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Fresh insight into McLaren case
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Fresh insight into McLaren case
Posted By:   |  10 Apr 2009   |  6:40 am GMT  |  91 comments

I’m grateful to one of my readers, doctorvee, for posting a very interesting comment here on the JA on F1 site. He highlights an interview which McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh gave to the BBC at the end of the Australian Grand Prix.

“…there’s some debate about whether it’s a 3rd place at the moment given that Trulli fell off and re-passed under the Safety Car…

[Ted Kravitz asks him to expand on this.]

…At the end, under the Safety Car, Trulli fell off onto the grass and Lewis had no choice but to go past him. He was not on the racing circuit. Trulli then re-took the place under the Safety Car, which ordinarily you wouldn’t do.

I know that the FIA are looking at it at the moment and doubtless we’ll have a ruling in due course.”

doctorvee adds: “Martin Whitmarsh was not asked if there were any radio conversations. But he chose to omit this information regardless. The BBC’s viewers were left with the impression that Jarno Trulli had passed Lewis Hamilton of his own accord, not having been invited to do so. This version of events is very similar to the one we are led to understand was relayed to the stewards.

This would seem to suggest that very soon after the end of the race, a version of events — the official McLaren party line, as it were — was constructed. This is the version of events that Martin Whitmarsh gave to Ted Kravitz and the BBC’s viewers. ”

His conclusion from all this is that the line presented by Davy Ryan in the stewards room was the team’s party line, not the act of a ‘rogue employee’, as it is now being presented. The significance of this is that the FIA WMSC will seek to analyse the degree to which others in the team were involved.

Whitmarsh shows that he is eager to secure the third place. But the word ‘ordinarily’ is the one that catches my eye here, it shows that a degree of reflection is taking place, but also that there may be extenuating circumstances. It almost invites a sub clause in brackets, such as …(unless invited to do so…)

What do you think?

Meanwhile the FIA has released some more information on the second stewards’ hearing in Sepang, which appears to show Hamilton and Ryan sticking to their line that Trulli passed without invitation, despite being played recordings of both the original radio traffic and Hamilton’s post race interview, where it is quite clear he had understood that the team was telling him to let Trulli through.

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1

People seem to have missed something about the BBC Whitmarsh interview post Melbourne race.
After Ted has asked for clarification as to what happened during the safety car period, Whitmarsh gives his explanation, and Ted follows up with; ‘You would normally expect Lewis to be given that place and it could be six points(for third place)’,
Whitmarsh replies ‘We would, that’s our position at the moment, and we’ll see what happens in the coming minutes and hours’
That looks like a blatant declaration of the intention to hold the stance that Trulli took the position unlawfully, and a deliberate decision to omit the information that Lewis had forced him to pass.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/7970546.stm

2

I was thinking yesterday that it seemed strange that both Whitmarsh and Hamilton went on mini vacations immediately after the Australian GP…. I mean, with the situation being what it is wouldn’t the time for mini breaks be err… not allowed just as the season starts? Or…is it perhaps a dog ate my homework excuse to take the heat off the team being seen to conspire together for the Truli 3rd place? I can’t help thinking that the idea of a mini break with the season just underway for the obsessed F1 folk in the teams would be seen as ridiculous…that’d be the equivalent of putting in for leave during the go-live week of a new software product… wouldn’t it?

3

Any sport with a surfeit of $$$’s will encourage the greedy and the ‘creative’, both as participants and administrators (and journalists?)

F1 will die, though it may be long in its death-throes, and be replaced by something possessing a little more integrity and fun, for a while anyway.

I hope you’re still around to write on its successor. I like your style 🙂

4

Duncan, I see your point, but Whitmarsh’s comments were factual, no matter how misleading they may seem in hindsight.

If Whitmarsh had not been privy to the footage of Hamilton slowing, along with the accompanying radio conversation, then his comments to me make perfect sense. That is to me a reasonable statement to make, including the use of the word “ordinarily”, as the above scenario actually presumes Whitmarsh as being naive and ignorant to the inner machinations that had taken place during the closing stages of the race – a time when Whitmarsh may be repairing to the pits rather than watching the wind down of the last few laps.

I’m just not sure the team as a whole (and Whitmarsh in particular) are able to think quickly enough to formulate such a carefully worded statement to the press so soon after the race.

Further, on the passing of Hamilton by Trulli; yes it is apparent that Hamilton slowed a little which of course seems like an invite, but it also seems that Trulli gleefully sped past the McLaren only to then hastily reduce speed again once past, thus indicating to me that he eagerly took the place back, and perhaps intentionally sped up to do so, but either through feelings of immediate regret, or from a team order then slowed down.

The slowing of the McLaren is not necessarily the ONLY reason Trulli went past Hamilton. Lets analyse Toyota’s radio comms and telemetry and we may then see a different perspective.

Consider also the time it took Hamilton to respond to the command to allow Trulli past. There was a rather long pause before Hamilton – in my view – reluctantly said “ok”. To me this substantiates Hamilton’s apology later on. It really seemed to me he didn’t want a part of it, but he acquiesced in the heat of the race and followed team orders – as evidenced by his post race comment.

This of course leaves Ryan and Hamilton carrying the baby. Hamilton can’t be sacked because he earns the money. Ryan of course can always be rehired a few races later, but for the moment he is conveniently untouchable, and not required to front the WMSC.

But of course McLaren, due to their former indiscretions, are the only ones in the spotlight, while Toyota are hiding in the shadows lest they bring any attention to themselves.
How long before McLaren are treated equally I wonder? And no, I’m not a McLaren fan, I’m a motorsport fan.
Cheers,
Jake

5

People lose all sorts of perspective when rules are broken during sporting events. It’s pretty laughable.

Is this any worse than a footballer diving in the box and winning an undeserved penalty?

As far as I can tell Lewis behaved correctly during the race, and for a while afterward, if his post race interview is taken into account. What transpired after was a combination of ineptitude from both the FIA/stewards and the McLaren management, and if McLaren are accountable to the FIA/stewards, who are the FIA/stewards accountable to?

6

James,

Thanks for featuring my comment on your blog. Great to see such lively debate on this matter in the comments too. I agree that the word “ordinarily” is an eye-catching word, which I picked up on when I originally wrote about this on my blog.

I have seen that there are some who question the validity of my point. A lot have said that Martin Whitmarsh didn’t need to mention the radio conversation because he wasn’t asked. But for me, the entire construction of Mr Whitmarsh’s answer is misleading and evasive. This is not just limited to the fact that he did not mention the radio conversation. In particular, the sentence, “Trulli then re-took the place under the Safety Car, which ordinarily you wouldn’t do,” looks totally disingenuous in light of what we now know.

I say this as someone who has given McLaren the benefit of the doubt over the past few years whenever they have got into hot water with the FIA. For me, this is one transgression too far. I felt totally misled by his interview on the BBC, and I feel let down by the team as a whole.

Like I said in my original comment, I just hope the FIA don’t go over the top with any punishment they had out. What McLaren did was stupid and, to some degree, fraudulent. But it was not downright dangerous like a certain man in a red car was from time to time.

Thanks,
Duncan

7

With the way they treated Dave Ryan, Mclaren are acting more like the Mafia than they are a motorsport team. This is shocking; how has it come to this?

8

The WMSC have a really tricky decision on their hands in coming up with an appropriate punishment for the unseemly shenanigans in Oz.
At first glance this was a far less significant piece of naughtiness than walking off with the full set of plans for a competitor’s operation, and then determinedly denying it up to the bitter end. And as to the lying, well as has been pointed out by other correspondents, quite possibly there are others who aren’t completely lily-white on the grid. However if there are, they are also not inclined to go to the quite insane lengths to rub the officials’ noses in their mendacity that McLaren are. Also, there are many who will interpret a significant fine or ban as another example of a wicked FAI bias against McLaren and corruption by the officials, which itself could greatly damage the sport.
On the other hand how can officialdom possibly ignore what looks like an absolutely blatant breach of the Sporting Code provisions re “fraudulent conduct” (article 151c). And all this by a company with which they have already dealt severely just two years ago, and which doesn’t seem to have learned anything whatsoever from its previous experience. How do they also make it clear to others who might cheat that they will be severely punished as well, if they deal unduly leniently with these offenders?
When a championship point rates as worth $1 million, that means that not only did McLaren gain by $1 million, but they knew they had so gained, and as four days had passed without owning up, they fully intended to keep what they had gained. That doesn’t look good, in fact you could even say it looks bad, not unreasonably. But there’s worse. As a consequence of the original stewards’ decision, Toyota were effectively denied points worth $6 million. McLaren knew perfectly well that this was the case, given the time that had elapsed, and said nothing to remedy the injustice. I suppose that you could almost argue that such is the almost unfathomable stupidity that their management team have demonstrated throughout, that maybe they were too thick to realise it! Well, not really.
How do you come up with an appropriate punishment and at the same avoid damaging the substance and the integrity of the sport in the process? And how do you discourage a bunch of unreconstructed idiots from offending again and again?

9

There’s a moment during the famous car-pit exchange when McL are saying, wait, hold station, we’re still trying to find Charlie, and Lewis says – too late, he’s gone by. We can only presume that Lewis was dithering around wondering what to do and Trulli took that as difficulties and went by, so with clear signs but no actual hand signal. Maybe McL are trying to use the Clinton defence – I did not have sex with that woman – splitting hairs.

Perhaps if they’d only explained more clearly their reasoning, this would not have arisen. Perhaps if Lewis had said far more clearly, Trulli was OFF THE TRACK when I passed him, the incident would not have occurred. Whatever. McL doesn’t seem to do communication too well.

10

Well McLaren have been found out telling lies. And Hamilton. Hamilton’s apology was cringe making. All ‘poor me’, pathetic really and he deserves at least one race ban if not more. So what it’s no big deal.
But what Sir JYS said about Vettel’s behaviour was absolutely right. Continuing with a wheel hanging off was dangerous and dangerous for everyone trackside. The rule is there to protect everone’s safety. Hamilton’s on track behaviour was in no way dangerous.
The reason and motives of the rules are what is important. The pedantic and forensic examination of the rules are not. Stewards should understand that and apply common sense.
Arguably Vettel’s misdemeanour was far more serious an issue than the rather pathetic debacle that is McLaren and LH.

JP

11

When Trulli went off the track under the safety car, and Lewis passed him did any other driver pass Trulli?

12

The most recent comments from the FIA surprised me because after earlier indicating that Hamilton was ‘procured’ into following the party line (placing more blame on team than driver), the revelation that both Hamilton and Ryan refused to tell the truth even when when re-played the recordings four or five days later seems damning in the extreme. This was no heat-of-the-moment reaction.

I’m just sick of the lot of them – the FIA for their anti-McLaren bias, McLaren for it’s lying, spying and cheating, Lewis for being being part of it and being so weasly and two-faced in trying to deflect the blame onto those around him.

13

Dead right HR.

Said it before and I’ll say it again. If you formed a queue of totally honest people in F1 to pass through the paddock gate, the gate man would be asleep in five minutes. The other gate, for those who are human, would have a very long queue with 99% of the F1 population.

Same goes for many contributors to this debate. So many holier-than-thou’s make you want to throw up !

Not excusing McLarens behaviour. Bruce will be turning in his grave. How in hell can a first class team behave so stupidly. Same goes for Ferrari. And BAR. etc…etc..

The next person I meet involved in F1 who is pure as the driven snow will be the first !

The whole event is massively depressing.

14

I think we may be over analysing the language used by Whitmarsh here, just because he used the word ordinarily.

When he was speaking to Ted on BBC he was explaining the situation as he saw it at that time, after all it was not Whitmarsh on the radio to Lewis it was his engineer and it is quite possible that he did not know the message was given to Lewis to allow Trulli through.

15

( the comments below reflect some editing on my part, after reflecting on what I wrote earlier )

McLaren would have secured fourth place if they’d admitted to instructing Hamilton to give way to Trulli, and instructed Hamilton to tell the truth when queried by the officials. I think it’s safe to say they’d like to have that fourth place now !

Instead, McLaren lied by omission about the radio communications, and then instructed Hamilton to
lie. It’s obvious what McLaren’s motivation for lying was : they hoped to gain a position in the finishing order for the race as a result of Trulli’s apparently illegal pass under the safety car.

There are only two ways a person can interpret these
events in a manner favorable to McLaren, and those are either a failure to properly analyze the situation or a pro-McLaren bias.

Shame on McLaren for lying, and shame on Lewis Hamilton for lying under instruction. Lying should be punished. To do otherwise casts the sport in a negative light, and raises the question : “who will be the next to lie and get away with it ?”. That lies have been told in the past by other teams IN NO WAY excuses this conduct.

I suspect ( though I have no proof ) that others (higher up ) in the McLaren organization may also be responsible for this mess. I believe Ryan has been made the “fall guy”, and this is in my opinion the very ugliest thing about the whole episode.

Finally, I am NOT a fan of Ferrari ( I dislike them, actually ) nor am I a fan of any other team in particular. Nor am I against McLaren or Hamilton. The problem I have with this mess is that it exemplifies the “win at all costs, never mind morals or ethics”, and that is the sort of attitude the world doesn’t need. What I AM a fan of is proper racing, and proper ethics. As the latter is in such short supply on the world stage, I hope for a bit better from F1.

The FIA needs to send a message that this sort of behavior will be punished. To do otherwise sends the message that if you’re clever you can lie and get away with it. That’s an unfortunate message to send, to say the least, and not only within the confines of the sport of F1, but in the rest of the world as well.

16

EC, just brilliant. Your terseness and exasperation – if I’m reading you correctly – precisely matches mine. Well said!

James, please pass this on to The Powers That Be. The natives are decidely restless.

Second thoughts, don’t worry, TPTB don’t give a tinker’s cuss.

17

McLaren would have been fine if they’d admitted to instructing Hamilton to give way to Trulli, and instructed Hamilton to tell the truth about having received those instructions when queried by the officials. If events had played out thusly, it’s reasonable to speculate that Trulli would have third place and Hamilton would have fourth place, and no troubles would have erupted.

Instead, McLaren lied by omission about the radio communications, and then instructed Hamilton to lie. Ask yourself this : would Stirling Moss have obeyed instructions to lie ? I think not. It’s obvious what McLaren’s motivation for lying was : they hoped to gain position in the finishing order for the race as a result of Trulli’s apparently illegal pass under the safety car.

There are only two ways a person can interpret these events in a manner favorable to McLaren, and those are either a failure to properly analyze the situation or a pro-McLaren bias.

Shame on McLaren for lying, and shame on Lewis Hamilton for lying. This behavior should be punished. To do otherwise casts the entire sport in a negative light, and raises the question : “who will be the next to lie and get away with it ?”. That lies have been told in the past by other teams IN NO WAY excuses this conduct by McLaren !

I believe that others (higher up ) in the McLaren organization are also responsible for this mess. I believe Ryan has been made the “fall guy” and this is perhaps the very ugliest thing about the whole episode. I’d venture to guess Ryan departed with a nice “golden handshake”, the terms of which were that he refrain from commenting or face legal action and a loss of the “golden handshake”.

Finally, I am not a fan of Ferrari, nor am I a fan of any other team in particular. Nor am I against McLaren. The problem I have with all this business is that it exemplifies the “win at all costs, never mind morals or ethics”, and that is the sort of attitude the world doesn’t need. What I AM a fan of is proper racing, and good character. And the latter is sadly in short supply on the world stage ( Tony Blair, George Bush, I’m looking at you as I say this ).

The FIA needs to send a message that this sort of behavior will be severely punished, as much to show the values inherent in the sport of F1 as to act as a deterrent to similar conduct by other teams. Please don’t attempt to explain away McLaren’s conduct by pointing to past examples in which other teams have erred. Wrong is wrong, and at this level of world exposure, wrong must be punished, or we all risk an even further degradation of our societies, which are already in terrible shape.

Finally, were I one of Hamilton’s sponsors, I would move immediately to cancel any contract which conveys sponsorship, and give money instead to someone like Tiger Woods, who truly does exemplify good character and ethical behavior.

18

I agree with you James, ‘ordinarily’ does imply to me that Martin Whitmarsh knew of the extenuating circumstances in this case.

But this is precisely why I think everyone is blowing this out of proportion. I did hear Whitmarsh’s comments at the time (Australia gets the live BBC coverage) and I did think to myself that ‘ordinarily’ seems to imply that something was not ordinary in this case. And he knew that.

But I think this was just McLaren being cheeky in approaching the stewards, knowing that they asked Lewis to slow down, but probably thought – ‘we screwed up in instructing Lewis but let’s appeal and see if we can get a result in our favour. If the stewards say no then so be it, at least we gave it a shot’ (remember that McLaren were trying to get Whiting onto the case at the time with no luck). They got a result of course but then the FIA hands out such an overtly draconian penalty to Truly that it leads to the mess we have now. McLaren I’m sure did not anticipate Truly ending up dead last beause of their appeal..

So to me this is a tough one to judge. And perhaps that’s the point, maybe we shouldn’t judge them. I’m sure McLaren were simply acting in a manner which is probably commonplace in F1 (according to Ralf Schumacher anyway). But then as Ecclestone rightly puts it this was the equivalent of fraud if you remember that all of these points basically count as income. But then if such things are indeed so important, shouldn’t the FIA be slightly responsible for making sure that there are people who are reachable in the heat of battle?.. There was no ref on the field because he was too busy looking at a replay of Vetel..

I think what everyone will learn from this is that with today’s coverage of live interviews and open radios being streamed all over the world, everyone must raise their game – because F1’s glossy image suddeny looks mortal.

McLaren screwed up for sure but I don’t believe they deserve to be sacraficed at the altar like so many are making out. Dave Ryan’s firing was very wrong but you can slightly understand it. A desperate attempt to save the image of the team and not get fined another 100mil. In today’s economy that would probably mean no Benz, bye bye Hamilton, and most probably the end of McLaren as a force. And that’s no good for anyone..

19

Ok well I remember the tv interview and listened to the radio conversations and checked the 2nd meeting comments. In my opinion the entire management knew exactly what was going on and together decided it would be in the financial gain of the team to lie to the officials and to the public. Bear in mind each and every one of us was misled after the race people. The punishment would be deserved however harsh looking at all this. Plus I certainly would put at least a 20-30% bet that Mclaren are not in the sport next season.

20

I love how Berne is giving interviews to the British tabloids suggesting that McLaren might well receive race bans etc.

This is so, so wrong in my mind – and much, much worse than a couple of lies at the end of an incredibly tough 2 hour F1 race, when spirits are high and the competative nature is running high with your adrenilan and emotions raging through your veins

(trust me, after years of competetive cycling, i done all sorts of things to give me an extra point or two, which i’d best not go into on a forum….)

THe importatnt thing is though, i never got caught, but nknew that at least 50% of the field was doing the same

Sorry, i’ve digressed

So, what gives Bernie to right to suggest possible outcomes of the FIA court of appeal?

He is in chage of the commercial rights and should have no impact of their thought process

Personally, i think this whole affair is bonkers, and mixed with the silly row over diffusers and Toyota’s flexi-wing is dragging our attention away from the best season start – in the form of racing – that i can remember (watching since ’85)

Come on Bernie – put a stop to the political sh*tstorm and let us watch some racing!

Happy Easter to you and the family James!

21

An interesting point to consider, is that whilst Formula 1’s FIA would unlikely willingly ban Hamilton from races because of the negative commercial effect, would the WMSC act in accordance with that also?

The WMSC appear to be an independent body. I had heard Max and Bernie lobbied for them not to throw Schumacher out of the drivers championship in 1994 over the pitlane fuel rig tampering, how much influence might they have now?

22
Darryl Williams

James, Love your website and the McLaren thing is very important to all of us. But do you think you might occasionally fit in a word about at least one of the other 19 drivers on the grid? The reason I am distinctly NOT a fan of Lewis Hamilton is that the english speaking media cover him and only him. Can you get over it and write some interesting stuff about SOMEBODY ELSE???

23

trouble is, you have it the wrong way around.
Dave ryan was the sporting director, as such, if anyone briefed anyone as to what the situation was, ryan would have told whitmarsh, not the other way around.
what is also true, is that even up to when whitmarsh suspended him, ryan still maintained he had done nothing wrong.
the trouble with this kind oh micro disecting of events is that you can come up with pretty much any theory you like…if you chosse to ignor other facts….such as ryan being the sporting director, and what that actaully means.

24

This whole catalogue of McLaren and Hamilton being proven serial liars and cheats might give people time to reflect on the 2007 Japanese GP at Fuji. Here, under the safety car Hamilton blatantly brake tested Vettel and Webber, which took them both out of the race. Hamilton denied what he had done vehemently and was happy for Vettel to face a 10 place grid penalty.

The more we learn the more it is becoming clear how badly treated Alonso was at McLaren. So far he has been a gentleman and kept quiet, but it is increasingly obvious that his team mate went to war against him using all means possible.

When Hamilton made his famous apology in Malaya he apologised for how much he was suffering from being found out. He never once apologised to Jarno Trulli for trying to cheat him out of points and for effectively calling him a liar.

25

Golly times change, don’t they? All this forensic picking over the minutiae of the Australian race, the shenanigans afterwards with the stewards. Then the endless manoeuvrings which will culminate in A Very Serious and Indescribably Important Meeting in La Place de la Concorde on April 29 with a Collection of Immensely Important Frowning Gentlemen Sitting Around a Most Impressive Table.

Brings to mind the actions of the delightful Harry Schell nearly 50 years ago during practice (now there’s a quaint term) for the 1959 United States Grand Prix at Sebring.

Round the back of the circuit, the just beyond the MG bridge and before the esses was a sharp right turn. Harry realised that it led him straight onto the Warehouse Straight, thereby cutting out a very slow corner. Better still, it was nigh on impossible for the officials to see what he was up to.

The net result was Harry getting his Cooper onto the front row of the grid, having been attributed a time several seconds faster than he and the car were capable. On the starting grid, there was a major ruckus, even as the majorettes pranced up and down and the band played the National Anthem. The Ferrari team manager, Tavoni, was involved in a major shouting match with the organisers as the minutes ticked by to the start.

In the end, it all got sorted out. Harry started from the front row and finished the first lap in 8th place. The racing sorted it all out as it normally does. No lawyers made an easy buck. No FIA hearings, no huffing and puffing. No one calling for Harry and his team to be strung up from the nearest tree.

Ah, but it was such a long time ago…..

Oh, by the way, Bruce McLaren won his first ever Grand Prix and became the youngest Championship GP winner and Jack Brabham leapt out of his out of fuel car on the last lap and pushed it over the line to clinch his first Drivers’ Championship.

Woulda got him a ban today, that woulda!

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