Lewis Hamilton apologized Friday for his part in an International Automobile Federation (FIA) stewards hearing that penalized Toyota driver Jarno Trulli after the Australian Grand Prix. In an extraordinary news conference at Sepang International...
Lewis Hamilton apologized Friday for his part in an International Automobile Federation (FIA) stewards hearing that penalized Toyota driver Jarno Trulli after the Australian Grand Prix. In an extraordinary news conference at Sepang International Circuit where teams are gathered for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, Hamilton said his team manager told him to lie to officials asking about his place exchange with Trulli near the end of the race in Melbourne. The team blamed sporting director Dave Ryan, who was sent with Hamilton to talk to stewards after Sunday's race. Thursday, FIA officials disqualified Hamilton from the Australian race. The team suspended Ryan and sent him home to the United Kingdom on Friday morning.
"I sincerely apologize to the stewards for wasting their time," Hamilton said.. "I'd like to say sorry to all my fans who have believed in me, and have supported me for years. I am not a liar or a dishonest person. I am a team player. Every time I have been informed to do something I have done it. This time I realize it was a huge mistake. I am learning from it. It has taken a huge toll on me."
Hamilton was lying fourth in Melbourne when a safety car deployed in the final three laps. The Englishman passed third-placed Trulli when the Italian went off track but gave back the position at the radio instruction of his team, causing officials to penalize Trulli for passing under caution. Hamilton was promoted to third and Trulli dropped to 12th.
Immediately after the race, Hamilton told reporters what had happened. Thereafter, he and a team representative, Ryan, were called to describe events to stewards. The two accounts did not agree, something officials learned only later when they gained access to media reports and to team-radio audio not available to them when they penalized Trulli. They revisited the race result Thursday in Malaysia and disqualified Hamilton, returning Trulli to third. Officials issued the disqualification saying Hamilton had been "deliberately misleading."
Hamilton's news conference followed another such conference called by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh to announce Ryan's suspension. Officials let Hamilton hold his news conference in the media center, Reuters reported, something he was not allowed to do after becoming the series' youngest world champion last November in Brazil.
Hamilton, 24, was contrite while seeking to defend his honor. His voice husky, he apologized to his family and said he has never been so embarrassed. He called the week's events the worst experience of his life.
Hamilton started the Australian Grand Prix 18th after taking a grid penalty for changing a gearbox that quit during qualifying. Trulli and teammate Timo Glock started from the pit lane after stewards ruled the TF109s' rear wings flexed too much. Glock finished fifth. He moved to fourth behind Trulli with Hamilton's disqualification.