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. monaco73 said on 3rd April 2009, 16:53

    It’s a shame Dave has been the one to “fall on his sword” over this, but McLaren can’t afford to admonish Lewis.

    Like it or not, Lewis and Heikki are the public faces of McLaren in F1. They get paid to drive, support the entire team, and carry out a full range of sponsor obligations.

    Now, I doubt Lewis will have weighed all of this up in a few moments while being questioned by the stewards, but he is an intelligent driver, and could have said “Guys, I have to be honest, this is how it went down…” and he could have done it with a phone call or in writing straight after the original hearing, if he didn’t want to seem to be going against the team, in front of his racing manager.

    If you are going to take the risk to lie … then you better have your corner covered. You cannot “wing-it” although Shumi has pulled that off a few times.

    Good to see though that he did bite the bullet and apologise, but what a mess. Lewis’ reputation has taken a big hit, as well as the team, the extended team, and the sponsors, who are all facing budget pressures to get their return on investment in F1 at the moment.

    There is that there is no point slagging off the FIA or the process, it is what it is. At the end of the day Lewis has the #1 on his car and is the world champion, he is in a position to think for himself and quite easily have not taken the given advice. He would also have had the support of Dennis had he done so.

    The team must be shattered, it was a series of very bad calls, and Whitmarsh is to blame here to…at a sensitive time for F1. Worse of all, it could have all been avoidable. You cannot buy trust or reputation after all.

  2. ChiefDee said on 3rd April 2009, 16:54

    Alvin K is right and if you think this is the end it’s just the beginning… the truth will come out ONE BIG day. A campaign REDCARD TO RACISM IN F1 should start now. Last year is was hard for all F1 lover, not this time again…..

  3. F14EVA said on 3rd April 2009, 17:17

    I have just watched the press interview on the BBC website interview Hamilton and I must say how impressed I was by this mans character. How many past champions have come out and faced the music and been man enough to own up to a mistake. Let’s not get this blown out of proportion he done nothing wrong on the track, can we say the same, for Schumacher, Senna, Prost ?? No we can’t. I for one recall many instances whereby these former champions have commited foul play and there has been no retrobution. The man was sincere and my admiration for not only Hamilton as a commited dedicated professional but as a man has increased ten fold. I am old enough and wise enough to know what goes on in the world of F1 and everyone needs to remember and ask themselves, What would I have done? Give the guy a break and let’s get back to Racing

  4. The trouble with the apology is that he sounds like he’s sorry for getting caught, not for doing what he did.

    And he’s hiding behind “team orders”. Typical excuse of war criminals, “I was only following orders, what else could I do?”

    Instead of throwing Ryan under the bus he should have said “I knew it was wrong but I was caught up in the moment and suffered a lapse of judgment. I should have talked Ryan into presenting the truth as we knew it.” That’s what leadership is.

    He’s young enough to recover from this, as long as the FIA don’t over react with some outlandish penalty like a season long exclusion.

  5. Polak said on 3rd April 2009, 17:25

    His apology is pretty selfish. I think it should be entirely focused on Jarno who he knowingly striped of podium and put at the back of the grid. Apologizing to the fans and telling them how good of a person he is was not a gutsy apology. He did get caught red handed.

    He is his own man and should have known better than to follow his manager. Especially since he gave that interview minutes before that contradicted his official statement.

    On the other hand look what happened to Vettel when he fessed up to his mistake. He received a severe penalty for close racing. I think loosing a podium finish on the season opener and honestly apologizing to Kubica and BMW was enough “punishment”

    • kate said on 4th April 2009, 3:45

      I’ve watched the apology and my honest estimation of the apology is that it was all designed for damage control, not true contrition. It was carefully worded to appease FIA so they would not escalate the issue to higher authority and ban him for the season. I think it was also to appease the press, fans and sponsors. To me, yes it was too much like the war criminal defence, just following orders. Yes, but the reply, dear Lewis, should have been, hey team it is only one point, we’re not sure so why should we risk everything over 1 point at the beginning of the season. Having said that, I don’t think the apology was easy for him and there was some true emotion, mostly embarrassment, and disappointment that his credibility has been shot

  6. Dave Ryan and Hamilton are not the first people to lie to the FIA (I take the stewards to be the representatives of the FIA at races). Not very long ago, Bernie Ecclestone told the WMSC that all the teams supported the idea of awarding the championship to the driver with most wins. This was a deliberate attempt to mislead the delegates and it succeeded, according to Max Mosley. The lie is quite apparent now that the teams have reasserted what was obvious from their very different proposal for a change to the points system.

    What censure has Bernie endured as a result, may I ask?

  7. Freeman said on 3rd April 2009, 17:27

    All I can say to any crisis is… SOME are to blame, ALL are responsible.

    All = Lewis, McLaren seniors, Dave Ryan, FIA race control, FIA, Trulli, Journos, Fans.

    I give a big hand to Lewis for apologising like a man.

    • napalmblower said on 3rd April 2009, 19:04

      Freeman , it was not a manly act , he had no choice , else he might face some thing severe. So he did.
      He did say sorry last year after canadian gp incident, but it was half hearted , now he made an attempt to make it look like original , because he learned this incident might affect his earning power .

  8. Hallard said on 3rd April 2009, 17:36

    Good on Hamilton for expressing remorse and explaining the situation! It was clearly owed to the fans. Whether or not you like Hamilton, it is clear that he was put in this position by his team, since he told the truth right after the race, and I dont think he deserves any blame. A driver’s highest allegiance is (sadly) to their employer, not the FiA, or the fans, and Lewis acted accordingly.

    I do sincerely hope that this does not taint his career significantly. What would you have done if you were in his shoes? Its easy to say you’d tell the truth, but would any driver do so if it meant risking their relationship with a team that had supported you for well over a decade?

    I think McLaren deserves all of the blame for this, as we expect this level of ineptitude from the FiA, but McLaren should know better after spygate.

  9. Dizzy said on 3rd April 2009, 17:52

    Sorry, I cannot see a controversy here or the need for two sides. He and his team lied and cheated, he got punished. Hopefully, for the seriousness of the sport, there is a more severe penalty to come.

    And let’s stop trying to find excuses such as “he is young” or “he has regretted”.

  10. Ekho said on 3rd April 2009, 17:59

    I’m just really disappointed in Lewis and McLaren. Ok, they’ve had a tough time with the stewards before and I completely understand their hesitance when it came to overtaking Trulli, but they shouldn’t have lied in the stewards’ enquiry.

    They showed an incredible lack of common-sense when they obscured the truth – they should have known that the truth would come out!

    You can’t show such disrespect to the invigilators however little you think of their decisions – they can’t be expected to make a fair judgement when people are concealing the truth about events.

  11. Green Flag said on 3rd April 2009, 18:33

    McLaren has a long, well documented history of lying and cheating. So the question is, was Lewis a liar before he joined McLaren or did he learn to lie from the team? Either way, the “Lewis the Liar” tag will stick with him his whole life.

  12. cjk said on 3rd April 2009, 18:42

    when will people realize that LW is a danger to the sport, he showed it last year in the pit lane when he ran over with KR , then blamed the rule, passing in the rain causing accidents, because he is better drive, winning the championship by finishing 5th. Now he wants us to feel sorry for him and accept his apologize because he was told to lie? BS stand up Lewis and accept the person that you are or have become, a cheater, a liar and a spoiled little brat or Britt.

  13. Once a Liar said on 3rd April 2009, 18:46

    Sorry blokes he is quoted as saying “he follows team orders”..what a joke; he is a grown man. But still a greedy little liar…anything to win eh? This kind of lie deserves a year off the track.

  14. Mig.Golf said on 3rd April 2009, 18:52

    I really hope thos soap is over and let’s see ONLY on the track, who are the fastest and the more reliable.

  15. Dorian said on 3rd April 2009, 18:54

    It’s strange, I never really know what to believe. McLaren haven’t got the best reputation of late which is not to say they’re guilty of everything they’re accused of but at the same time… it reasonable to think that they’re being ‘framed’ for each and every instance of wrong doing?

    Hamilton doesn’t strike me as someone who is inherently dishonest (as well as you can know someone whom you’ve never met….LOL) and McLaren…..well…..I’ve never been a fan irrespective of my love for Ferrari. And I’m a KIWI!!!….LOL

    Formula One……is a fantastically huge and expensive machine and it’s fueled by one thing……MONEY!!! As many on this site have noted, we’re only into the first race of the season and we’ve had a multitude of controversy. One reason (if I may so humbly speculate)… that every point that a team gains is equitable to a nominal amount of money that team will receive. Therefore at any given opportunity, regardless of whether sportsmanship is at stake, any team will try and nail any other team if it means they will obtain an extra point or so (which equates to an enormous amount of money).

    T’is is shame because whilst the rest of us F1 enthusiasts endeavour to look at each situation dispassionately and justly….I fear that the notion of good conduct will always take a back seat to any potential monetary gains that a team could make.

    We see F1 as a sport – the teams, FIA and FOM see it as a business.

    Please forgive me if my ramblings have done nothing more than stated the obvious but I find it hard to chastise anyone (in this case Hamilton) when the information that we receive is more than likely spurious.

    Assuming of course that what we’ve read is true, then I feel disappointed in Hamilton/McLaren and for the sport.

    Still……no matter what happens, I’ll always be fan of Formula One……because I absolutely love it! :-)

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