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.