.

I have noticed that the FIA’s Alan Donnelly has been spending a lot of time around the McLaren area this weekend and all sides realise the importance of getting it right on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Mercedes are playing down stories about their involvement in F1 being in doubt, after negative comments made by a union leader in Germany. It is however possible that the manufacturer, which has a 40% shareholding in the team, might seek to take a greater say in the overall management of the team after this second embarrassing incident.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, quotes an unnamed McLaren sponsor saying, “I can say that if a disproportionately large penalty were given to McLaren on April 29 then the sponsor that I am associated with might leave. But the punishment must fit the crime.”

It is the second time in 18 months that Whitmarsh has had to pen a letter of open and full apology to the FIA. He did so in 2007 at the conclusion of the case over the Ferrari dossier which ended up in McLaren’s possession. In both cases it came after the team had initially claimed that it had done nothing wrong.

This case has already been very costly for McLaren in human terms, it has lost Dave Ryan, the veteran team manager and Ron Dennis, the driving force behind the team for almost 30 years.

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48 Comments
  1. Seymour Quilter says:

    Let’s hope the punishment is a points reduction as it’s always disapponting not to have cars racing on the track. The FIA would be punishing F1 fans if the cars are banned for some races, that’s my opinion.

  2. There is irony in McLaren having to apologise to Max Mosely for bringing the F1 into disrepute.

  3. Neil says:

    I don’t understand why the sponsors are so keen to determine their involvement based on the punishment McLaren receives.

    Surely their decision should consider the actions of the team instead?

  4. Tom Johnson says:

    No evidence at all that this case has cost RD his job/role.

  5. Ross Dixon says:

    Im not liking this one bit. Why is it Mclaren are bringing the sport into disrepute yet when Schumacher parked at Monaco then LIED about it he just got sent to the back. Surely every F1 team has tried to gain an advantage at some point by not telling the truth. Obviously I am a Mclaren Fan and Im not condoning what has happened but surely a sport is all about entertainment. I dont see how a ban is adding to the entertainment value of F1. I hope this doesnt happen.

  6. Finn says:

    From the BBC interview he gave after the race, it looked as though MW (and others) knew about the situation with Trulli and were therefore complicit in the lie.

    Apologising when there is nothing else they can do is one thing. Getting rid of Ryan and Ron might also help. But does it absolve people like Martin and Lewis and any others who may have been in the know?

    I think the team should be thrown out of this year’s WDC but the driver’s points allowed to stand. I think Lewis should be banned for 5 races this season and put on probation of a lifetime ban if any further cases of lying are uncovered.

  7. Boston F1 Fan says:

    - Come on , McMerc. Despite being a fan, I think they should get a severe punishment. What kind of message is it sending to Hamilton-adoring small boys around the world if their world champion is able to get of scott-free because of money?

  8. jed says:

    This is the smartest thing mclaren could do as it may mitigate their penalty.

    The WMSC should hand down a penalty severe enough to ensure that Mclaren would not dare do anymore deliberate acts of bad faith. It seems to me that their 100 million dollar fine for spying was not deterrent enough for them to clean up their act.

    Moreover, will any penalty for mclaren be deterrent enough to clean up their act? Maybe Mclaren are just compulsive cheaters?

    I think a lifetime ban for anyone who participated and/or was part of the lying and the attempt to cover up the lying incident from any form of FIA sanctioned events would be appropriate. No fines needed as the world economy is not so good.

  9. Meeklo says:

    I say take away all constructor and hamilton points earned thus far, leave Kovi’s driver points alone. And put Mclaren in the smallest pitlane garage for the remainder of the season. I think the garage thing was supposed to happen in 2008 as well but got lifted shortly before the start of the season. I think the FIA should enforce it this time.

  10. MangoMan says:

    James: I’d be interested if you could be induced to speculate about where this story came from. The Times are saying they “understand” the above, which I guess means they know it from someone but they’ve had it unattributably. The BBC evidently asked Whitmarsh about it, and quote him as saying “Certainly, there’s been no leak about it from us and I can’t comment on it.”

    So if McLaren haven’t put this story out, who do you suppose might have, and why?

  11. Adrian says:

    Good on Whitmarsh and McLaren. This sensible approach (in contrast to the spygate approach where McLaren was heavily criticised for failure to cooperate with the FIA, as well as their misconduct itself) should rightly count in their favour. I cannot see any logic whatsoever in a heavy punishment for McLaren without a correspondingly heavy punishment for Hamilton, which would be fulfilled for practical purposes by a race ban. But I think things have got to the stage where the FIA can and should let McLaren off with a reasonably light punishment (a modest fine or suspended race ban).

  12. Andy says:

    One thing I would like to point out is that there is clearly a fear that Mclaren will be punished hard, but remember one thing, schumacher parking his ferrari in monaco to deliberately block Alonso’s last flying lap, and what was his punishment? Well, even though he and the team consistenly lied and denied any wrong doing, it was proved otherwise that they were, and what did he get?? Well he got to start the race from the back of the grid and that is it!! What I am most people are annoyed about is that as it is Mclaren, they WILL be punished hard, now the FIA are just childish pathetic body who determine punishment on who the team is, how can they justify a massive punishment after nothing was done to Ferrari?!?! Surely schumacher parking his car impacting another driver is bringing the sport into disrepute?? But they got away with it, now the FIA are backtracking on drivers fees, now they backtrack on allowing drivers saleries outside the budget cap, they are just a bunch of useless idiots who dont deserve to govern the most fantastic sport and spectacle in the world, you know what, the teams should break away from this regime form there own series and install a governing body who know the hell what they are doing..rant over but this thing with Mclaren is just so frustrating and surely Mclaren must feel nothing but grievance towards the FIA, probably because they are so paranoid is why this whole thing started….

  13. Sven says:

    I think this affair has been blown far out of proportion considering previous misbehaviour in GP racing by other parties over the years. True Mc Laren are under probation for the spygate affair for which it was punished far to severely. This time the punishment should be one that does not bring the sport into disrepute. Take away 10 – 20 points for Hamilton and Mc Laren would seem fair to me.

  14. john g says:

    the same allen donnely as gave lewis an unprecedented penalty for his overtake at spa? oh dear…

    as for the penalty for this (caused by spa-gate in the first place)… interesting point of view i came across on the internet:

    Let’s see: how about the most dangerous case of cheating the sport has seen. Benetton removes a filter that has a multiple role as fuel restrictor and safety device. As the driver and pit crew were subjected to painful burns, the others in the pitlane were under threat and the corporate big boys above the pits complex were in extreme danger, it is obviously a big one. So let’s take that fine as the upper limit.

    Is telling a few porkies to the stewards more or less culpable than putting other’s lives and health at risk? I’d suggest not. So let’s say 10%? That seems sensible. And, as there would appear to be no corporate culpability then, given that all the Benetton pit crew must have known what was going on, as well as the team manager (what was his name?) one has to say that one should cut the percentage to, say five.

    On top of that, Benetton changed there story a number of times, five or six I seem to remember. Well, let’s take five as it makes division that much easier. They lied five times, LH and co lied once. One into five leaves 1% of the fine levelled at Benetton for what was the most serious breach of regulations ever in the sport. 1% is easy enough to work out. 1% of £0…
    :)

  15. caanan says:

    Ryan gone, the points from Australia gone, Dennis gone and a full apology from Whitmarsh and Ham… What else does Max want? blood?? I think the punishment for the lie is enough already.

  16. Danilo says:

    I think a hefty punishment is overdue. That’s the second time they’ve been proved of gross misconduct. Just removing Dennis and Ryan (scapegoat anyone?) won’t correct the issue of the teams intrinsic foul ethics. Only a terribly painfull punishment will deter them from trying again. Everything else but a substantial ban will be no more than a slap on the wrist. Schumacher was an individual with foul ethics, this is a whole team with foul ethics, somebody needs to react. An appology, 5 minutes before naked won’t change it. Had that appology been issued in malaysia, I would have taken it for honest, now it’s just another cold-blooded plot to lessen the penalty. McLaren is a bloody disgrace. :-(

  17. EC says:

    Well said, Meeklo !

    Punishment is in order for those who have engaged in misconduct, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t include Kovi.

    I don’t think McLaren deserves ANY lenience for any
    apparent “contrition”. A just verdict will involve penalties for both the McLaren organization and Hamilton, yet avoid penalizing Kovi. It would speak well of the court if they arrive at such a conclusion.

    I think the forced departure of Ryan was the ugliest thing about the whole affair, because ( and I’d bet my last year’s income on this ) I believe that Ryan was far from alone in making the unfortunate choices which led to this situation. Even the mafia has better intra-organizational loyalty than this !
    Either everyone involved should leave Mclaren, or they should all stay and face the music together and not try to make some poor guy ( Ryan ) the sacrificial lamb.

    Of course there has been reprehensible conduct in past F1 events, but this doesn’t mean present events should be treated differently, any more than Bush should be thought of in a less harsh way because of the crimes committed by Nixon. Wrong is wrong, and sport should represent ideals which differ significantly from “win at all costs”.

  18. john g says:

    mangoman: apparently the story was not meant for the general public’s consumption – rather it was leaked.

    the paddocktalk website reckon it was someone within the FIA and that it should be investigated, i don’t think they are their biggest fans…

  19. Treaded Lurgy says:

    Wavering a little of topic – I know everyone harks back to ‘spygate’ – -but surely a certain Italian team with a penchant for the colour red were also a guilty party?
    It’s not as if Ron Dennis donned a stripped sweater, black mask and a bag marked swag and sneaked into Maranello under cover of darkness.
    In simple, black and white layman’s terms: didn’t Nigel Stepney pass the info onto Mike Coughlan and then they both broke the 11th Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Get Caught)?
    The ugly head of Article 151c is raised and slapped bottoms bigtime all round for McLaren from FIA and Jean Todt and chums at are crowing with delight.
    Meanwhile, fast-forward to Dec 2007 and Renault F1 are found to be guilty of breaching Article 151c after McLaren technical info is found on one of their ZX Spectrum’s.
    Result – err…..no punishment.
    Now, can any team hand on heart say they wouldn’t act on any info gained by any means from another team if if gave them an improvement on their car when FIA may or may not punish them?
    I think not.
    Article 151c that FIA love to wave around might have worked in 1960′s and 70′s, but bringing a sport into disrepute that is rapidly becoming a comedy of errors with its rule changes, race results that change after a race and a FIA hierarchy that is extracting the michael big time.
    And no, before anyone asks, I’m not a McLaren fan, nor do I have a rabid hatred of Ferrari – I’ve never had an allegiance to any particular team over 30 years of watching F1 (well maybe Minardi – you gotta love an underdog!) but just enjoy the sport of F1 for what it is, or rather, was.
    The likes of Bruce McLaren, Ken Tyrell , Colin Chapman et al must be spinning in their graves at the state of the ‘sport’ today.

  20. vicweir says:

    We’re perhaps all getting a bit bored with this particular ‘story’ now and maybe losing focus on what MM and Hamilton may be censured for
    1) They lied to the stewards. Observers with years of active participation in F1 have indicated that this is a cardinal sin. Stewards do a difficult and often thankless job. Being lied to creates enormous problems for them and may result in a miscarriage of justice.

    2) The team and its driver seemed prepared to live with the penalising of another innocent team and driver whilst fully aware that they had not committed any offence at all. I don’t know whether Trulli and Toyota have received letters of apology?

    Things are now in a court of law not a stewards’ enquiry, so it’s simply these matters I suppose on which judgement will be given next week: the issue of what happened has been sorted.
    If the punishment is insufficient to deter others from taking similar action in future, well, we might as well dispense with enquiries and hearings and just let the drivers slug it out in the garage afterwards! Which, of course, is not a completely unknown occurrence in F1 in the past but has been thankfully missing for a few years now – unless you know something to the contrary, James!

  21. Sparhawk says:

    I hope for no other punishment than WCC points. Lewis was obeying orders of man who is now fires. McLaren is a great team and should not be destroyed, because Mr. Max hates Mr. Ron. Besides, Mr. Ron is gone. I am tired from politics.

  22. Realyn says:

    Sorry but i think its wrong to bring Schumacher and Monaco up all the time. I would compare Monaco with Alonso blocking Hamilton at Hungary.

    In my Opionon:

    What Schumacher did was wrong, unfair and unethical.
    What Mclaren did was some kind of conspiracy to take Trulli´s place and points.

    I think a WCC ban and a ~5 race ban for Lewis is fair. But please dont punish the whole team and with that Heikki.

  23. knoxploration says:

    James: Does this mean Whitmarsh has admitted that Ryan and Hamilton didn’t act alone? If not, then McLaren are presumably continuing to cling to the ludicrous contention that nobody in the team spoke to Hamilton and Ryan about how to proceed at any point before their second attempt to mislead the stewards.

    If that’s the case, then how does the apology change anything? If, however, they are admitting that others in the team knew and either approved or failed to take action – well that’s really just as bad, because it means Ryan has been made a scapegoat and those above him who approved have gone unpunished.

    If Dennis’ departure is supposed to somehow make up for Ryan and Hamilton having acted with the approval of others in the team, then why has Dennis insisted that his departure had nothing to do with the case, and why have Mclaren not clearly stated that he has left due to the incident?

    Frankly, this situation is still extremely dubious – and the apology (especially being timed at the very last moment before they’re judged) does nothing to change that. It smells very much like Hamilton’s apology – an ill-conceived attempt to wriggle out of responsibility for ones’ own actions and decisions, with the only remorse being for the fact that they were caught and may now pay a steep price.

  24. john g says:

    what i don’t understand is that trulli says lewis overtook him… but never said he went off the road under the safety car. isn’t that as much of a lie as hamiltons?

  25. Raels says:

    So McLaren do what they did in the spy case – write aletter accepting guilt and apologising. I guess that’s the way to stop the investigation to see how far the lie really went….they did this in spygate as well…take the punishment so the world can’t see how bad they really are.

  26. Henrikson says:

    Yes, good clear thinking there. The F1 Championship would be so much better if Hamilton wasn’t around for five races or life
    Why not ban Mclaren entirely?
    *shakes head*

  27. kenny says:

    Perhaps they are concerned about lost exposure. If the cars aren’t on the track, the sponsors aren’t getting their money’s worth.

  28. guy says:

    Now that is a great point!

  29. Peter Freeman says:

    You got that right.

  30. nathan says:

    It’s not a “court of law” though. It just looks like a court of law except that the “judges” are businessmen without law degrees and highly biased to the opinion of the source of where their bungs are coming from that month.

    It’s a court of the FIA, sure. But the fines and punishments it dispenses are simply local to the sports it governs. That is why, for instance, they cannot force Dave Ryan to attend. They have zero power in the real world.

  31. Spike says:

    Why? Because of some spanking? Its not illegal and it has essentially nothing to do with F1. Its his private life and someone filmed him.

  32. LT says:

    Agreed……especially that I don’t see any punishment looming for Flav for his latest rants. If it were Ron, or anyone from McLaren, you can guarantee a ban for the rest of the season.

  33. guy says:

    I’m as much of a fan of spanking as the next man but you seem to overlook he was specifically told not to attend Bahrain last year.

  34. Peter Freeman says:

    Yup!

  35. Peter Freeman says:

    “this doesn’t mean present events should be treated differently”

    Thats EXACTLY what you are calling for! What happened to Ferrari and Schumacher in 2006 at Monaco?

    Ferrari were allowed to score points THAT RACE! No Hearing, no, fine, no banning, not even a further comment! [moderated] Here McLaren are just lying, so there should be LESS punishment not more if we want ‘equal’ punishment as in the past!

  36. Peter Freeman says:

    The same message Ferrari sent [moderated] in Monaco 2006. The punishment then was grid penalty. What is different now? oh yes, this is less serious and its McLaren and not Ferrari. [Peter, please re-read the rules of the blog, this is not a forum for attacking people and using inflamator language, thanks, Mod.]

  37. Peter Freeman says:

    “PaddockTalk Perspective

    In our minds this is obvious, the FIA leaked it to try to make themselves look good.

    As for who exactly within the FIA would break the confidence of McLaren and reveal something that wasn’t meant for public consumption needs to be immediately resolved. The FIA needs to allow FOTA to hire an independent investigator to determine the culprit. This is an extremely serious matter, and the offenders should be hauled before the World Motor Sport Council for actions detrimental to the sport of Formula One for their dis-honorable actions which have tarnished the sport beyond repair.”

  38. Indeed – I think it was Jonathan Legard on the BBC who noted that Dennis’ announcement came precisely three months to the day after his announcement that he would be making way for Whitmarsh.

    This chimes so well with everything we are told about the Dennis personality that it’s frankly more credible to believe he would have ignored current events and marched on regardless than changed his plans an inch to suit Anthony Hamilton or the FIA.

    However this fact, failing as it does to fit in with the popular narrative, has remained distinctly under-reported…

  39. jed says:

    if found guilty lewis hamilton should be banned for life from any FIA sporting event together with everybody in mclaren mercedes who took part or knew about it.

    Everyone in F1 should be role models as it is the pinnacle of motorsports. There should be no place for liars and cheats.

    A severe penalty will also deter future violators. 100 million dollars was not enough to deter mclaren from cheating again. A lifetime ban is the only credible penalty available.

  40. James Allen says:

    More will come on on precisely what the guilty plea means, but I think you can take it that others were involved.

  41. MartinWR says:

    knoxploration sums it up pretty succinctly. I’m just interested to see if the Court, which of course isn’t a court of law, is taken in by Hamilton’s antics in clinging to the Nuremberg Defence. Perhaps the Nuremberg Defence, which would be laughed out of court in a proper legal scenario, will be not be recognised for what it is in this setting. Nothing will surprise me, I’ve long since ceased to be amazed at anything that happens nowadays.

  42. MartinWR says:

    Agreed, and the idea that the “apology” should make the slightest difference is a joke. A serious and proven fraud has taken place, involving championship points valued at millions. It is in addition to yet another catalogue of lies, and lies which clearly would never, ever, have been retracted had it not absolutely been impossible finally for McLaren to deny them.

    I am reminded in respect to Hamilton’s lying of what President Truman said: “The buck stops here”. In a sporting sense that is the position that the world champion is in, and the idea that he should not be severely punished, that the blame for what he has done can be offloaded onto others is untenable. Or at least in a sane world it would be.

    I just wonder how long it will take before someone finds an ingenious way of blaming Ferrari for McLaren’s latest pathetic misadventure. And of course, I know just the man to do it! Watch this space!

  43. rpaco says:

    Lewis is not being charged with anything individually, only the team is being charged.

  44. DC says:

    Does that mean we should strip Schumacher of his world titles and discard his entire career?

    Why is it this event is so much more serious in some peoples eyes than events that have gone before? I think the elevation of this issue by the FIA has clouded peoples judgement.

    You must look at past incidents as this is not the only case of misleading stewards. It has happened before.

    They did wrong, they lost points. Case closed….Next Race please!

  45. rpaco says:

    Fred karno’s circus!

  46. DC says:

    Realyn Wrote: “What Schumacher did was wrong, unfair and unethical. What Mclaren did was some kind of conspiracy to take Trulli´s place and points.”

    I’m afraid I have to dissagree with you I believe they are very comparable incidents. There was a team decision taken to lie to the stewards in both events…so if you are going to call the McClaren issue a conspiracy then the Ferrai issue was as well.

    In fact the actual on track issue in Australia was a non issue, it was just that McClaren lied to try and gain their place back that was the problem. When Ferrai lied in Monaco it was to conceal an on track attempt to cheat! So that was a far worse situation in my opinion. Yet all Ferrai had was their driver starting from the back of the grid!

    It is the disproportionate punishments that are being mentioned here that astonishes me. And calling for a ban of any kind is way over the top.

  47. kenny says:

    Trulli did say, many times, that he went off, although he didn’t have to because everyone saw him go off.

    He also said, many times, that he passed Hamilton only because Hamilton slowed and pulled over- Trulli thought Hamilton had a problem.

    Trulli is, as far as I can tell, blameless in all this.

  48. vicweir says:

    Yes, of course you’re right, Nathan, re. the ‘court of law’, and more’s the pity that its powers are limited in this way and that Dave Ryan may not attend simply because he no longer is employed by MM.
    This ‘assembly’ will be dealing, I imagine, with the issue of cheating, not a re-run of the stewards enquiry which established and re-dressed/punished the facts as discovered at the time.

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