McLaren await their fate after written apology

By Alan Baldwin,Reuters
Sunday 23 March 2014 04:05

McLaren have written to Formula One's governing body to apologise for misleading stewards and accepting wrongdoing ahead of a hearing next week that could suspend the team from the championship.

"We are cooperating with the FIA, I have written to (International Automobile Federation President) Max (Mosley) but obviously before the 29th I can't say anything about it," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh told Reuters at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

"It's a letter to them. Certainly, there's been no leak about it from us and I can't comment on it," he added.

A source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters earlier that Whitmarsh had written to Mosley, the FIA and race officials to offer "an unreserved apology" for lying to stewards at last month's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The source said the team had also accepted they had breached the sporting regulations, an admission that effectively throws them at the mercy of the authorities.

McLaren have been charged with five counts of bringing the sport into disrepute and are due to appear before the FIA's world motor sport council in Paris next Wednesday.

McLaren suspended and then dismissed sporting director Dave Ryan over the affair while their world champion Lewis Hamilton made a public apology at the Malaysian Grand Prix that followed Melbourne.

Whitmarsh's predecessor as team principal Ron Dennis this month stood down as McLaren chairman and severed his formal ties with the Formula One side of the business, although he remains a 15 per cent shareholder.

The Mercedes-powered team were fined a record $100m and stripped of all their constructors' points in 2007 for breaching the same article 151c after a spying controversy involving leaked Ferrari data in their possession.

This weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix has been overshadowed by the threat of sanctions against McLaren, with Hamilton kept well away from the media on Thursday.

The 24-year-old is at the centre of the controversy which started when McLaren protested Jarno Trulli's third place for Toyota in Melbourne because they said the Italian had illegally overtaken Hamilton behind the safety car.

Radio recordings later revealed that McLaren had told Hamilton to move over for Trulli, who was reinstated to the podium after a second hearing in Malaysia.

The last team to be suspended from the championship was BAR, predecessors to Honda and current leaders Brawn GP, in 2005 for having a hidden extra fuel tank.

BAR missed the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix, by coincidence the next two races on the calendar after Bahrain this year.

"Is it a similar situation or is it different?," mused Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

"It's very difficult to predict what the court will do. It would be a shame to lose a team for a couple of races but then again there has to be a penalty for lying to the stewards," added the Briton.

"I think the world council will have quite a difficult decision to make, I would not be in a position to predict which way they are going to go."

Other penalties could include a fine or points deduction.

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