Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Hamilton apologises

2009 Australian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has admitted not telling the truth to the stewards

Lewis Hamilton has admitted not telling the truth to the stewards

Lewis Hamilton has apologised for his role in the Australian Grand Prix controversy after being vilified in the British and international press this morning.

What will be the consequences for Hamilton’s reputation and the team’s? Will it have any repercussions for Hamilton’s career? And how has it affected the fans’ view of him?

McLaren admits guilt

McLaren’s decision not to appeal Hamilton’s exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix was the first sign that McLaren were backing down over the matter.

That was followed this morning by the suspension of sporting director Dave Ryan and Martin Whitmarsh stating quite frankly that the team had lied to the stewards including Hamilton, under instruction from Ryan:

It has become clear from discussions with Dave last night and through into this morning that during the stewards meeting after the Australian Grand Prix, he was not entirely full and truthful in the answers he gave the stewards.

Asked if Hamilton had told the truth Whitmarsh added:

No. I think that Lewis was not entirely truthful, but we have spoken to Davey. He was the senior member of the team and they went into the situation together.

Hamilton later gave a press conference in which he issued a startlingly direct mea culpa while, according to James Allen “his voice [was] cracking at times, his body language full of anguish and regret”:

For me, the situation is definitely the worst thing I’ve experienced in my life. That is why I am here. It is right for me as a human being and as a man to stand in front of you all and tell you exactly what went on and put up my hands. I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I’m sorry to my team and my family for the embarrassment. It is a very, very embarrassing situation.

He has, at least, avoided the mistake of not saying sorry.

‘Say it ain’t so, Joe’

Had the apology come 24 hours earlier Hamilton might have been spared the full heat of the British press’s reaction:

In a damning judgment of the conduct of Hamilton and his team, who were fined $100 million (now about ??68 million) by the FIA for cheating in 2007 over the ??spy-gate?? affair, the Melbourne stewards, who reconvened here in Kuala Lumpur, made it clear that they believe Hamilton and McLaren had not told the truth.
Ed Gorman, The Times

Lewis Hamilton was last night branded a liar in the Aussie GP storm.
Michael Spearman, The Sun

Lewis Hamilton’s reputation for sporting fairness is in tatters this morning after he was sensationally found guilty of lying and cheating his way to third place in last Sunday?s Australian Grand Prix.
Jonathan McEvoy, Daily Mail

It’s no surprise that the revelation of Hamilton being caught red-handed is the lead story. But what do his fans make of it? I’ll leave it up to you to tell me that in the comments.

Hamilton and McLaren

There are other aspects to this story beyond the simple fact of Hamilton and McLaren getting caught not telling the truth.

To begin with, the radio transcripts published by the FIA show it was McLaren, not Hamilton, who decided (incorrectly) to let Trulli past. Had Hamilton not bothered to consult the team, and stayed ahead of Trulli, the problem could have been avoided.

Hamilton may well consider his interests would have been better served by not bringing it up with the team, and take similar decisions without consulting them in future.

Hamilton has already hinted once this year that he may not stay with McLaren for the rest of his career, which he first indicated he would do after his world championship success last year. Despite the swift removal of the individual McLaren claims bore principal responsibility the episode may have fatally weakened the bonds between team and driver.

McLaren will hope their submissions today will mean the end of the matter for the time being. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that over at Renault is a driver who might one day tell us some more interesting stories about McLaren’s radio communications.

Read the second part of this post: Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Another avoidable crisis

More of the press reaction

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141 comments on Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Hamilton apologises

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  1. Blender said on 3rd April 2009, 12:44

    What a shame for Brit…

  2. schumi the greatest said on 3rd April 2009, 12:49

    As a hamilton fan i dont blame hamilton entirley for it…it could have been avoided for sure but also hamilton is a team player.

    regarding the possible weakend bond between himself and mclaren..i think its a possibility. I remember reading that the reason schumacher left benetton at the end of 95 was because after 94 with all the allegations of using traction control, fiddling with the fuel pumps etc he didnt want his repuatation being ruined by the team.

    lewis may feel the same…but i think lewis made those noises that he would listen to offers from other teams as a warning to mclaren that he wont hang around for years in uncompetitive cars and also a way to say to other teams come and get me if the mclaren continues to struggle for the rest of this season

    • varun said on 3rd April 2009, 14:26

      I feel pitty for you…….you are trying to defend lewis even when he is caught redhanded…..

  3. Hopefully this will silence the naysayers that vehemently protested Hamilton’s innocence and the FIA stupidity/racism/Ferrari bias.

    I kind of feel a bit sorry for the guy, but at the end of the day, he’s his own man, and he decided to lie, not Ryan. Regardless of what he was told to do, it was him that eventually lied, no one else.

  4. PJA said on 3rd April 2009, 12:57

    It will defiantly damage Hamilton’s reputation, but in the long run if he keeps his head down and out of trouble and produces some good drives he could recover. Hamilton has always had his detractors so it is not as if he was universally loved.

    Look at Michael Schumacher, who Hamilton has been compared a few times, there are quite a few things in his career which were as bad as this and some worse. In the end although everyone recognised his skill and he was probably the most popular driver his legacy was tarnished, which was what I think will happen with Hamilton.

  5. I don’t think Schumi was ever public outed as a cheat or liar. People always had their suspicions over a few incident, but he was never proven as to have lied in order to boost his finishing position.

    • carldec said on 3rd April 2009, 13:55

      wow. You dont think Schumi was ever outed as a cheat and a liar? Really?

      Whats your definition of “outed”? In parking his car in Monico he cheated and then lied about it. He didnt lie in order to change his finishing positon, but he sure as heck lied to cover up his attempt to change qualifiying results.

    • Proof? Or just though based on circumstance?

      The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    • James said on 3rd April 2009, 17:54

      Kester, let’s see how the facts differ from what you think –

      Wikipedia:

      (After his collision with Villeneuve in the final Grand Prix of 1997)

      “Schumacher was … summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the FIA and on November 11, 1997 it was announced that Schumacher would be disqualified from the 1997 World Championship.

      Bild (German Newspaper):

      “Schumacher was to blame for the crash…There is no doubt that he wanted to take out Villeneuve.”

      The Times:

      Schumacher “sacrificed his reputation by an act of such cynicism that it lost him the right to any sympathy.”

      Next time you want to make a comment, perhaps you could do some research, instead of just making things up.

    • Not once was he actually proved to have lied. Not believing what a driver says is completely different to proving that they lied.

      So perhaps next time you want to jump down someone’s throat you should read what they are saying.

    • Patrickl said on 3rd April 2009, 22:35

      The Rascasse incident was proven by looking at the telemetry.

      Or do you mean Schumacher wasn’t outed because he never admitted to using the traction control on his Benneton, or to ramming Hill on purpose in Melbourne, ramming Villeneuve or for stopping his car at Rascasse?

      He was proven guilty on at least two of those and punished for them.

    • James said on 4th April 2009, 9:53

      I DID read what you said: “I don’t think Schumi was ever public outed as a cheat or liar.” I took this to mean that he had never been proved to be a cheat or liar.

      Just to clarify: are you claiming that when Michael Schumacher was disqualified from the 1997 F1 Championship, that this does not qualify as proof he was cheating?

  6. I think Hamilton will have a good race this weekend. When he is under pressure he shines.

    It’s a shame it went this far, but he is young and evidently followed Ryan’s advice.

    He’ll be okay, and I still think he will stay at McLaren for the forseeable future.

  7. I think that we ask too much of Hamilton.

    All the people criticising him and scaling the moral high ground should ask: how would I have behaved in the circumstances when I was 24?

    If you can sincerely answer that you would have done differently, then feel free to hurl abuse or feel smug.

    The key thing it to keep our eyes focused on the real problems: the stewarding system is f****d and the FIA desperate to break up the FOTA accord.

    We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from this. Pop over to the blog to read our conclusions in full.

    • So you’re accusing everyone of lying? I think you’ll find people who are honest with their work and people. And yes, many of us don’t believe in lying.

      McLaren is giving a relative unknown a slap on the wrist so that Hamilton and the rest of the team aren’t blamed for a stupid mistake. The key thing would be to stop bitching about the FIA when they’re doing the right thing for once. If the places between Trully and Hamilton were exchanged, I’m pretty sure all the Hamilton fans would be calling Trulli a liar and much worse. Here, Hamilton has been spared most of the brickbats.

    • Daniel said on 3rd April 2009, 13:49

      Sorry, LJH, the age thing isn’t an excuse… most of the current F1 drivers are under 30, and have to deal with much more complex things…

      I won’t condemn Hamilton, call him a cheater, because I agree with those who say Schumacher was much more unloyal (against Hill in Adelaide 1994, against Villeneuve in Jerez 1997, against Alonso in Monaco 2006, just to name a few…), many many times, and still is hailed as the greatest of all…

      What surprises me was their foolish thought that they could mislead the stewards when their radio talk was taped…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd April 2009, 13:59

      We should not allow ourselves to be distracted from this.

      I don’t think I have – did you read the other part?

      Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Another avoidable crisis

      All the people criticising him and scaling the moral high ground should ask: how would I have behaved in the circumstances when I was 24?

      I think that’s a good point, but it is true that there are people on the grid who are younger. When teams pick drivers they have to take their maturity into consideration. Given his success over the past years you wouldn’t call Hamilton a poor choice of driver for McLaren, but on this occasion he’s let himself down.

  8. Maybe he should apologise to Trulli. What a shame, his off-track activities and clumsy mouth spoil what is probably a once-in-a-generation talent.

    • Why yes, I am claiming that every single one of us has been dishonest and done stupid things at some stage in our lives, especially before we hit 30.

      I look forward to hearing you to prove me wrong.

    • I agree with LJH – Brits On Pole. We have all done something wrong, the only thing different here is that what HAM has admitted to affects more people than just himself, some friends or family. This affects his team, the sport and his fans around the world, including me. We put this boy/man up on a pedestal because of his success and the great driver that he is. That does not mean that he is any less human and susceptible to the same mistakes we ALL make, have made, or will make in the future. It also does not mean that the mistakes that make, have made, or will make in the future are any less worse than his.

      I had a hard time believing all that was written over the last couple days. Partially because I didnt want to and partially because I m distrustful of the FIA for many dubious decisions over the last year involving this sport. The fact is Lewis has been bred as a McLaren team member, to do what they said when they said without question and this isn’t the first time it’s gotten him in trouble I suspect. I hope he has learned from it and can avoid stuff like this in the future, if given the opportunity. With this admission of guilt from both McLaren and Lewis, I am truly disappointed that everything written over the last couple days turned out to be true.

      This actually makes me not want to watch ‘the show’ any longer. I found it extremely difficult to watch practice last night, I hardly paid attention. But believingly, Hamilton and McLaren will move on, get back on track and this will be enough for the FIA so we can enjoy the rest of the season.

  9. Dougie said on 3rd April 2009, 13:21

    This is without a doubt a very regrettable situation.

    Dave Ryan no doubt went in unprepared properly, paranoid about the Spa incident, and make a severe error of judgement. Hamilton niavely took Daves lead and contributed to the cause.

    Hamiltons reputation is (and forever will be) tarnished. However as has already been said, if he keeps his head down and delivers solid drives and performances, shows respect to his peers and authorities, then hopefully he can leave this in the shadows.

  10. David said on 3rd April 2009, 13:24

    I’m impressed by Hamilton’s apology, it takes courage to face up to your errors in front of so many people.

    I also think McLaren have let down Lewis severely on various occasions and a move to another team would release him from the ‘reared from a kid’ relationship that seems to prevent him from going with his own instinct on this kind of issue. (I say this fully presuming that McLaren will back on the pace in another 2-3 races.)

    • Griff said on 3rd April 2009, 13:54

      Dave has the take on the situation just about right in my opinion. Lewis has shown considerable courage to apologise.

      Lewis is guilty of obeying and being loyal to his surrogate parents, this episode is a hard lesson for any man in being independant and behaving like a man. Particulalrly for a man so frecly loyal and grateful to his mentors. As all gardians are, Maclaren team are guilty of letting down their sibling. Maclaren will have to regain the confidence of Lewis, his followers, the UK and his fellow F1 drivers.

      Go forward Lewis and be proud of what you have done today, learn the lesson and fight back with the good character that you have in abundance.

    • David said on 3rd April 2009, 14:02

      Thanks Griff. I think Hamilton’s statement says it all (taken from FIA site):

      ‘As soon as I got out of the car I had the television interviews at the back of the garage, and straight away I gave them a good account of what happened during the race. Straight after that we were requested by the stewards, and while waiting I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information, and that is what I did. I sincerely apologise to the stewards for wasting their time. 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 realise it was a huge mistake. I am learning from it. It has taken a huge toll on me.’

    • Clare msj said on 3rd April 2009, 14:43

      I am inclined to agree here too. Whilst I in no way condone his actions, what he and the team did was a really really bad move, i think it did take guts to go out and do that press conference and admit he was in the wrong – even if he did pass the buck a little.

      Everyone will have been economical with the truth at some point in their life, and pushed the blame onto someone else who wasnt really at fault – its just that Hamilton’s was on a massive scale! He lost his points, his reputation has taken a huge dent – I dont think too much more should be made of it. Certainly nothing as harsh as some have suggested in the other thread.

      He should have stood up for himself and said what he wanted to rather than what he was told to by his team in this case though – a case of towing the team line a little too far! He will certainly have learnt his lesson though!

      And i cant quite beleive i am ‘sticking up’ for Hamilton – he is hardly one of my favourites!!!

    • matt said on 3rd April 2009, 15:12

      I agree. The apology was sincere- he seemed to be genuinely upset by his actions, not just upset for having to apologise.

  11. Agree with LJH; to take a couple of points for fresh consideration.

    1. Why has no proper focus been put on Vettel’s reckless jaunt after the shunt with Kubica (that I feel was a racing incident) but the aftermath should have been a focus for this site. Just feel the blog is getting reactive rather than breaking new ground and being independent. I wouldn’t get too worried about hits on the site as you certainly have the journalistic skill and the clarity of mind to take on issues – just would encourage you to think beyond what everyone is concentrating on and play into FIA’s machinations.

    Also Mr B’s one man’s effort to rearrange the bodywork of Waugh and Kimi with his front girder !! again something no other site has really focused on and would have appreciated your clarity on these issues and then debate.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd April 2009, 14:03

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘reckless jaunt’? Vettel apologised after the Kubica accident, which may even have had a role to play in him getting punished.

      It’s just occured to me – do you mean when Vettel tried to drive back on three wheels? I have no complaint about that, I thought it was gutsy.

      As for “think beyond what everyone is concentrating on and play into FIA’s machinations” I haven’t read many articles on other sites about what I think is the most important issue here, the FIA’s poor stewardship of the races. Turn to the other part of the article for that: Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Another avoidable crisis

    • The FIA stewarding was something I picked up on my blog as well.

      It’s seemed to work out nicely for the stewards, who have had the flak taken off them by the size of the scandal, and it’s main direct at Hamilton and McLaren.

    • S Hughes said on 3rd April 2009, 16:24

      KP, this is the whole problem. The spotlight is always on Lewis despite other just as weighty issues and mistakes etc going on. He is targeted unfairly and I fear will always be because of his colour.

  12. kurtosis said on 3rd April 2009, 13:39

    On a personal level, I do feel sorry for him. He must be kicking himself so hard now (or wishing he could). He’s young and still learning, but seems to have a knack for attracting an increasingly escalating series of penalties (can we get a list, I suspect the severity has been increasing exponentially).

    From a professional perspective, he needs to step up and take a leadership role within the team. This sort of “going along with the team” must end. He’s a world champion whether he likes it or not and needs to set an example for the younger drivers on the grid, not to mention upcoming drivers in the feeder series. I can easily imagine Alonso or a young Schumi doing exactly that, so his age shouldn’t be an excuse.

    I know all of the above is easier said than done, and that 90% of the world couldn’t do it. But who said life is fair? :)

  13. PJA said on 3rd April 2009, 13:43

    In regards to whether Schumacher was ever publically outed as a cheat or liar.
    There were many incidents which a lot of people questioned and I think all of them added up and damaged his legacy. Whilst I agree for most of them no official action was taken he did get punished sometimes. Probably the three main incidents people bring up about Schumacher are.

    Title showdown 1994 when he clashed with Hill he was never punished so it is only peoples suspicions he did it on purpose. I remember reading an interview with Patrick Head a year or two ago were he said the only reason they didn’t protest what Schumacher did was because Senna had died in one of their cars earlier in the season.

    Title showdown 1997 when he hit Villeneuve. Without looking up the details I can’t remember if Schumacher actually put his hand up to say he did it on purpose but the FIA did exclude him from the Championship so they obviously thought he was guilty.

    I have seen some argue the only difference between 1994 and 1997 was that what Schumacher did worked in 1994 and it didn’t in 1997. Also that the FIA wouldn’t have taken any action then because it would have meant changing the Drivers Champion in the courts, and that overall the 1997 punishment didn’t mean much for someone who was only interested in finishing first, considering he kept his race wins and wasn’t banned from any further races as a result.

    Qualifying Monaco 2006, when he parked his car on the circuit to stop anyone beating his pole time. He and Ferrari claimed he just locked up and ran wide, but the stewards deemed it deliberate (effectively saying Schumacher lied to them) and he was demoted to the back of the grid for the start of the race.

    So while Hamilton may go on to be regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time, like Schumacher, people will have plenty of ammunition when making the case against him.

  14. Arthur954 said on 3rd April 2009, 13:52

    I think everyone is making such a big deal of this. May he who has never made a mistake in his life, raise his hand.
    So what ? let Lewis live his life and race. No one will remember this dumb incident in 2 years, let alone 10.
    The world of F1 is run by Mathusalem Bernie, Papa Mo, Flavor Flav and Lou , and anyone else is punished at the first opportunity.

  15. Intestingly the only person whose side of the story we havent heard is Dave Ryan. I dont think there is a conspiracy against him but he was the one who has been zeroed as the ‘mastermind’.

    I understand that Lewis took a “lot” of heat on this issue but if I was in the shoes of the McLaren management I would go thru any length to protect my face to the world, which is Lewis.

    I am not saying they did it, but if they wanted to this is what they would have done.

    On the other side, what bothered me the most was that Lewis simply watched as Trulli was given an unjust penalty. That was very sad.

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