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

  1. Jonats said on 3rd April 2009, 14:18

    1. McLaren and Hamilton are being cowardly for making a scapegoat out of Dave. Hamilton is the driver and public face of the team and he needs to take responsability for what he says and does. Being the team’s puppet does not excuse anyone from being responsible for their actions.

    2. I do not believe that Hamilton was being sincere in his apology. In his short F1 carreer, we have seen how his drive for winning it all has gotten in the way of common sense and honesty.

    3. I typically go to speedtv.com after the races to read up on commentary and interviews. After reading Hamilton’s immediate account of what happened and finding out that Trulli had been penalised, I immediately said that Trulli had been wronged in the worst way possible as he was innocent.

    • David said on 3rd April 2009, 14:34

      Jonats, Ryan was team manager and briefed Hamilton on the ‘team position.’ LH made a mistake in following this instruction. But the weight of responsibility falls on Ryan, obviously.

      Your opinion on his sincerity is that – just an opinion.

      The correct relative positions of Trulli and Hamilton under the SC after Trulli span off are still, I think, unclear. But going by the initial FIA judgement, the stewards thought Trulli had effectively lost his position to Hamilton – otherwise by deliberately passing him (which was their assessment of the event the first time round) Trulli would merely be reassuming his correct position.

      The controversy caused by Hamilton and Ryan has obscured this issue – for now!

    • Jonatas said on 3rd April 2009, 18:05

      David,

      Regardless of what the team told him, he had the option as a person to make the right decision. Everyone has that option. He also remained silent while Trulli was being punished for no reason at all and would not have come clean had the FIA not reopened the investigation.

      With regards to track position. I believe that when Trulli went off, then Hamilton was right to take 3rd position and Trulli seemed to understand that. Once Hamilton obeyed McLaren’s orders to let Trulli repass, then Hamilton gave up 3rd position. This is known. Had McLaren and Hamilton told the truth at the time of inquiry, then Trulli would not have been penalised and Hamilton would’ve gotten his 4th spot and McLaren would’ve learned a lesson a lot less harsher than the one they’re learning now.

  2. Chalky said on 3rd April 2009, 14:19

    Two things annoyed me about this.
    1) FIA Stewards and race control not sorting this out sooner or before the end of the race.
    2) Despite being a fan of Lewis and his driving, I feel it is unsporting to try and hide the truth about an incident that has occurred.

    Maybe times have changed and I’m living in a dream world, but Sir Stirling Moss would not have lied to the stewards for his own personal, or teams gain. In fact he stood up for Hawthorn who was a rival to get him reinstated in the Portuguese GP 1958.

    Unfortunately for us F1 has been let down by it’s own champion. I’m hoping Lewis will learn from it and stand on his two feet and do what he feels right and not what the team always wants.

    Ron Dennis wanted Lewis to learn the rule book in detail. He should have known he was ok to be ahead of Trulli and stayed there.

    • Chris said on 3rd April 2009, 16:04

      He did no the rules if you listen to the radio he in fact throught it was fine and just wanted clarification from the team.

      Some clarification he got!!!!

    • Williams 4ever said on 3rd April 2009, 16:20

      Ron Dennis wanted Lewis to learn the rule book in detail. He should have known he was ok to be ahead of Trulli and stayed there.

      Chalky Good Point there – Ron Dennis had publicly stated that he insisted Lewis should be aware of Rules before he stepped on the grid in 2007. One correction though. As per the same rulebook, it was Trulli’s position though he had off track excursion behind safety car. And to start with Hamilton had reinstated Trulli by letting him pass.
      Now the incident has taken a totally different tangent and become Lying case. It should be noted that Oz Stewards were not aware of the rules as well. Just the running order when Safety car was deployed was enough evidence that Trulli was not wrong to take back his position and Lewis was not wrong in giving back the position.

      This is just FIA passing the blames for incompetence of its stewards ( people who voted to keep Spanky in power).

      About McLaren, there have been too many of these waffles and PR Gaffes in recent years..doesn’t reflect well of the team overall. I have lost trust and faith in this team since end of 2005 season.

  3. pSynrg said on 3rd April 2009, 14:22

    He’s done the right thing now. Hands up and apologised. Although it’s safe to say that he wouldn’t have mentioned anything had the case not been reopened.

    It’s utterly ridiculous and distinctly unfair that people are branding him a liar, cheat, scoundrel or whatever after such a relatively minor indiscretion. Especially when faced with his illustrious and successful career to date.

    No one ever tarnishes Senna’s entire career with the Suzuka 1990 incident which was without a doubt one of the most blatant acts ever that could have been damaging to the sport. A move Senna openly admitted was pre meditated and deliberate.

    Lewis is just one of those drivers that come through once per generation that are constantly in the limelight through their uninhibited, passionate pursuit of success and victory at any cost.

    This is ONLY the beginning! I love the guy.

  4. Lynn said on 3rd April 2009, 14:27

    I am a Lewis/ McLaren fan and I am disappointed. But he has come clean so I will give him a break. Now I know many will not but if anyone can say they have not made a mistake then I would like to meet this perfect person. His embarrassment and shame is massive, but he will learn from it. Give him a chance the same chance you would want for yourself.

  5. varun said on 3rd April 2009, 14:35

    @Lynn

    Please note the point lewis has not some out clean….Mclaren have tried to shield Lewis by making Davey the scape goat here…….Lewis should have know better not to lie ……he is a cheat period

    • Lynn said on 3rd April 2009, 15:22

      Yes, varun, you are right he is a cheat that’s for sure. But beating him over the head is not going to change anything. I hope if you ever make a mistake ( I assume you are perfect) you will get understanding and time to redeem yourself. Because you see, non of know what is around the corner for us do we. You don’t have to understand or give him a chance that’s up to you. I am also sure you understand why McLaren have tried to shield him. Of course I am not party to the inner workings of McLaren but I am not surprised. Sadly it seems like Davey had to fall on his sword, it happens, it’s not fair, but hopefully in the fullness of time it will come good for him too. What Lewis did was shameful, he should have known better you are right again, but he did it and that cannot be changed. All he can try to do is redeem himself. If that’s not enough for F1, he could just throw in the towel.

    • varun said on 3rd April 2009, 20:51

      Lynn

      I never told you I am perfect so I tell you not to assume things and make your own conclusions.

      I agree with your other comments

  6. trocadero said on 3rd April 2009, 14:35

    Had Lewis Hamilton and the entire Mclaren team management (if you can call them that) said “We told Lewis to let Jarno Trulli past.” this entire debate would have been unneccessary.

    What they did initially, namely lying so as to get a competitor punished for a fictitious breach of the rules is unacceptable in any sport.

    • And had the Stewards bothered to brief themselves properly before issuing their punishment of Trulli, then none of this would have occurred.

      My opinion hasn’t changed a bit. To me it is immaterial if Lewis lied or mislead them or whatever. The Stewards had the information there to sort that out at the time and through nothing but sheer incompetence did not do so. As I said on the other thread it is their JOB to sort things like this out, and that means reviewing radio transmissions, telemetry, talking to both drivers. After taking all the information into consideration THEN you make your determination. And part of being able to do that job in the first place is having the ability to sort through the BS to be able to determine the truth. People always slant their versions to make themselves look better – human nature. A good adjudicator can see past that.

      As someone who arbitrates on disputes for a living, if I made such a hash of reviewing disputes as the Stewards have done, I’d have been sacked long ago.

      The spotlight is on Lewis again, but it really should be shining on the incompetence of the FIA.

  7. Daniel said on 3rd April 2009, 14:36

    LJH – Obviously everyone makes mistakes, even more under 30, but a high-level sportsman like Hamilton or Nadal (who is younger than the brit) should be prepared to face situations like these, should know what to say, what not to say… he knew what he did was wrong, he knew there was some risk involved in telling lies, but obviously he and the team underestimated the risk, and that’s the strangest thing of all, because, after all, their radio talk was taped…

    I think he was an honorable man when he said he was sorry, I think he deserves to be forgiven, but not for being a “young boy”, that’s my point…

  8. Mystic Pizza said on 3rd April 2009, 14:40

    Whether it was done for the team good or not, his body language indicated on Sunday that something was amiss. Most drivers, including Hamilton tend to get a bit upset if they feel injustice has occured on the track e.g. DC and Massa as per the Australian Grand Prix 2008. With the adrenaline and testosterone flying as well as on occasion bits of car, tempers can get a bit heated especially if you feel hard done by. Instead of any flashes of irritation of being resigned to fourth place as well he might given the understanding of that point in time that he was illegitimately passed by Trulli under Safety Car conditions, there was nothing and he probably looked a little sheepish instead of the arrogant swagger that’s been allowed to develop. Having been on the receiving end of a couple of bad decisions from the Stewards in the past, perhaps he didn’t think this one would work in his favour either, who knows for sure apart from him?

    Whatever the underlying reasons were for this situation he’s found himself in, team player or not, innocent mistake or not, he needs to get his head back to being the refreshing down to earth Lewis that breezed onto the scene two years ago not the overinflated ego-boy that most media have already now started to question. As quickly as they build you up, they’re equally ready to knock you down so don’t give them any additional ammunition to be able to do this!

  9. Lee said on 3rd April 2009, 14:49

    Too many people are defending Hamilton in this situation. Let’s not forget, he till didn’t tell the stewards the truth, just because Dave Ryan told him to didn’t mean he had to do it.

  10. Motomoto said on 3rd April 2009, 14:54

    Point is, Lewis had to “come clean” now that the whole situation had been brought to light — there was no other option he could take.

    Also, looking at his statements, he kept repeating the words “misled” and “being a team player” … to me it just seems as if he’s deflecting the blame onto someone else.

    And I think Haas has hit it on the head … it is just awful that he had kept quiet while watching another driver get an unjust penalty … it is just plain despicable.

    • David said on 3rd April 2009, 15:54

      Let’s play it back: Lewis slows down to let Trulli pass, Trulli accepts, though perhaps as unsure as Hamilton who should be where. This time, though, Lewis explains the radio confusion etc. properly to the FIA stewards. So what do they do? Should Trulli have been where he was, back in 3rd? If not, do they penalize Trulli for accepting 3rd place from Hamilton? Do they penalize Hamilton for giving him 3rd place (you never know, it’s FIA)? Or do they judge that Hamilton didn’t need to return the place, but since he did, the positions stand?

      As for deflecting the blame, I find this quite funny! I think he’s now told the truth about what exactly happened. It fits the facts: his first instinct to the press was to say he’d been told to give the position. His manager argued they should hide this fact (and had to lie when asked directly). But those such as your self supposedly wanting him to tell the truth to FIA would prefer he didn’t tell the truth about who’s idea it had been to lie! That kind of suggests your real interest is in denigrating Hamilton whatever way the wind blows. About right?

  11. Loki said on 3rd April 2009, 14:56

    I, like many, am far from being a fan of Hamilton. But in this case, I think he’s geunuinely learnt a lesson here and has handled it particularly well. For a defending champion’s first race, he’s gone through a lot, and I hope this turns out to a valuable experience for him. Hopefully this issue can just be put back now and concentrate on Malaysia and the next few races, like everyone else has said!

    I do have to say though, at the age of 24 I can think of things much worse that would’ve happened by now!

  12. Oliver said on 3rd April 2009, 15:00

    I think drivers are in a difficult situation now, especially the Mclaren drivers. They will have to now go contrary to their “Team’s” line.
    The fact that Ryan was first to be questioned, means Hamilton had no choice but answer same as he did, or else if it had spilled out that Hamilton sold the team, Hamilton would be branded a traitor, thinking only for himself, by his usual detractors.
    He is clearly in a no win situation.

  13. P5ycH0 said on 3rd April 2009, 15:05

    Hamilton HAD to say that. McLaren is not Hamiltons team. Hamilton is McLaren’s drivers and does what his boss tells him to do.

  14. Oliver said on 3rd April 2009, 15:07

    Does Kester not remember that Ferrari was fined I believe for the Monaco parking?

    • kate said on 4th April 2009, 3:24

      Why? I am sure it is not written in Lewis’contract with McLaren that he should lie or conceal facts when asked a question by the stewards? Lewis rarely takes full responsibility for his own actions, he deflects blame to protect his sponsorships. If my employer asked me to lie or conceal the truth to a court of law, I would not. If I lost my job over it, so be it. I could not work for a dishonest employer. It seems very weird to me that both McLaren and Lewis withheld information over 1 measly point at the beginning of the season, if it was at the end of the season, I could see why they would do it (however wrong & morally questionable) but surely they must have forgotten about the radio evidence. McLaren have proven before that they are not above breaking the rules to gain an advantage, the infamous stolen work papers last season and if Lewis continues to drive for them, he has to expect his reputation will be tarnished and accept the consequences

  15. matt said on 3rd April 2009, 15:07

    I don’t think I realised the scale of the situation until I saw Hamilton’s apology, and how difficult it was for him. He did wrong whether he was following orders or not, but as I believe he WAS following his bosses orders, I think he should be cut a tiny bit of slack. I don’t think he lied to gain a place, I think he lied because he was instructed to, although I don’t deny that was still a seriously misguided desicion by Hamilton.

    • Clare msj said on 3rd April 2009, 15:33

      You put it well Matt. His apology looks and sounds sincere, from the heart and – ironically for the situation – very honest. He did wrong, he knows he did wrong, and even if it is a bit late, he has admitted he did wrong. I very much doubt he will ever do this again.

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