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Scenes from the Sepang paddock
Posted By:   |  02 Apr 2009   |  11:35 am GMT  |  46 comments

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).
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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.

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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.

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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…

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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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46 Comments
  1. Aaron James says:

    I did find it strange McLaren went for two print journos (Bishop and Cooper) for their PR when their biggest PR gaffs all revolved around stories exploding on the internet.

    Have McLaren sounded you out yet James? :)

    Heck, their PR is still awful, they could use some more help.

  2. Martin P says:

    Forget the BBC, I want Spanish F1 coverage!

  3. Matthew Villari says:

    “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..”

    Don’t worry Lewis. It will be the rain on sunday that will allow to get your points back and do what you do best and be the world champion that you are.

  4. Peter says:

    Hamilton the new Schumacher then? Certainly he’s shown the ruthlessness of the great German.

  5. Peter says:

    Kimi is another “competitive animal” probably the fastest, but also very straight talking and honest.

  6. martin says:

    Very interesting article, its nice to hear the background to the stories rather than just the news. I wasn’t the biggest fan of your commentating but I really enjoy the blog.

    Keep up the good work, I hope to read many more great articles over the course of the season.

  7. Sublimeuk says:

    Congratulations to Fernando Alonso for winning the Australian GP, with Buemi getting second on his debut, fantastic! That’s assuming of course that the diffuser appeal is successful.

    In fact the final podium should have been Alonso, Buemi and Bourdais with Sutil fourth. A great result, but one that has no bearing on what actually took place on the track last Sunday.

    Will there be any more Melbourne result changes before we have to start dealing with revised race results after Sepang? Why don’t they decide the championship now with a lucky draw, then let them all go racing for the sake of racing and whoever crosses the line first gets one of Bernie’s nice gold medals but just not any points. Perhaps then the fun will return to the sport!

  8. OgRib says:

    When I first read about a new stewards investigation yesterday, I thought it was another April 1 prank. Unfortunately here we are again.

    I don’t know who I’m more disappointed in – McLaren/Hamilton for letting Yarno take the original penalty, or the stewards for not doing a good enough job last Sunday.

    Thanks for this blog, and all the great news & background, you’ve quickly become my number 1 source for F1 news and finally made me sign up for Twitter.

  9. Ray says:

    You’re absolutely spot on James – I was going to post a very similar (though less eloquent) comment on another message board.

    If anything, Lewis will go *up* in my estimation IF he is proven to have deliberately mislead them (not saying he has!), just like Alonso did with his antics in 2007. This sort of competitive fire and use of possibly dubious tactics is what separates characters like Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher and Senna from the similarly talented but less agressive and scheming competitors like Kimi, Hakkinen, Hill and the like.

    They will do anything to gain an advantage – it’s what makes them the best.

    So, if it’s true, he’s now showing himself to be undoubtedly made of the same stuff as them .

  10. Colin says:

    “…Rain like that on Sunday would stop the race”

    At the start of the monsoon it comes in fits and starts; so the more it rains today, Friday, and Saturday, the LESS likely it is to rain during the race itself.

  11. David Ciaravolo says:

    Great job covering this issue James, youre the best, every detail right down to the woman in black!
    (it was the first question that came to mind ;) )

  12. Moog says:

    I can see this only doing harm to the approachability of the drivers. Over the last few years we have seen very corporate and measured responses from drivers with fewer and fewer giving their own opinion (God bless DC, Webber et al).

    Lewis was never that open to begin with and this can only drive him further in to a void of openness.

  13. Colin S says:

    Another fantastic item, thanks! I guess you were far too busy with ITV to do blogs like this but I think this is becoming every F1 fans first port of call for good F1 journalism.

    It certainly beats the ‘rehashed press release’ items that pass for journalism on some other F1 news sites I could mention.

  14. Daniel says:

    Great reporting James. Your site is fast becoming the best for F1 news. :)

  15. gazzap says:

    Button is right about the closest challengers. Mclaren might get there later in the season but for now they are the best teams.

    Hamilton needs to move his head on from this one and take it on the chin.

  16. Frenchie says:

    Thank for letting us know about the woman in black James. :-)

    I am very surprised that McLaren never seem to learn any lessons. Hungary 2007 does not seem very far away…

  17. Damien says:

    Thanks for the background to this story James.The vultures are already circiling above mclaren it would seem. All said I can’t help feeling that controversary (& confusion) right at the start of the season is not the way F1 needs to be seen.
    And thanks for filling us in on the lady form spanish tv……I was just about to ask!!!

  18. James Lindfield says:

    Hi James — The level of detail you go down to is absolutely brilliant! The F1, BBC & ITV websites skip the detail and only report the outcome – Kudos to you!

    I read about Hamilton with mixed emotions. Having been an avid Jenson Button fan for the last 10 years (or there abouts) it was a tough pill to swallow when Lewis sprung onto the scene in one of the best cars on the Grid – all the media attention was his – and Jense was left in the doldrums.

    Pesonally, I hope to see a close battle between Jenson and Lewis. Having met JB – he’s a really genuine, down to earth bloke who says it as it is… I don’t think the same can be said of Hamilton.

    Lets see the drivers fighting hard for the points and not stealing them off of each other, getting DQ’s and making a mockery of the sport just as it’s re-gaining it’s lost fan-base – If Lewis has a poor car he needs to learn to persevere like Jenson, Alonso, Ralph etc etc had too during there dark hours…

    Do you think that one day we will see them both in the same car? Who would your money be on?

  19. Lesley Parker says:

    Thanks for your blog and twitter – it’s certainly cheering up my workday. Sorry about the rain, we’ve got glorious sunshine here in Wales.
    I was wondering if I could make a suggestion? We get to know something of the personnel of the teams and of course the drivers, but as things are going for this season do you think that you could provide us with info on the lawyers? It looks like that they are in danger of becoming a very important of winning points in grand prixs.

  20. Nick_K says:

    I have met Lewis he was really nice he seemed really genuine and down to earth bloke to me. Got to say Lewis and Mclaren really messed this one up.

  21. Alex says:

    Stewards are pathetic. And i’m sorry this incident isn’t remotely comparable Schumacher (Deliberately crashing into someone, parking your car in the middle of the track) This was a misunderstanding and should have been classified Trulli 3rd, Hamilton 4th. Another bleak day for F1.

  22. Vince says:

    Hey James,

    Has anyone ever told you that you bear a slight resemblance
    to Simon Cowell?? (actually you might pass for his brother)

  23. murray says:

    Like Playstation and XBox race games that have “ghost” modes, it’s time to start showing championship graphs with ghosts. The official ones with the points as they’re assessed after the arbitrary “sporting” system – sorry, Freudian slip, the ARBITRATION system, has finished with them, and the ghost showing where drivers and teams finished on the track. I wonder which one would attract more attention?

  24. Josh says:

    Nice one James, another great article – I really enjoy reading your blog. :)

  25. guy says:

    Great stuff James, thank you.

    I have now listened to the radio communications on the fia website and read the press release.

    Even as a hamilton fan I have to say he didn’t tell the truth. Very upset with him.

    Yours trulli

    guy

  26. monktonnik says:

    Funnily enough I was looking at the last picture thinking “I wonder what James Allen’s e-mail address is and if he knows who the girl in the black is”.

    Speaking as a Button and Schumacher fan I don’t mind what the reason for or outcome of this issue is, but it does seem that the stewards have an issue with Hamilton and Mclaren. Whether he mislead the stewards or not, Trulli past when behind a safety car, and Hamilton didn’t go off the track or have a problem. Allowing people to pass because someone else has backed off rather negates the point of the safety car. Will the second place man be allowed to pass the leader if he is backing the pack up prior tp a restart?

    If you ask me Vettel cruising round the track with a wheel hanging off should have been the major story here. Even though he was penalised for a crash which I believed at the time was a racing incident, he really should have been given a penalty for not pulling over (which I believe is the rule) rather than coasting a damaged car, presumably to avoid losing more places, or being classified as a lap further on than when he stopped. It shows how calculating and focused all good racing drivers have to be.

  27. Mooks says:

    I can only see one guarenteed person to benefit from the Australian GP, Bernie.

    I bet he’s going to be lapping up all the media attention, I bet his accountants are loving this too..

    Lets get the lottery machine transported to each race, and write all the drivers names on the balls, and draw them out, then change their minds and re-draw them.

    Seriously though, I do hope, and suspect, this doesn’t happen throughout the season, I want some top notch racing!

  28. Boston F1 Fan says:

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/74159

    - Here’s a transcript of McLaren’s radio chatter. All those codes are fascinating; James, do you know what “Black Foxtrot 2″ and “delta” and “Yellow G6″ mean?

  29. PaulL says:

    OK Explain this:

    Martin Whitmarsh: “…there was no evidence from the data that Lewis did anything that induced Trulli to go past.”

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

    LH: OK.

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

    Team: 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.

    Hamilton admitted letting Trulli past, so why is Whitmarsh arguing that Hamilton didn’t do anything to induce Trulli to go pasts??

  30. Dave in NZL says:

    The Lady in Black’s name is Laia Ferrer.

    Enjoy your googling/oogling.

  31. Alvin K says:

    I won’t attend anymore races as I can get the “actual” race results (which is the correct one) from the race stewards about a week after..saves money, time, effort and hair..

  32. M__E says:

    Before you ask, the woman in the black outfit works for Spanish TV

    classic pre empting comment james!

  33. shaun says:

    sorry james, the petition to get you back on the bbc have probably gone second to getting the spanish reporter there!!!

  34. Andy Fov says:

    … Except he hasn’t gained an advantage. He’s turned 5 justly earned points into a debatably earned zero.

    Being ruthless to the point of it being counter-productive is not a good trait.

  35. Rich says:

    A “Competative Animal” isn’t enough though is it? You need a lot of heart and a ruthless edge to be the best – and although it doesn;t make him the most likeable guy in the pitlane you’ve got to admit Lewis has both those things in spades.

  36. Matthew says:

    Transcript here of Lewis’ radio conversation with McLaren.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/74159

    I don’t see any deciept in here, just outright confusion! This changes my personal view of the matter. But I don’t know everything.

    It seems at this point that the FIA, have once again, over reacted.

  37. Martin P says:

    Too bloody right. Unless you’ve got a black dress?

  38. George says:

    Hahaha

    @Martin P: That would definitely add to the spectacle of F1

  39. Martin P says:

    Max might like it too.

  40. Moog says:

    On a similar note, look here for a breakdown on the 2009 results using the various points systems:
    http://www.nuke.hidefrom.me.uk/F1.pdf

    However it doesn’t show the ‘ghost’ points that could have been :)

  41. Ray says:

    True – but we all have to make mistakes to learn stuff.

    In time he’ll work out just like Schumacher did just when, where and how to play games AND get away with it. MS got away with punting Hill off in 94, but didn’t with JV in 97. Then he became smart and spent years getting the team and their alleged not inconsiderable influence within the FIA to do his work for him.

    Hamilton will learn how the politics of F1 work with time, and how to use them to his advantage – that’s the area he must improve.

    For anyone who thinks such behaviour is outrageous or unsporting, well, that’s sport.

  42. George says:

    The team got fined for telling Vettel to carry on with his wheel hanging off, I wouldn’t be surprised if that contributed to his 10 place grid penalty either (unofficially at least).

  43. F1 fan says:

    Results for the races before the appeal will stand. So result will stay as it is…unless something else comes up.

  44. Karlos says:

    “It certainly beats the ‘rehashed press release’ items that pass for journalism on some other F1 news sites I could mention.”

    Sooo true! The next Q&A rehash I see, i’ll hire someone to stitch up Max again … lol!

  45. murray says:

    Ta Dave!

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