World driving champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday was stripped of third-place points from the Australian Grand Prix for giving officials "deliberately misleading information" about a passing incident involving Jarno Trulli of Toyota. The youngest...
World driving champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday was stripped of third-place points from the Australian Grand Prix for giving officials "deliberately misleading information" about a passing incident involving Jarno Trulli of Toyota. The youngest world champion faces suspension or exclusion from the Formula One championship if International Automobile Federation (FIA) officials deem further action is warranted.
Stewards in Malaysia for this weekend's race examined what they called "new information" about Trulli passing Hamilton during a safety-car period under which the race ended. The safety car had been called after third and fourth runners Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber crashed into each other with three laps to go.
The stewards' decision to give Trulli a 25-second time penalty -- in lieu of an unservable drive-through penalty -- was made in the hour after the race and did not include video of Trulli's actions or audio of Hamilton's radio conversations with his pit. An FIA statement said reopening the matter in Malaysia was the direct result of Hamilton telling reporters he had been told to let Trulli pass, and the radio exchange that included two specific orders by the McLaren team for Hamilton to let Trulli pass.
Officials in Australia had asked Hamilton and team manager Dave Ryan if Hamilton had been told to let Trulli pass and both said no. An FIA statement about Thursday's decision said the race director in Australia had asked Hamilton specifically whether he had consciously allowed Trulli to overtake and Hamilton had insisted he had not done so.
Stewards at the Sepang International Circuit issued a statement reading: "The stewards having considered the new elements presented to them from the 2009 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, consider that driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 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 2009, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
"Under Article 158 of the International Sporting Code, the driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are excluded from the race classification for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix and the classification is amended accordingly."
Hamilton passed Trulli when the Italian went off course and Hamilton told his team that he held third place by right. He was told to let Trulli through and that the team would check with race director Charlie Whiting. Officials were occupied and did not respond to McLaren questions before the race ended.
Hamilton, summoned to speak to officials in Malaysia, would not comment at the FIA news conference at the Sepang course despite being asked three questions on the topic by Italian journalists. "Well, all I can really say is that they are obviously trying to resolve the situation and looking into more detail whether the penalty for Jarno was fair, and that's all I can really say," Hamilton said. He gave two similar answers when pressed, saying comment would be improper.
A McLaren team statement said, "The team mistakenly believed that the radio transmission had been reviewed by the FIA on Sunday, 29th March 2009, and consequently did not believe it was necessary to discuss them with the stewards on that date.
"Nonetheless, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Team now regrets that it did not do so, accepts the stewards' decision, and will not appeal."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh called the stewards' decision disappointing and harsh.
Trulli, whose team only a day before chose not to appeal his time penalty on grounds that FIA decisions are rarely revisited, reacted happily.
"I am happy for myself and the team, and I have to thank the FIA because it does not happen very often they reconsider something," Trulli said. "It must have been really hard for them, but they had common sense to really try and understand what was going on. I have always been honest, and it has paid off. It was a controversial end of the race and it was hard for anyone to understand, but I never lied. I was honest in my statement and I never changed it."
The latest points-earning finishing order for the Australian race: Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 10 points; Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 8; Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 6; Timo Glock, Toyota, 5; Fernando Alonso, Renault, 4; Nico Rosberg, Williams F1, 3; Sebastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 2; Sebastien Bourdais, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 1.
Transcript of the radio transmission between Lewis Hamilton and his team:
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team: OK Lewis, you should need to make sure your delta is positive over the safety car line. After the safety car line the delta doesn't matter but no overtaking. No overtaking.
Lewis Hamilton: The Toyota went off in a line at the second to last corner ... is this OK?
Team: Understood, Lewis. We'll confirm and get back to you.
LH: He was off the track. He went wide.
Team: Lewis, you need to allow the Toyota through. Allow the Toyota through now.
LH: He's slowed right down in front of me.
Team: OK, Lewis. Stay ahead for the time being. Stay ahead. We will get back to you. We are talking to Charlie.
LH: I've let him past already.
Team: OK, Lewis. That's fine. That's fine. Hold position. Hold position.
LH: Tell Charlie I already overtook him. I just let him past.
Team: I understand, Lewis. We are checking. Now can we go to yellow G 5, yellow Golf 5.
LH: I don't have to let him past then I should be able to take that position back, if he made a mistake.
Team: Yes, we understand, Lewis. Let's just do it by the book. We are asking Charlie now. You are in P4. If you hold this position. Just keep it together.
Team: OK, Lewis, your KERS is full, your KERS is full. Just be aware. You can go back to black F2, black Foxtrott 2.
LH: Any news from Charlie whether I can take it back or not.
Team: Still waiting on a response, Lewis, still waiting.
Team: Lewis, work on your brakes please, work on you brakes. Front brakes are cold.
Team: Lewis, if we are able to use one KERS that would be good. If you deploy KERS, please do so now.
Team: OK, Lewis, this is the last lap of the race. At the end of the lap, the safety car will come in, you just proceed over the line without overtaking, without overtaking. We are looking into the Trulli thing but just hold position.