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McLaren race on as ban is suspended
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McLaren race on as ban is suspended
Posted By:   |  29 Apr 2009   |  3:01 pm GMT  |  29 comments

The FIA World Motor Sport Council announced at lunchtime today after a brief hearing in Paris that McLaren will not be forced to miss any races this season, nor will it lose any constructors’ championship points. Instead it has decided to suspend the sentence it planned to hand down, namely a three race ban.

Interestingly, given that this is the second time in two years that McLaren has faced disrepute charges, the suspension is for a period of one year. It’s hard to imagine that they would do anything like this again – and the team was at pains to show that it has changed culture with the departure of Ron Dennis and Dave Ryan and the appointment of a new chairman, Richard Lapthorne, from industry.

The FIA statement reads,

“Having regard to the open and honest way in which McLaren Team Principal, Mr Martin Whitmarsh, addressed the WMSC and the change in culture which he made clear has taken place in his organisation, the WMSC decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate.

whitm-pressure
“That penalty is a suspension of the team from three races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. This will only be applied if further facts emerge regarding the case or if, in the next 12 months, there is a further breach by the team of article 151c of the International Sporting Code.”

McLaren and Lewis Hamilton were disqualified from the fourth place they attained at the Australian Grand Prix, where the lying incident in the stewards’ room occured.

Whitmarsh wrote to the FIA pleading guilty to all charges last weekend. He is determined to get away from the polemics of the Dennis era and the antagonistic way the team dealt with the FIA.

In light of all that has happened between the FIA and McLaren since it first came to light that the team had a 700 page Ferrari dossier in its possession, it now feels as though things have calmed down. McLaren has a good chance of fighting for the drivers’ world championship this year. Lewis Hamilton has only 9 points to Jenson Button’s 31, but his car is improving very quickly. With the five points he lost in Melbourne, he would be on 14 with three quarters of the season to go. As it is, I think he can fight for the title this year.

As for the damage to Hamilton’s reputation, he has gone down in many people’s estimation over the incident. It was a lose-lose for him as one the one hand he looks bad because he lied to the stewards, allegedly because he was told to by the team. On the other hand, by doing what he was told, he appears to be a product of the team and not his own man. He has to just park it and move on, there’s nothing he can do about it now, but I’d expect him to act more individually in the future.

No doubt to reach this verdict there has been some horse trading behind the scenes in terms of commitments that Dennis will never return and that his influence is negated, despite retaining a 15% shareholding in the company. And I wonder if there was some dealing on the proposed budget cap as well. We are due to find out more about that at some point soon.

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29 Comments
  1. *Paul_W* says:

    I find it hard to stomach McLaren walking from this very serious offence without more of a punishment. Especially on the back of what happened with StepneyGate. Essentially the punishment is disqualification from the race, which to put that in some context is the same punishment for passing the pitlane exit when the light is on red (when you’re not driving into them!), or using illegal fuel (be it in error or on purpose).

    Perhaps McLaren fans will stop crying foul all the time given that the FIA has let them off without race or driver bans twice for serious offences. It makes the punishments handed out to the likes of BAR and Benetton look incredibly harsh.

    I can’t help but feel that the scapegoat tactics by McLaren have worked beautifully for them, I for one would have handed a single race ban out to Hamilton and also a ban on constructor points for a couple of races (afterall Heikki played no part in this grubby ring of lies).

  2. Steve says:

    Thank goodness this whole debacle has been resolved without further penalty and Hamilton can get on with racing.

    By leaving him still in a position to have a go at retaining the championship the whole team will continue to push as hard as they have been with the by product being that we get to see even more amazing race days.

  3. Andy Whyte says:

    So weeks and pages of controversy tarnishing the sport by bad, and negative press was all for what? Nothing. No punishment given and looking at the predictions prior to the hearing they were correct so why did they need to drag it out so long?

    I’m a Mclaren fan and I thought all along the entire debacle (whilst not right) had been blown way out of proportion, and that the punishment they originally faced of a points deduction was more than worthy of the crime. But the morons at the FIA dragged the sport itself down the gutter by creating a big issue that never should have been.

    Justice for Mclaren in an event that would never have happened in my opinion if the FIA weren’t unfairly bias towards Mclaren in previous seasons forcing Mclaren into a frame of mind where they were over cautious and thus let Glock back past.

  4. koord says:

    Indeed McLaren should be careful, otherwise FIA will make them apologize again. Wow, what humiliation!

    Reminds me of one suspended ban concerning seasons 2007 and 2008 in another saga a while back. Well, further evidence was found back then and the ban was supposed to be applied… except that McLaren apologized and got away with it.

    Wonderful sport when you can cheat as much as you want and get away with it just by finding a scapegoat and apologizing?

  5. pn says:

    I’ve been a McLaren fan since the Prost & Lauda years and have always had hugh respect for Don Dennis and what he’s achieved since merging his Project 4 team with Teddy Mayers McLaren. But following on from the horror of 2007 and this verdict I’m feeling nearly as much relief as regret that Ron has stepped aside.
    Having previously felt he carried much of the blame for the MP4-18/MP4-19 fiasco and Adrian Neweys departure Matrin Whitmarsh has in the last few weeks gone way up in my estimation. This feels like the beginning of a new era. I’m looking forward to the races now, rather then dreading the next fight with Max and his cronies.

  6. Rich says:

    Just saw Mosley’s reaction on the BBC. He doesn’t pull any punches does he?

    I was half expecting him to begin burning an effigy or Ron Dennis or at least defacing one. [moderated]

  7. Caron says:

    So they’ve had the equivalent of having their heads rumpled and told to be good boys in the future. How can the FIA have any credibility at all if it lets people off for breaching the basic standards of sportsmanlike and decent behaviour?

    Do you think that if the economy had been in a better situation, they would have had more of a punishment, particularly with the Mercedes situation? Have they been allowed to walk away unscathed so that this doesn’t drag on and affect any sponsors they are trying to attract?

  8. Andy Whyte says:

    Oops I meant Trulli Past not Glock :)
    Glock and letting people passed results in goodness.
    Trulli and letting people passed results in badness. :P

  9. Nick Gilmartin says:

    I think they got off very lightly under the circumstances.

    A lot of credit for this goes to Martin Whitmarsh who is doing much to change McLaren’s cavalier attitude to FIA regulations.

    Credit also goes to Lewis, basically a decent lad, who made a personal and unreserved apology for his conduct.

    None of the FIA punishment will affect McLaren’s attempts to defend their world title.

    Now all they need is a competitive car. Over to you, Martin..

    http://nickgilmartin.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/lewis-hamilton-its-a-suspended-three-race-ban/

  10. Steve says:

    I do agree that this punishment is perhaps inconsistent with how severely Benneton and BAR were treated for their rule breaking a few years ago..

    However, I think this is sensible. Lets not forget that Hamilton and Mclaren were penalised – they were kicked out of the Australian GP results. I think everyone can see that Mclaren have made changes now and this kind of event is unlikely to happen again. This said, this seems the most appropriate punishment, and we can all get back to enjoying the racing on the track, and not the politics off of it!

  11. EC says:

    The facts remain : Hamilton is a liar, some at McLaren management are liars, and McLaren are
    the sort who willingly give the shaft to a loyal employee in an attempt to divert blame from the rest of the organization ( this last is in my view the
    worst of all their conduct ).

    I understand McLaren’s behavior. Money is all that matters to them. They might claim they care about
    “winning”, but when you’ve won by cheating, all you’ve won is money, and nothing more.

    What I fail to understand is how anyone other than a stockholder can continue to be a fan of Mclaren. How can anyone believe such conduct as McLaren have recently exhibited is worthy of adulation ?

    I don’t care who wins the F1 championship this year, as long as someone beats McLaren. At that point, justice will have been served.

  12. Martin P says:

    Yes, they lied.

    Yes, it’s a crime against the sporting ethic.

    Yes, they got a relatively light sentence in punitive terms.

    But there’s no doubt in my mind that the three key protagonists (Hamilton, Ryan and “Management”) will all feel the effects very personally for a long time to come.

    More importantly, there are many many jobs at stake at McLaren, Mercedes’ engine division and umpteen other suppliers. No one in their right mind would want to see these men and women out of work because of a silly (but huge) mistake.

    This was a good decision by the FIA. It gives Mercedes a reason to stay, McLaren a reason to race and the fans a further reason to watch this season unfurl.

    Let’s just hope no one comes forward with an e-mail showing Whitmarsh was in on the discussions though!!

  13. Caanan says:

    Time for Mclaren to start a new chapter and learn from this. Seems Martin and crew are eager to do this, and I see no reason as to why they won’t. Looking forward to watching the next race, knowing the points Mclaren earn will actually count for something.

  14. jon says:

    Here Here!!!!

    Finally the FIA see some sense and stop shooting themselves in the foot

    Yes, McLaren lied, and so did Lewis – but this is sport guys, and top sports people will always look for an unfair advantage

    Just look at all them pansy over-paid footballers who fall around or dive in an effort to win free kicks – that is blantent cheating, yet they never get fined or kicked out of championships

    So, finally, we can get on with some bloody good racing in 2009 without all the daft politics!

    Come’ on Jenson!

  15. vicweir says:

    How to effect a change of culture…..

    2007
    MM cheated? ( who spied?)
    MM lied (or failed to investigate their own team properly?)
    Whitmarsh didn’t know anything about it
    Whitmarsh aologised for what he didn’t know anything about
    Up-shot -enormous fine

    2009
    MM cheated (against Toyota)
    MM lied (certain)
    Whitmarsh didn’t know anything about it
    Whitmarsh apologised for what he didn’t know anything about
    Up-shot – lost a few points

    Now Martin Whitmarsh says that he’s “optimistic they can play an increasingly competetive part” in the season.

    There’s a relief to us all.

    Go Jenson!!!

  16. tom johnson says:

    EC – ‘Hamilton’s lying’ is regrettable but understandable as you well know.
    If anything it shows his humility: here’s a guy who is indispensable ‘box office,’ has far more power within the sport and at Mclaren than Ryan yet he’s prepared to compromise his integrity when requested by his boss because he’s a team player.

    Now that’s humble which is a much more endearing human quality than sanctimony EC.

  17. malcom says:

    Draconian penalties should be administered by the FIA when cheating occur’s, which could lead to serious injury. i.e…In 1994 a Benetton crew member removed a fuel filter from the hose that nearly incinerated Jos Verstappen…and…At Monaco in 2006, Michael Schumacher’s antics could have led to serious injury during qualifying.

    Lewis Hamilton’s lying to Race Stewards doesn’t meet that criteria.

  18. Stuart says:

    The FIA/Max got what they have wanted for a long time, Ron out of F1….lets hope they can now focus on getting their own house in order….let’s get some competent Stewards at races so that race outcomes are decided on the track not in back rooms by people with their own agenda.

  19. JohnBt says:

    That’s politics, imagine sponsors leaving Mclaren, not good for business. For sure Hamilton will be very careful with upcoming races. They will be marked heavily by stewards for sure. Will this take off the sparks of Hamilton. Now with the swine flu, hope Spain will not be affected. Messy world we live in.

  20. wow…really helpful post, thanks for sharing.

  21. James says:

    I agree with Paul W’s sentiments but personally I can’t think of a better outcome. McLaren definitely lied and misled, and they got off light for it. However a heavier sanction would have ‘brought the sport into (further) disrepute’ in my opinion.

    I think ‘stepneygate’ was punished too harshly, and shouldn’t hang over this suspended sentence as a ‘prior’. Also, I think the scapegoat tactics Paul refers to have had real outcomes and are not to be underestimated. Ron Dennis is no middle management man to have scapegoated.

    It’s all ugly but I think this outcome is the best way to move forward without making matters even worse.

  22. Charlie says:

    Ferrari lied at Rascasse-gate even when telemetry proved they were wrong – exactly the same situation in many respects – and they weren’t even disqualified or given a suspended sentence, just demoted to the back of the grid.

    That puts it into context quite well I think.

  23. F1 fan says:

    I agree with all of this. Nobody can say the FIA are against McLaren, they could have done whatever they wanted then and made it sound reasonable, but they didn’t.

    If the FIA were biased to something it would be the team (or driver) who is the underdog for the championship. I don’t think it was biased but there was Lewis in 07, Massa in 08 and now McLaren in 09.

    The best thing is Heikki isn’t punished, he didn’t do anything wrong and just kept his mouth shut (something that Lewis has been doing more of now).

    I did expect a penalty because of the reputation of the team now, not just this incident.

    Also, the chance of McLaren doing anything wrong again soon is very low. They should have learnt their lesson, and if they haven’t then they are seriouly stupid.

  24. John Kilmartin says:

    Not a McLaren fan then?

    I don’t think letting prejudice determine ones stance has any value.

    You choose to believe something different from the FIA. The penalties are based on the known facts not random speculation from prejudiced “fans” of other teams.

  25. EC says:

    “I don’t think letting prejudice determine ones stance has any value.”

    Unless it allows one to excuse Hamilton’s lying,
    of course.

    Isn’t that right, Mr. Kilmartin ?

  26. George says:

    I guess no one else on the grid has ever told a porkie either? Oh, and you forgot to mention the employee they shafted was a liar as well.

    The right verdict was achieved in my opinion, I think the original punishment fit the crime, and this will hopefully prevent McLaren from going down this path again, at least for a while. Getting Ron Dennis out of the equation will probably be good for the team as well, in the long run.

  27. LT says:

    No, the fact this whole thing went this far shows the bias against McLaren. How come there was never such a fuss over Ferraris cheating in the past? Illegal parts (Malaysia 99), illegal overtaking (Hungary 06), illegal parking (Monaco 06), and by their own lawyers admission, a not entirely legal car over the last decade or so.

  28. *Paul_W* says:

    To the best of my knowledge this was never actually proven, Schumacher was thrown to the back of the grid (at a track where overtaking is pretty much impossible) on the basis that they thought he’d done something but had no concrete evidence (IIRC the telemetry didn’t prove anything in regards of a deliberate move!). I could be wrong though…

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