2009 Australian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton has lost his third place in the Australian Grand Prix following a new investigation by the FIA stewards.
The FIA examined new evidence from McLaren’s radio communications which proved McLaren instructed Hamilton to slow down.
After the race Hamilton and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh gave conflicting accounts of what happened to reporters: Hamilton claiming he had been told to let Trulli past, Whitmarsh saying Trulli passed Hamilton of his own accord.
Before the appeal Trulli said:
The FIA really got it wrong in that decision. We have all the evidence, including Hamilton’s admission, that I did not overtake him. He let me pass.
More needless controversy
It’s clear McLaren and Hamilton made a mistake by first encouraging Trulli to pass Hamilton on the track, and then not explaining why they had done so to the FIA. They have paid the price for this error of judgement.
But it is equally clear that the both the FIA’s rules and their implementation of them are far from perfect.
Hamilton originally passed Trulli when the Toyota driver went off the track during a safety car period. At that moment McLaren were unsure whether he had broken the rules or not. It later transpired they had not, but given their track record with the FIA stewards it is hardly surprising they were paranoid about making a mistake.
This sort of confusion might once have been resolved straight away with a call to the race director to check the correct running order of the cars. But when McLaren tried this at Spa last year they were incorrectly informed they had not transgressed, and ended up getting penalised
Max Mosley subsequently declared teams should not communicate with the race director on matters like this during the race. This needs to change.
A short message from race control could have informed McLaren and Toyota who was in the right straight away, and cleared up the matter without any fuss. Such calls are commonplace in other racing series, particularly in America, and there is no obvious reason why F1 couldn’t do the same.
Instead we have the same old story of the stewards fiddling with the results after the chequered flag, and F1 spoiling an excellent weekend’s racing by following it with days of needless acrimony.
Update: Full verdict from the stewards
At the first hearing following the Australian Grand Prix the Stewards did not have the benefit of the radio exchanges between driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and his Team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes nor did they have access to the comments to the Media given by Lewis Hamilton immediately after the end of the race.
From the video recordings available to the Stewards during the hearing it appeared that Jarno Trulli’s car left the track and car No 1 moved into third place. It then appeared that Trulli overtook Hamilton to regain third place, which at the time was prohibited as it was during the Safety Car period.
During the hearing, held approximately one hour after the end of the race, the Stewards and the Race Director questioned Lewis Hamilton and his Team Manager David Ryan specifically about whether there had been an instruction given to Hamilton to allow Trulli to overtake. Both the driver and the Team Manager stated that no such instruction had been given. The Race Director specifically asked Hamilton whether he had consciously allowed Trulli to overtake. Hamilton insisted that he had not done so.
The new elements presented to the Stewards several days after the 2009 Australian Grand Prix which led to the reconvened Stewards Meeting clearly show that:
a. Immediately after the race and before Lewis Hamilton attended the Stewards Meeting he gave an interview to the Media where he clearly stated that the Team had told him to let Trulli pass.
b. Furthermore, the radio exchanges between the driver and the Team contain two explicit orders from the Team to let the Toyota pass.
The Stewards, having learned about the radio exchanges and the Media interview, felt strongly that they had been misled by the driver and his Team Manager which led to Jarno Trulli being unfairly penalised and Lewis Hamilton gaining third place.
The FIA has also published a recording of an interview Hamilton gave to the media and a part of his team’s radio broadcast.