Hamilton docked points for 'lying'

Briton stripped of his third-place Australia finish after 'misleading' stewards
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The Independent Online

In Australia the stewards excluded Trulli on the Sunday night for passing Hamilton under the safety car that was deployed on the 55th lap. Trulli had slid off the road, and Hamilton could not help but overtake him. Trulli repassed Hamilton, and was subsequently excluded. In that hearing, Hamilton denied any instruction to let Trulli repass him.

Yesterday, however, the stewards listened to McLaren radio transmissions in which Hamilton repeatedly asked his team what to do when Trulli went off the road, and in which he was instructed, to be on the safe side, to let the Italian repass while the team debated the issue with the race director, Charlie Whiting.

After a two-hour hearing they issued a statement which said that Hamilton and McLaren had "acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the stewards at the hearing on Sunday 29th March, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code".

Both Hamilton and McLaren were then thrown out of the race results so the top three are now: Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli. Toyota, whose cars were penalised for running illegal rear wings in practice and qualifying, now move to second place in the constructors' championship with 11 points to Brawn's 18.

McLaren's team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, denied they had lied to the stewards. "There was no lie in that hearing," said Whitmarsh, claiming the error had occurred because the team had not given full information about the radio conversation with Hamilton which instructed him to let Trulli overtake. "We, the team, made a mistake. We did not provide a full account of a radio conversation which we believe was being listened to in any case, and we don't believe was material to the decisions being made by the stewards.

"As we see it, what happened here is that during the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix, under difficult conditions, there was a safety car incident whereby Jarno Trulli fell off the circuit and Lewis could legitimately pass Trulli. I don't think that is in question. Once that had happened, of course, the team could not see it. Lewis informed the team that he had passed Trulli – and there was understandably concern within the team that he had passed Trulli under a safety car.

"At that time, we did not know that Trulli was right off the circuit and Lewis was asked to give back the place to Trulli. That was a team view, having not seen it, and we thought it was the safest thing to do.

"Once that instruction was given to Lewis, he did not agree. He said: 'Look, the guy was off the circuit, I didn't need to do this.' A discussion was occurring and before that discussion was finished, Trulli had repassed. If we look at the speed traces at that time, and compare it to other periods behind the safety car, then Lewis did not do anything abnormal. And I think it is also quite clear that Trulli should not have repassed.

"As soon as that happened, we then spoke to Race Control, to explain that and ask if we could retake that place. At the time, understandably, Race Control was busy and they were not able to give us an answer. We asked several times, but clearly they were very busy. So we had to then deal with it. We felt it would be resolved by the stewards after the race. At the stewards' meeting, we mistakenly believed that the stewards were aware – Charlie Whiting was there, and the FIA was there – of that radio conversation.

"The stewards now believe that we were not explicit enough about that radio conversation, and felt therefore that that was prejudicial to the decision that they reached. Obviously we regret that, and that was a mistake by the team, but we have got to accept the decision that has now been made."

Whitmarsh said McLaren would not appeal against the stewards' decision. "I think it is a regrettable day," he added, "and the fact is, the belief is, that we were not explicit. It certainly was not a deliberate attempt. It is quite clear that the radio conversations are listened to by the FIA, they are open, and the FIA was present during that hearing. So in the opinion of the team representative, there was a belief that it was known and there had been a conversation with the FIA."

Hamilton made no comment, and left the track soon after the FIA decision was made public.

The FIA has hinted that further sanctions could follow.

Radio revelations: Why Lewis lost his points

Lap 56 of Australian GP: As the field bunches behind the safety car, Trulli slides off and Hamilton has to pass him. Hamilton then asks his team what to do and is told to let Trulli repass. Later Trulli is thrown out of third place, and in the stewards' hearing Hamilton and his team manager Davy Ryan say Hamilton had no instruction to let Trulli repass.

Sepang, yesterday: The stewards hear McLaren radio transmissions in which it is clear that Hamilton was instructed to let Trulli repass, and now throw Hamilton and McLaren out for "deliberately misleading" them.

David Tremayne

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