As if Formula One couldn’t get any more controversial and political, Lewis Hamilton has now been stripped of his third place in the Australian Grand Prix last weekend. The news came after the investigation into the incident involving the McLaren driver and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was reopened in Malaysia, the venue for this weekend’s grand prix. An updated version of the results can be viewed here: Australia 2009: Amended Race Result.
During the final safety car period last Sunday evening in Melbourne, it appeared that after Jarno Trulli had a minor excursion off the track, Lewis Hamilton passed the Toyota as he is allowed to do. However Trulli then somehow managed to find himself back in front of the British driver, which under the rules is not usually permitted. After the race though, new evidence came to light that explains why Trulli finished in third place.
Initially, Jarno Trulli was deemed incorrect and was given a post-race 25-second penalty. The penalty, which was generally seen as being quite harsh as the race finished one corner after the safety car came in, meaning the pack were tightly bunched, was protested immediately by Toyota. Earlier in the week though, Toyota backed down and said they had withdrawn their appeal.
At Sepang though, both drivers were ordered to the steward’s office and the matter was once again discussed, this time with audio footage of the car-pit radio from the #1 MP4-24; Lewis Hamilton’s.
Jarno Trulli has stated that Hamilton slowed excessively and thinking there was a problem with the McLaren, Trulli took the position. This is allowed, as Hamilton had passed Trulli when he went off track. Hamilton moved offline and backed-off the throttle. Once Trulli had overtaking, he apparently then slowed himself and was happy for Lewis to retake the position once back up to speed. Hamilton did not retake the position.
Lewis Hamilton stated that he slowed under direction of the team to let Trulli repass, and that he was reading something on his steering wheel display that demanded a fair amount of concentration. Some Formula One insiders questioned this as they believe the display would have been cleared at that point of the lap.
The Stewards having considered the new elements presented to them from the 2009 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, consider that driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards at the hearing on Sunday 29th March 2009, a breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
Under Article 158 of the International Sporting Code the driver No 1 Lewis Hamilton and the competitor Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are excluded from the race classification for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix and the classification is amended accordingly. FIA Statement.
Jarno Trulli has now been reinstated in his original third place, and Lewis Hamilton has been disqualified from the event. So not only is the McLaren not performing as well as its predecessor did (McLaren are now equal on points with Ferrari, 0), but now the reputation of the team and driver are under question.
I am happy because I just wanted some justice, and I am happy I got it. I am happy for myself, for the team – and I have to thank the FIA because it does not happen very often that they reconsider something.
It must have been really hard for them, but they had common sense to really try and understand what was going on. I have been always honest and it has paid off. Jarno Trulli.
McLaren has said that they mistakenly thought their radio transmissions had already been reviewed, and also stated they will not appeal the steward’s decision.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes understands that the Stewards made their decision on the basis of reviewing radio transmissions between the driver and the Team.
The Team mistakenly believed that the radio transmissions had been reviewed by the FIA on Sunday 29th March 2009, and consequently did not believe it was necessary to discuss them with the Stewards on that date.
Nonetheless, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Team now regrets that it did not do so, accepts the Stewards’ decision and will not appeal. McLaren Statement.
Of course, should the FIA deem the diffuser on the Brawn BGP-001 as illegal on the 14th April, then Jarno Trulli could see himself promoted to winner, therefore gaining the team’s very first victory. It is just such a shame that the result of the first race was decided not on the track, but in the offices four days later.