Lewis Hamilton has been stripped of his third place in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after the FIA ruled that his McLaren team “deliberately mislead” stewards in a post-race enquiry.
Lewis Hamilton´s third place finish in Australia – awarded to him after stewards penalised Toyota´s Jarno Trulli – is again under question as the FIA reopen the issue.
Under safety car conditions, Trulli made a mistake and went off the track and Hamilton had no choice but to pass him, the world champion told Speed TV. Trulli then illegally re-passed Hamilton, for which act he was penalised and demoted from the podium position.
But stewards are investigating new evidence which has come to light. The new evidence – thought to be previously unheard McLaren radio traffic – raises the possibility that the team told Hamilton to slow and let Trulli by.
After the race, Trulli explained the events from his point of view.
“When the safety car came out towards the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton passed me but soon after he suddenly slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road,” he said.
“I thought he had a problem so I overtook him as there was nothing else I could do.”
If the new enquiry finds that the McLaren team withheld evidence, the consequences could be serious, as failing to produce key evidence in such a case clearly contravenes sporting regulations.
Hamilton and Trulli have both been summoned to appear in front of three race stewards today in Malaysia to explain the story. They, together with Australian GP race stewards, will reconstruct the sequence of events for the FIA panel.
Heavy rain is being predicted for the Kuala Lumpur region for the upcoming weekend when it is due to host the Malaysian Grand Prix. Local sources used by the Met Office predict high humidity and torrential rain for all three days of the event.
The news will intensify fears of the race being called off because of insufficient visibility. The Malaysian race, like its Australian counterpart, has rearranged its start time to make it more appealing to European TV audiences, and there are worries up and down the paddock that the 5pm start will be too late.
Nico Rosberg voiced his concerns the other day when asked about the light in Melbourne, which some drivers found problematic towards the end of the race.
”In Melbourne I found this a big concern as towards the end of the race the visibility was very poor, which increased the danger in my view as it was more likely that you could make a mistake,” he said.
But the situation in Malaysia could result in the race being stopped, he added.
”In Malaysia, if the monsoon comes down, the race is going to have to be stopped,” the German warned.
Fernando Alonso has said that the 14th April FIA decision on whether Brawn, Toyota and Williams’ rear diffuser designs are legal or not could effectively decide the world championship.
The Spaniard, whose Renault team was one of the first to highlight the suspected contravention of the rules in the three teams’ designs, told Spanish radio Cadena Ser that it was by far the most important issue of the 2009 season so far.
“We’ll have to see what they decide on the 14th [April]…the championship could be more or less decided,” he stated.
He went on to illustrate how significant the issue was by explaining what the other teams would have to do if the design was called legal.
”If they are allowed to race with it they have a bit of an advantage and all teams will try to copy that idea. But it’s difficult because you have to work on the whole car. It’s not just adding the diffuser and suddenly the car is a second quicker.”
“The diffuser makes you go fast if you have a new front end, new sidepods, a new engine cover. You have to rebuild the whole car and that would take a lot of months,” he concluded.
His remarks are thought to be most ominous for the Red Bull team, who because of their more complicated suspension design, will have to redesign and rebuild whole sections of the chassis to change their diffuser. Conversely, the teams who have the design already incorporated will have a further advantage.