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. mp4-19 said on 3rd April 2009, 15:12

    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.

  2. EGC said on 3rd April 2009, 15:25

    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

  3. EGC said on 3rd April 2009, 15:27

    uppssss…
    Hungary 2007 :-)

  4. Jian said on 3rd April 2009, 15:32

    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.

  5. Oliver said on 3rd April 2009, 15:39

    Ryan was the first to be interviewed according to the FIA, so Lewis could not have lied first before Ryan.

  6. Santi said on 3rd April 2009, 15:47

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

    I´m afraid Lewis you are all three.

  7. roser said on 3rd April 2009, 15:58

    ” 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.

    • Williams 4ever said on 3rd April 2009, 16:26

      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.

    • matt said on 3rd April 2009, 19:51

      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.

  8. carrot147 said on 3rd April 2009, 16:02

    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.

  9. tmax said on 3rd April 2009, 16:06

    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!!!!!

    • kate said on 4th April 2009, 3:33

      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

  10. garyc said on 3rd April 2009, 16:12

    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.

  11. S Hughes said on 3rd April 2009, 16:18

    Keith, I’ll happily tell you as an ardent fan what I think of this whole thing and give you a general idea of what other fans think.

    There is a Lewis Hamilton fan and inspiration site that has been set up by an individual, and the comments there have beautiful and supportive. There are one or two nasty comments, but they are from the usual suspects who always post nastiness on there (there are other websites dedicated to nastiness towards Lewis so they must have strayed from there). His FaceBook fan site is also very supportive. I suppose this illustrates that his fans have stuck by him and understand why this has all happened.

    IMO, Lewis gave an honest account of the race when he got out of the car to the media. He is naturally an honest person. The shenanigans over the Safety Car show that the McLaren team are so nervous of getting penalised, that even though they knew that Lewis should be okay going past Trulli when he went onto the grass, the fact that he has been penalised for doing no wrong in the past and that the FIA make up the rules as they go along, they were understandably erring on the side of caution and advised him to let Trulli by again. You could see the team weren’t sure what to do and wanted to speak to the race director (there doesn’t seem to be anyone else they could consult even if this action backfired on them in Spa 2008) but he wasn’t available (why???), so they were naturally in a tizzy as to what to do. I don’t think it’s a case that the McLaren team should get someone who knows the rules. They DO know the rules, but where has that got them so far? It is clear Lewis thought he was okay to have passed Trulli and while the team were faffing about on the radio, he let Trulli past without defending. The race stewards called Trulli and Hamilton to their office WITHOUT McLaren disputing the point, and obviously Lewis was advised to go along with the stewards’ version of events rather than admit they had asked Lewis to slow down. This was wrong, but I cannot blame Lewis for taking their advice. It was just after the race, things were happening so fast and he’s only human. I fully support him and always will because he has exceptional talent, is a decent, charming, honest good man, and is so fantastic with his fans. This whole thing has been blown way out of proportion, much more than if it was another driver. I do feel that they are out to get him in F1, but his team haven’t helped him this time. The media are also utterly disgraceful – the ‘Daily Mail’ published a ‘Lewis Hamilton crime sheet’ listing all the penalties he’s incurred in his F1 career insinuating that he has made a career out of cheating and flouting the rules.

    Where does Lewis go from here? He cannot be disloyal to the team that has nurtured him and funded him for years. He cannot ignore their advice over the radio because he is busy driving the car and has to rely on them for advice in the heat of a race. The team can’t get anyone who knows the rules any more than they do already, because it isn’t KNOWING the rules that is the problem. The problem is that the stewards are incompetent – why did they not study ALL the radio and telemetry evidence before they gave Trulli the 25 second penalty? In all honestly, that would have meant the question in the stewards’ office wouldn’t have been: “Were you instructed to slow down by your team to let Trulli retake his third place”, but the more informed one of “We just want to establish that you passed Trulli while he was on the grass which is legal. Then we heard your team on the radio instruct you to slow down and let him pass again which wasn’t strictly necessary, so instead of giving you your rightful 3rd place, we will keep the results as they are. Can you confirm that is acceptable or do you want to appeal? And incidentally, we will employ more than one race director in future who knows the rules inside out so you won’t have to frantically wait for advice during a race anymore.”

    This whole debacle is caused by incompetent and biased stewarding, McLaren panic and poor decision making, and totally inadequate race officials. This will happen again and again until the above are resolved. I completely absolve Lewis from any blame.

    • Griff said on 3rd April 2009, 21:39

      Here, Here.

      To add to the eliquent statement above I belive Maclaren pit wall team are slightly weaker than the driving team. When the situation is critical they let uncertainty breed confusion, such as last Sunday and China 2007 to recall the most obvious. Their management and understanding of sporting rules and technical rules appear to struggle to match the pace of their lead driver. Maclarens autocratic management style, lead on by management principles slightly behind the performance on track, will lead to a situation that will “burn” (Martin Brundle)others. I am glad that Lewis may survive dispite Maclarens pit wall team. If Ray is part of the pit wall team it is my opinion that it was right for him to go. If he is not then the most senior member of the pit wall team should fall on his sword, for in Maclaren, it is the pit wall that controlls and instructs the whole Maclaren group and as such the pit wall that lead to this situation.

  12. MacademiaNut said on 3rd April 2009, 16:21

    I am done with McLaren and HAM.

  13. Pete_Firestarter said on 3rd April 2009, 16:26

    I honestly think that all this is a fuss!
    1) FIA Stewarts (or prats) have got access to all radio communication between driver and team. Therefore they SHOULD have known this info even before the 1st interview.
    2) Can someone tell me if they do not even have access to bbc tv? They easily could have had this info as well.

    SO why the hell did they say to Lewis and Dave that we heard your team radio and also seen lewis post-race tv interview?

    Liar this, Liar that. All crap to me.

  14. tmax said on 3rd April 2009, 16:32

    Hamilton is similar in making of the great Michael Schumacher. Built a team around him. You will see wonders and opposition having no answers. I believe Ferrari did a great job handling Schuey. Mclaren should also accept this fact ans start working with this sense. They have a history of not being able to handle the hot guys rightly be it Montaya, Alonso or Senna. Maybe all these red hot guys should look towards the red car. Those guys know exactly how to deal with these stuff. In fact they are getting a little impatient with the ICE man because that is not their USP. Come 2011 Lewis and Alonso team mates in a Ferrari :) it will be fun to watch. Given Kimi’s form and Renault’s troubles I would not be surprised to see Alonso in Ferrari maybe as soon as mid this year or 2010. :)

    • S Hughes said on 3rd April 2009, 17:27

      Alonso would have a clause in his contract that said that he must always have a really really slow teammate, or no dice. He now has the perfect teammate in Piquet. I think Lewis and Alonso being teammates in the future is pure unadulterated fantasy.

  15. nomatter what you hamilton haters say ther fia is still stupid, racism is alive & kicking in f1 and there is a ferrari bias..

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