Lewis Hamilton has been stripped of his third place in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after the FIA ruled that his McLaren team “deliberately misled” stewards in a post-race enquiry.
Forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore asks why…
The stewards were investigating new evidence – probably radio traffic – concerning his pass of Jarno Trulli and Trulli’s subsequent repass. Hamilton has lost credibility, points and had a fantastic drive tainted by this verdict. And almost certainly, none of it was his fault.
The sequence of events was simple. Trulli fell off the track for reasons unknown when the Safety Car was out. Hamilton passed him, as he had no choice. Trulli rejoined behind Hamilton. So far, nothing was wrong. Then Trulli passed Hamilton illegally, still under SC conditions, which led to him being demoted to 12th place by the stewards after the race. But Trulli alleged Hamilton was going so slowly that he was forced to pass the McLaren, assuming it to be suffering from a mechanical problem. Toyota, however, dropped the resulting appeal against Trulli’s penalty on Tuesday, thinking that it was unlikely to succeed.
So the first mistake was Trulli’s fault – ie, he went off the track. The second mistake was McLaren’s and Race Control’s. There would be no other explanation for Hamilton’s allowing Trulli back past other than the team instructing him to do it, and no other reason for the team instructing him to do it other than because they thought those were the rules. McLaren have the rulebook at their disposal and should have seen that Hamilton could keep the third position he found himself in. But for whatever reason they were unclear, and Martin Whitmarsh explains why.
”Lewis made a legitimate pass and then was repassed – at the time the team asked race control several times about the repass but they were too busy to answer that question,” said the McLaren team principal today.
Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton had a million other things to be thinking about at that time, namely how to keep that dog of a McLaren car on the road with freezing cold tyres and brakes. It fell thus to the team to instruct their driver during the race, which they failed to do. For which they blame Race Control, who surely must also take their share of culpability. But afterwards it is again the team’s responsibility to give their representative in front of the stewards all the evidence required.
So again the next mistake was McLaren’s, for not providing – through Lewis – all the evidence the stewards required at their post-race meeting with Trulli and Hamilton. Perhaps the team thought that by leaving the radio conversations out of the evidence presented, Hamilton would be given the third place. While not exactly cheating, this is underhand and ought to be punished.
So why, in the name of the gods of racing, has the poor driver been punished? If in a calculated move designed to see another competitor disqualified Hamilton let Trulli by, then he should have been. If he then went to the stewards and knowingly hid evidence only he knew, then again he should have been. But it is very difficult to believe this is all Hamilton’s fault, and he – seemingly, again – is the one who has to suffer.
Why wasn’t he put back to fourth, then? Or why wasn’t McLaren fined and their constructors’ points removed? Every time something like this happens, the conspiracy theorists have another field day. It always seems to be Lewis, they say, on the wrong end of the decisions. And every time something like this happens it weakens the opposing argument.