F1: McLaren’s problems are far from over

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, April 5th, 2009

 
 

The Malaysian Grand Prix weekend might be drawing to a close, but there seems to still be plenty of trouble in store for McLaren following driver Lewis Hamilton’s and racing director Davey Ryan’s deception of stewards at the Australian race.

Public contrition from Hamilton, the suspension of Ryan and an apology from embattled team principal Martin Whitmarsh were enough to allow the team to focus on this weekend’s racing. But it looks like a substantial penalty for the team is in the pipeline.

After Spygate, you wonder what on earth else the World Motorsport Council could possibly have left in the naughty cupboard to throw at them.

But the possiblilty of another brutal investigation is still very alive, even as reports suggest Hamilton might be negotiating a similar ‘get out of jail free’ card to the one played by Fernando Alonso during Spygate.

Keeping the pressure on before the Malaysia race, FIA president Max Mosley said he was awaiting reports from officials before coming to a decision about what to do.

Meanwhile an FIA official showed which way the wind was blowing by stating that Hamilton had been put in an “impossible position” by the team.

According to Autosport, Mosley was asked, during a briefing with journalists at the Rally of Portugal, whether Hamilton’s apology for lying to the stewards was enough for McLaren to avoid facing sanctions.

Mosley reportedly said: “I don’t know. We haven’t had the reports. There may be a report to the World Council.

“If there is, I will almost certainly be one of the people there to decide what happens. Therefore it would be completely wrong for me to discuss the rights and wrongs of the situation.”

Elsewhere, a FIA spokesman said: “We recognise Lewis’s efforts to set the record straight today. It would appear that he was put in an impossible position. We are now awaiting reports from the FIA observer and stewards before consideration can be given to further investigation of his team’s conduct.”

The weekend papers are reporting that Hamilton considered walking away from the sport altogether in the middle of the furore – but was reportedly talked out of it by none other than Mosley.

The Times says: “[Hamilton] contacted the sport governing body’s president Max Mosley as the controversy blew up. He expressed his frustration that he had been led by McLaren into falsely telling the stewards he had not been instructed to allow Trulli past and that he was so disenchanted he was considering leaving the team and the sport. It is believed Mosley advised the driver not to do this.

“Shortly afterwards Hamilton and his father Anthony are believed to have demanded that McLaren allow the driver to hold his own press conference, in which he laid the blame fully on the team’s sporting director Dave Ryan, the man who accompanied him to the stewards’ meeting. Ryan has since been suspended by the team he has served since 1974.

“Hamilton was allowed use of the FIA’s press conference room in Malaysia, something normally reserved for official FIA press conferences. Its use by a driver or team is unprecedented. This and the fact that the conference was attended by Mosley’s second in command Alan Donnelly has fuelled suggestions that Hamilton could have been granted some sort of amnesty against further action in exchange for ‘coming clean'”.

All of which indicates that things are going the same way as they did during Spygate. And that could be very bad news indeed for McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh in particular – if not for Lewis Hamilton.

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