Things are moving so fast here in Sepang it makes your head spin. Lewis Hamilton has just made an appearance in the media centre and given what has to be the most frank and open admission of guilt and sincere apology we have seen in this sport.
He sat alone on the stage and spoke for a little over ten minutes , his voice cracking at times, his body language full of anguish and regret.
“I went into the meeting wanting to tell the story and I was misled. I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information and that’s what I did. I sincerely apologise to the stewards for wasting their time. I’m very sorry for the situation. Sorry to all my fans, who have believed in me. Who I’ve showed you I am the past three years is who I am, I’m not a liar, I’m not a dishonest person, I’m a team player and every time I’ve been informed to do something I’ve done it. This time I realise it’s a huge mistake and I’m learning from it. It’s taken a huge toll on me.
“This is the worst thing I’ve experienced in my life and that’s why I’m here, because it’s right for me as a human being and as a man to stand up here in front of you all and tel you exactly what went on and say how sorry I am. I’m sorry to the team, to my family for the embarrassment.
“I’m sure that the FIA will act accordingly and in the right way.”
He also said that Trulli had driven a great race and that “it wasn’t my intention to get him a penalty.”
Actually by making such a frank admission, it’s likely that he will escape a ban or even a suspended ban. The damage to his reputation and the loss of the result in Australia are likely to be deemed punishment enough.
Hamilton and Ryan have been in the stewards’ room together on many occasions over the past two years and the only thing we didn’t get the chance to ask today is whether this is the first time Ryan “instructed” Hamilton to lie. I’m sure that the FIA will consider this when the world council look at the situation.
The FIA’s Alan Donnelly was at the back of the room listening and the event was televised by FOM’s TV crew, so it was a really public affair.
Hamilton has been criticised in the past for not putting his hands up and saying “sorry” often enough. He couldn’t avoid it on this occasion.
One thing he will have to deal with is the impression many of his critics have that he is a manufactured driver, not his own man. The fact that he went along with the deception, didn’t take a stand at the time, even though he knew what he was doing was wrong, will fuel that impression.
The room was full of media from all around the world, with the Fleet St boys on the front row. At the end there was a light round of applause from some journalists, as Hamilton walked from the room, his shoulders sagging.
How the public will view him now, only time will tell, but it’s been a savagely bad start to the season for Hamilton, for McLaren and for new team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Other teams are surprised that McLaren has allowed this to come down to individuals, that they have not stuck together as a team. By singling out Ryan, they have acted in a way which is different from the team spirit of McLaren in the past.