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Why Hamilton will not be banned
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Why Hamilton will not be banned
Posted By:   |  03 Apr 2009   |  2:21 am GMT  |  0 comments

There is some very strong criticism of Lewis Hamilton and McLaren in the media today, a wave of hysteria in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s punishment for ‘deliberately misleading’ the stewards.

It has been written in some quarters that Hamilton could be banned for some races by the World Motor Sport Council, which is due to meet in June. An emergency meeting could be called sooner. An FIA spokesman has hinted that there could well be further repercussions for McLaren and Hamilton, “Given the seriousness of this matter, we cannot rule out further action at this stage.”

This situation reminds me a bit of Jerez in 1997. Michael Schumacher smashed into Jacques Villenueve in an attempt to win the world title. He failed and there was a general outcry for him to be banned from the first few races of 1998.

Instead he was thrown out of the 1997 results, the idea being that it set a precedent for the future to ensure that no-one would try that kind of thing again, knowing that the penalty was disqualification from that year’s championship.

At the time it was made quite clear by Bernie Ecclestone that there was no way F1 was going to start the 1998 season without its main box office draw. It would be commercial suicide and the same applies today. Schumacher was not prevented from racing and nor will Hamilton be a no-show at races later this year. Both have suffered a stain on their image as a result of the events. In Schumacher’s case, he never managed to shake it off.

But Hamilton might be given a suspended ban, in other words if he steps out of line again, the ban will kick in. Another whacking great fine for the team is not to be ruled out either. Here in Malaysia the perception of the foreign (ie no-British) media is also that McLaren have been stupid and that this is a serious matter. The other teams feel broadly the same way. In other words, it’s more or less unanimous.

Hamilton was the victim of muddled thinking and poor communication over the radio from his team. He knew he was in the right, passing Trulli when the Toyota was off the track and the team confused the issue. However the problem came in the stewards room and afterwards, when he and McLaren were happy to let Trulli take the rap and lose the 6 points for passing Hamilton behind the safety car.

It’s really surprising that they didn’t think this one through. Once the story about Hamilton telling reporters he had been told to let Trulli through broke late on Sunday night and others including myself here on this blog, referred to it on Monday, the team should then have voluntarily gone to the FIA and said that there had been a mistake. They would have stayed 4th, where Hamilton finished.

I don’t buy all this “McLaren were being paranoid about FIA” stuff, if that was truly the motivation for telling him to let Trulli past, then surely they would have wanted to be be whiter than white on Monday and explained that there had been a cock up on the radio, not Trulli’s fault, give Trulli his points back.

In the current climate, where the teams are trying to make a go of the association known as FOTA and to face up to the FIA and Ecclestone for control of the future of the sport, this would have been a fantastic opportunity to do something truly sporting, a sign of solidarity and brotherhood with Toyota, who were blameless in this. It’s the fact that they were happy for Toyota to suffer that makes it inexplicable to me.

Since FOTA held that press conference in Geneva, we have had the points system being changed twice, a €30 million budget cap being voted in, both McLaren and Toyota being shown up in the first race, Toyota for having an illegal rear wing, McLaren for misleading the stewards. We have three teams protesting three other teams which is going to drag out to an appeal….. and the season has only just started!

The spirit of brotherhood and togetherness is being severely tested. “FOTA.. Shmota”, as Bernie put it.

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  1. Matthew Villari says:

    why would hamilton be chucked out? Was alonso chucked out after lying to the stewards in hungary 2007? Maybe he should be under a suspended ban. The whole thing is a joke James, you can’t honestly tell me that the feeling is anything different in the sepang paddock, and that the teams are happy for the FIA to constantly interfere with things.

  2. Paul says:

    Where are the transcripts of what happened in the initial Stewards meeting?

    A lot of people want to see “the lie”, not car radio transcripts or TV interviews which everyone (accept some stewards it seems) was aware of so shortly after the race.

    Is there anger with the stewards in the padock?. Given that Trulli and Hamliton’s accounts allegedly did not match it seems absurd that they made the original decision without seeking further evidence then and there?

    Is there any sense that the stewards current actions are to distract from their own poor standards in Australia by putting all the blame on McLaren.

    There seems to have been a lot of incompetence in Melbourne, from McLaren giving Lewis bad advice to the stewards who seemingly couldn’t be bothered to properly investigate a situation.

    To think that all this stemmed from two drivers trying to do the right thing in confusing circumstances only makes it seem all the more absurd.

  3. Bjorn Schultheiss says:

    Personally I think this is a big overeaction, and I am no Hamilton fan.

    I think it would have been better dealt with if the stewards never interferred and the positions Trulli 3, Hamilton 4 sayed as they were at the end of the race.

    The only reason Mclaren lied was due to the competitive nature of the sport which is to win.
    You can’t really say they we’re unsportsmen-like when that is the ultimate goal.

  4. George says:

    James, do you think the team told him to change his story for the stewards or can we lay this at his doorstep? The interview with speed TV is about the frankest I’ve heard him talk, which suggests that they hadn’t been told what he could say then, I imagine the team didn’t see that interview themselves (at least not before the meeting with the stewards), so maybe they were unaware he’d already contradicted what they were then telling him to say?

    I’m not saying he’s innocent in this, I dont think he’s so dependant on the team that he cant think for himself, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the mastermind, yet he seems to be getting a lot of the blame.

    Apart from that, what do you think of the penalty? Disqualification for an off-track incident seems a bit misdirected to me.

  5. George says:

    “I don’t buy all this “McLaren were being paranoid about FIA” stuff, if that was truly the motivation for telling him to let Trulli past, then surely they would have wanted to be be whiter than white on Monday and explained that there had been a cock up on the radio, not Trulli’s fault, give Trulli his points back.”
    Just listened to the team radio again, the first time Lewis reports what happens he just says ‘Trulli has gone wide’, then he corrects himself later and says he went off track. If the team take what he said originally as truth then they were correct in telling him to let Trulli past. So at least on the track there was no malice in their action.

    With regards to whether they should have come forward on monday, obviously that’s difficult to say not being a part of the team, from what they’ve said though it seems that they assumed the stewards had heard their radio records and nevertheless come to the conclusion to penalise Jarno. Also after the race Lewis spoke to a BBC reporter assuming that we’d heard his radio conversation, so they probably thought with the new regulations it was common knowledge (remember McLaren are one of the teams that are changing over from a private radio this year).

  6. Tom Millard says:

    “He knew he was in the right, passing Trulli when the Toyota was off the track and the team confused the issue. However the problem came in the stewards room and afterwards, when he and McLaren were happy to let Trulli take the rap and lose the 6 points for passing Hamilton behind the safety car.”

    Summed it up perfectly there, James. Why risk the trying to pull a fast one after they have been humiliated by the FIA so publicly over the last couple of years. Having said that I’d say that this act of disingeuity pales in comparison with Schumacher’s antics at Rascasse in 2006. Where were the FIA’s radio audits then? Schuey was given a slap on the wrist and a grid demotion but I don’t recall Todt/Brawn having to answer to anyone from the governing body.

    Thanks for all your insights, James. Any continuing updates on the weather would be much appreciated as well. (FWIW, Autosport are reporting that BMW have joined the party in protesting against the ‘dodgy diffusers’. Never too late for the Germans to jump on the bandwagon!)

  7. M__E says:

    McLaren were COMPLETELY wrong to do what they did, but F1 being a business and all I can see why they did it, they had an awfull qualifying session and were not going to get anything tangible out of the race for the championship.

    So they hedge their bets when the opportunity arrises, and shaft trulli and Toyota in the process…ruthless..but thats the nature of the beast. As they see it (and I commend their optomism!) is that those points could be vital at the end of the championship.

    But like all greed (not content with their miraculous 4th pos in race they push their look and loose everything, doesnt really stack up with the get as many points now philosophy. instead of 6 bullet proof ones, they opt for 8 very shady ones…and Karma comes back to haunt them..

  8. Michel says:

    Alonso blocked his own team-mate, so it’s more of an internal matter. The worse that he could have achieved was to make Hamilton start 2nd instead of 1st; whereas as a result of Hamilton’s failure (presumably under team order) to reveal his order to let Trulli repass, he caused the Toyota team to take the blame and lose 6 points.

  9. George says:

    Ugh twisting my brain in knots here, this gets confusing when you’re up at 5:30am waiting for practice 2.

    Forgot that they told the stewards they hadn’t let Jarno past, I saw someone comment earlier saying Hamilton hadn’t slowed down to let Trulli through, I would love to know if that is true or not, there have been other rumblings that Toyota haven’t been entirely honest in this affair either.

    Once again, I’m not saying that McLaren are innocent, I’m just trying to think of a possible way they could have come to this unknowingly (it seems quite a long shot but obviously they’re privy to information we’re not and maybe vice versa). As unlikely as it seems this could be an honest mistake, it also seems unlikely that they could have done it purposefully, I mean they’ve basically stepped on a landmine they planted themselves the day before.

  10. M__E says:

    Also it became pretty apparent to me form very early on..(this guy) as I knew him then, just pretty much barges everybody at the start for positions and basically plays chicken with them with his car using the line “ok Im the new kid, I havent got a whole lot to loose yet, but if you (massa, Alonso, Raikonen) want to get as many points as possible for your championship win, then you better yield before I take us both out….remember Sepang last year, and Canada also stick out in my mind with incidents like this. Its the ‘get out of my way Im comin through’ attitude (which hails from the darkside..)
    which he used to great effect to psych massa out a number of times at critical points.

    And he has just been getting worse and more brash as his seasons carry on. He needs a wake up call…FIA have created a monster and bowed to him for fear of racial prejudice it seems.

    Note: I dont hate Hamilton or anything, but he certainly has raised my eyebrows on a number of increasing occasions with ‘schumi-esque’ behaviour!

  11. Nik says:

    I personally believe the teams were trying to do things right.
    Why else would they have let Trulli back past?
    The team are clearly in tune with the fact that the FIA will punish them for any matter if they can.
    However given that they did lie I agree with the punishment.
    For me the larger issue is the imcompetence of race control. I understand that the media are cautious about saying anything too harsh since they could loose media passes etc. However when a team contact the race director several times about an issue such as this and there is no reply that creates problems. The race directors word should be final and he should be able to make decisions like this. No fan wants to wake up the next morning (or 4 days later) and find the result has been changed. Ok some unfair calls may be made but by in large the “ref’s decision is final” idea works well.
    Just take a look at Trulli’s punishment in the first place. It was clear to all and sundry that the correct decision was for Trulli to be demoted one place, the place that he lost going off track. Instead the stewards ignored the basics and somehow came to the conclusion that he purposely passed Hamilton under the safety car (assisted by some half truths on McLaren’s part.) they didn’t bother to ask the teams, or check the radio etc etc. Very poor. F1 needs stewards that are up to scratch, and fast.

  12. Morrello says:

    Lewis and David lied to the stewards, even when closely questioned by the race director, what else can you say?

  13. Sam says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for keeping us updates. I, personally, think that the current penalty is more then enough and “controversy” has become the name of the game in f1.

    By the way, I am an anti-Lewis f1 fan but they have gone too far if they ban him. I don’t understand why there is a need to make such a big fuss. Its like Monaco-parking incident sort of thing.

    I think its like the footballers who dive to get a penalty kick or 10 and they don’t get the same punishment. So why should f1, especially, when penalties are not given at runtime?

    May be f1 does need to create controversy, publicity etc.. because that’s the way to create interest and expand its market at this economic down turn.

    Regards,
    Sam (Singapore)

  14. Sam says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for keeping us updates. I, personally, think that the current penalty is more then enough and “controversy” has become the name of the game in f1.

    By the way, I am an anti-Lewis f1 fan but they have gone too far if they ban him. I don’t understand why there is a need to make such a big fuss. Its like Monaco-parking incident sort of thing.

    I think its like the footballers who dive to get a penalty kick or 10 and they don’t get the same punishment. So why should f1, especially, when penalties are not given at runtime?

    May be f1 does need to create controversy, publicity etc.. because that’s the way to create interest and expand its market in this economic down turn.

    Regards,
    Sam (Singapore)

  15. Bob says:

    “Toyota, who were blameless in this” – what about Jarno Trulli reporting over the radio that Hamilton had passed him under yellows? Hardly the whole truth since he omitted to mention to his team that he happened to have fallen off the tarmac at that pint!

  16. Mattw says:

    Oh, “F1 driver/team in ‘Being economical with the truth’ shocker!”

    It is a real shame that everyone seems to have the knives out for Lewis and McLaren over this incident – as it is nowhere near as black & white as the FIA make it sound.

    Was Lewis ‘Ordered to let Trulli by’? Well that depends upon interpretation. The instruction was made, but Lewis challenged it, and the instruction was changed.

    Having see the onboard footage from Trulli as he re-passed Lewis, I would also suggest that Trulli’s account – “And he was slowing down more and more, so I overtook him at 80km/h. So we were basically stopped. And before overtaking him I went next to him to make sure that I was not breaking the rules” – is every it as ‘economical with the truth’ as was Lewis.

    From the footage, yes Lewis did slow – but he did not stop, he did not wave Trulli by – and he was slowing in the area where the accident had occurred (with the possibility of debris on the track, Marshals on the track ahead etc)

    Meanwhile Trulli doesn’t slow at all – he just zips past. No stopping, no driving alongside to see what Lewis is doing – and this at a part of the track where there are workers on the track.

    I do not understand why this TV evidence can be ignored, while instead we just have a petty argument over who said what to whom.

  17. David says:

    In 1994, I don’t remember the FIA giving Scumacher any leeway when he got banned for 2 races, and he was becoming the most popular driver at the time it happened.

  18. KP says:

    It strikes me and as already noted above, we do,as a minimum, require the radio transcript of the Steward’s interview (or interrogation) with LH and DR. This is to understand the tone of the questioning and the answers given. Were the questions leading etc. Otherwise, this feels more like a court room rather than a normal post race interview to clear up misunderstandings. The tone of this episode in the Stewards room is extremely important – were people being bulllied (harangued) and that’s why the tape is needed in the public domain.

    Otherwise why does everyone ascribe to the notion that F1 competitors will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Listen to the Toyota broadcast and Trulli’s economy with the off track incident. Stewards are surely “track smart”!!

  19. Spenny says:

    As the possible source of the “paranoid” quote, I think that the confidence in the stewards is at the heart of the matter.

    It seems to me that most sports manage quite well with their referees and although not every decision is agreed with, there is a feeling that in general the decisions are good enough. We rarely here complains of stewarding at say the BTCC for example.

    Over the last couple of seasons, the stewards have seemed to make some odd decisions, and coupled with that is that their range of punishments range from the draconian to the trivial and have done nothing to clear the impression of being biased (including one of this weekend’s stewards making stupid comments to the press last year that brought the sport into disrepute).

    Given the lack of confidence in the stewards, it is not surprising that people would want to try and pull one over on them. The FIA have sought to rule the sport, not by raising the standards of the stewards, but by using harsh punishments, the lack of an appeal system for decisions taken after the race. (Does it really reflect well on the FIA that Toyota had a valid case and it had to be brought by the back door, yet other poor decisions cannot be reviewed by the rules?).

    That McLaren should do this is a reflection of the breakdown of trust. So although it is easy to put it all on the shoulders of two people who clearly did wrong, we should also look at the long running issue of why the stewards command so little respect in the eyes of the teams and the public.

    With more confidence in the system, McLaren would not have told Hamilton to concede, and after the race there would have been a sensible discussion in which the evidence would have shown that there was no intent to race under yellows, regardless of whether the place should have been conceded, and there would have been an understanding that the likely punishment would have been a correction on the grid. On the track, though Trulli initially misled his team on the radio, neither team was trying to gain an unfair advantage, they were all trying to do the right thing.

  20. Dean008 says:

    Lewis hamilton lied on the direct instructions of his team bosses and superiors.

    I invite anyone who reads this to think slowly and carefully. If your organistion of boss orders you to do something that is WORK RELATED, then you would do it or risk upsetting senior management or maybe risk getting the sack for disobeying an order.

    It is quite clear Hamilton is only 2 years in F1 so does not have the power or influence to just do things on his own, without regard to his bosses. I’m sorry, but those of you who are reading this know full well that if your boss orders you do do or say a certain thing in a meeting, you would definitely do it or you would risk your promotion prospects in your job, or even you job itself.

    LEWIS HAMILTON WAS GIVEN WHAT TO SAY AT THE ENQUIRY BY “RYAN”, ONE OF HIS BOSSES. he could not say no he is not going to follow team orders, any more than you would tell your boss to clear off he asked you to make a cup of tea.

  21. Dean008 says:

    I am SEETHING with rage because of the amount of people on this site who are clearly in need of a basic edcuation.
    Think things over very slowly.Lewis hamilton lied on the direct instructions of his team bosses and superiors.

    I invite anyone who reads this to think slowly and carefully.
    If your organistion or boss orders you to do something that is WORK RELATED, then you would do it or risk upsetting senior management or maybe risk getting the sack for disobeying an order.

    It is quite clear Hamilton is only 2 years in F1 so does not have the power or influence to just do things on his own, without regard to his bosses.Im sorry, but those of you who are reading this know full well that if your boss orders you do do or say a certain thing in a meeting, you would definitely do it or you would risk your promotion prospects in your job, or even you job itself.

    LEWIS HAMILTON WAS GIVEN WHAT TO SAY AT THE ENQUIRY BY “RYAN”, ONE OF HIS BOSSES. he could not say no he is not going to follow team orders, any more than you would tell your boss to clear off he asked you to make a cup of tea.

    Dean

  22. Chris says:

    I think you are glossing over things a bit Matthew. The incident is hardly a joke. Hamilton lied in order to get another driver penalized and their for get promoted to the podium. Its a pretty unsporting act and one that has been pushed very appropriately in my opinion. Further action is probably not necessary however and I doubt will happen.

  23. Martin P says:

    Spot on Chris. It’s very easy to blame the stewards and the FIA and there’s no doubt this is all bad for the image of the sport. But Lewis and McLaren chose to stand there and let Toyota be demoted when they knew it wasn’t right. If there’s one thing the stewards have got right it’s the decision to review this and overturn it.

    In short; the FIA aren’t interfering, they’re doing their job. This time they did it right.

  24. Martin P says:

    A few points;

    1. The rules on this are fairly obvious, so they shouldn’t have needed to ask Charlie Whiting in the first place.

    2. They were under a safety car and I also believe the medical car was on track. Charlie W had far more serious things to take care of at that particular moment.

    3. You’re right, Trulli should and would have been fourth and Hamilton third – but Lewis let him past. That was their error so Trulli legitimately reclaimed third place just as Lewis had yards earlier.

    4. The incident on the track is an irrelevance and a distraction. The punishment has nothing to do with that. The punishment is because they stood in front of the stewards and when asked a direct question, gave a misleading answer. McLaren have NEVER denied they were asked the question – all they say is they assumed the stewards had listened to the radio. The stewards shouldn’t have to listen to the radio – they quite rightly expected the teams and drivers to tell the truth.

    5. The stewards have been absolutely spot on in this instance. They asked the right questions in the original review – you can’t blame them if a team was less than up front. They then re-opened the inquiry when it became clear there was more to discuss. Again, I’m not sure how you can do anything but praise them for doing their jobs here.

  25. Colin S says:

    “Is there anger with the stewards in the paddock? Given that Trulli and Hamliton’s accounts allegedly did not match it seems absurd that they made the original decision without seeking further evidence then and there?”

    This is true. The steward involved is the Spa 08 steward. Having made a poor ruling in Oz, and being called back to explain himself, how human would it have been for this man to claim he had been lied to?

    Or at least, exaggerate the influence the drivers testimony had.

    A very simple review of the tape would have given them everything they needed to know about what to do with these two drivers. there was never any need to interview them.

    The stewards were entirely incompetent.

    This is not to excuse the lies. What Hamilton and McLaren appear to have done is allow this misunderstanding to go unchecked and that’s despicable. But Ron Dennis said ‘competitive animals know no boundaries’ following Hungary 2007 and of course this has been proven true of Hamilton as much as Alonso this time around.

  26. Peter Freeman says:

    The FIA won’t publish it because it would embarrass them. When has anyone ever know the FIA to be honest? I bet the interview is not as at all as clear as the FIA are making it out.

    Exactly what question was asked and what was answered, that is what the FIA are not going to show us.

    As for this uproar about ‘dishonesty’ to the FIA, how was last years decision not penalise Massa in Valecia in any way honest? Or the removal of Renault’s mass damper? Or how about the method Mosley used to gain a vote of confidence after his non-nazi sexcapades last year?

    The FIA are fundamentally dishonest in just about every way, how do you deal with them when answering their questions?

  27. Richard says:

    Spot on Sam. The penalty dive is the best analogy yet.

    From back home in the UK this looks absurd. It happened, move on, why are the FIA determined to hang Hamilton out to dry so publicly? It’s way out of proportion. McLaren told a bit of porky in the confusion afterwards – really, who cares? They bent over backwards to do the right thing on track.

    Race results should be fixed by the time the drivers cross the line, not fixed by the FIA days/weeks later.

    Go Brawn. Oh no, they’re racing under protest too. Sigh.

    I won’t be watching this weeks GP now – there’s no point.

  28. Finn says:

    Alonso did not block his team mate. His team mate had the whole pit lane to drive around Alonso or even the whole track – Alonso chose to time his exit and his team mate chose to sit behind Alonso. Two choices.

    But there was absolutely no blocking involved as there was miles of space for Alonso’s team mate to use to go past Alonso.

  29. Finn says:

    You can’t block someone if they have got acres of space to drive around you. Hamilton had the whole pit lane and the whole straight – he chose to sit behind Alonso …. there was nothing to stop him passing Alonso.

    I accept that Alonso stopped him from getting into the pit box, but there’s no obligation for Alonso or any driver to leave a pit box until they want to.

    Alonso’s punishment was ridiculous. If he had blocked him on track, then fair enough – but he left him space to pass, and so he didn’t block Hamilton.

  30. Stephen Durrant says:

    I absolutely agree. This sorry episode shows up the FIA’s poor stewarding (again). They had enough evidence from the outset, lie or no lie, and they failed to use it until the media reports were circulated. McLaren were always going to fight their corner because the sport is so competitive.

    This confusion is a shame for the sport.

  31. Stephen Durrant says:

    I also distinctly remember Hamilton asking whether the reporter had heard the radio.

    Any further thoughts on this James?

  32. Peter Freeman says:

    Did they? Why then is THAT interview not published for us tho see?

    What EXACTLY was asked and answered? The FIA won’t show us, you just watch and see. This is hearsay without that interview being published.

    The FIA could be, as is usual for them, lying through their teeth!

  33. rpaco says:

    Of course he blocked him, we all saw it, it was about as blatant and flagrant as anything could be, without taking an advert on tv and a full double page spread in all the national newspapers saying “I am deliberately holding you up.”

  34. Paul says:

    I was thinking something similar actually.

    Additionally I think the biggest draw in F1 is probably Double World Champion (we only have one of those on the grid btw) Fernando Alonso, hence there are two races in Spain (just as their were two in Germany during the Schumacher era). Certainly at the non British races I’ve attended in the last couple of years his fans have out numbered pretty much everyone bar the home crowd.

    If Lewis gets off with a slapped wrist and nothing more he’ll be one lucky boy. I feel that what we get fed here in the UK isn’t quite the real story sometimes as it’s catered to placate followers of British drivers.

  35. Sasquatsch says:

    But he wasn’t banned from racing in 2006 when he deliberately stalled his Ferrari on the track and saying afterwards he didn’t do it on purpose.

    He lied at that time and the only punishment he got was a five place grid penalty.

    Honda got a two race penalty for misleading the stewards in 2005 with the double gastank debacle. So maybe that’s a fair penalty. Or may be not. But certainly no more than that.

  36. F1 Scoop says:

    If you listen to the Toyota radio, the pitwall were trying to establish what happened. They asked TRU when HAM passed him, and then asked whether he saw yellow flags at the time.

    Hardly proof of any dishonesty on their part.

    @f1scoop

  37. F1 Scoop says:

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

    LH: OK.

    So, where did Lewis challenge the instruction?

  38. Morrello says:

    Peter, I don’t no why the fIA have not published the interview, but what I do no is that this is not hearsay. I was in Melbourne and was informed of the proceddings by a VERY good source.

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