Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Hamilton apologises

2009 Australian Grand PrixPosted on Author Keith Collantine

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

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

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. News just coming in that the legendary director stephen speilberg has plans to make a multi-million(perphaps to the tune of 100 million $ ). The new movie is titled LIAR LIAR II. Lewis ‘liar’ hamilton replaces Jim Carrey in the lead role. Vodafone r supposedly funding the entire movie. The movie also feature ron dennis as one of lewis’ co-actor. Rowan atkinson is supposedly to be writing hamiltons script. The movie is to be made in a record time. It is set to release during the british g.p. P.S. I SWEAR ON THE FIA’s CODE OF CONDUCT BOOK THAT THE ABOVE MENTIONED FACT IS TRU(LLI)E.

  10. we don’t know really if Ryan is the responsable, that is just what Mclaren said, may be they are trying to save Lewis with a new lie.
    Now we don’t have transcriptions of the team private conversations.
    Anyways, Lewis is old enough and should know what is correct and what isn’t. To lie, even under team orders has been proved as quite risky.
    In Hungary 2006 they had luck and now they thought this situation was going to be under control too.
    Well, i hope everything goes better for the rest of the season

  11. What’s with everyone here sitting on their high horses? Understand that it is extremely hard to balance the situations where loyalty and honesty conflict. Imagine your boss telling a lie at a business meeting, your spouse telling a lie at a dinner party do you cut in and correct them immediately, making them look very bad indeed in front of others or would you sing along that tune? There is one right thing to do but it is incredibly hard, don’t pretend otherwise.

  12. ” I am not a liar or a dishonest person. I am a team player”

    A team player does not say: it is not my fault, it is the team’s fault… So why to believe the first part of the sentence?

    It worked in Hungary 2007 but it cannot work all the time.

    1. I am a team player.”

      FYI – A team player would have followed the Team instructions and release Alonso and not attempted to botch his qualifying.

    2. ahh yes but doesn’t that mean that a team player would have followed Team instructions in Australia and lied? He certainly deserved a punishment, I’m just saying that being a team player meant following his bosses instructions, so there is some justification.

  13. I make no bones about it, I got into F1 because of Mr Hamilton and although I’m a little older and wiser now he is still my favourite driver. Lewis is a few months older than me and I will not use his age as defence in this matter. I’m really disappointed. During the race, in the heat of the moment he came across as wanting to do the correct thing, he was almost in a panic about it. Only afterwards did he, they or Mclaren decide to alter the truth for the own gains, which is what I find most distasteful.
    Unfortunately there is a huge difference to an apology based on its timing. After you are caught you are in effect made to do it, lessening the effect, no matter how genuine it may be. I would like to think I could apologise to the Toyota team and Jarno Trulli individually and hope Lewis will. Goodwill, while difficult to measure, is a very real quality and one which takes time to build.
    Finally, Lewis please do your racing on the track and not in the back rooms and my sympathies to Dave Ryan, scapegoat or otherwise.

  14. I believe Hamilton should apologize to Trulli first instead of fans and others. Trulli was branded with breaking the rules, handed a penalty and lost his hard earned position because of Hamilton’s lie , but still he never thought it was right to apologize to Trulli.

    Vettel and Hamilton are the 2 ends of the rainbow i believe. One person apologizes even before a mistake happens. The other person needs to be pushed hard even if it is his mistake!!!!!

    1. tmax, you are so correct! It is so interesting to see the comparison of how the other drivers on the circuit talk about Vettel and Lewis. No one driver has anything negative to say about Vettel, they always talk about him with the greatest respect for his driving skills and his personality. They all seem to be friends with him, as much as being competitors will allow. On the other hand, the other drivers on the circuit do not have such respect for Lewis, they acknowledge that Lewis certainly has talent but it is how he sometimes chooses to use that talent which they don’t respect. More than once they’ve questioned his sportmanship

  15. Does anyone really believe that Dennis and Whitmarsh did not know how the story would unfold at the Steward’s meeting? Dave Ryan is taking a bullet for the “honourable men” who run McLaren.

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