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Australian GP Stewards Decision – The Evidence

April 2nd, 2009

Lewis HamiltonThe FIA have released a summary of key considerations in their decision to disqualify Lewis Hamilton from Sunday’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix.  The press release also includes recordings of the radio transmissions between Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team in the closing stages of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.

There has been a lot of confusion about what exactly happened on Sunday, but here is the rough order of events.

  1. During the final safety car period Jarno Trulli was in 3rd and Lewis Hamilton was in 4th.
  2. Jarno Trulli ran off the track (probably because of cold tyres) and so Hamilton had no choice but to pass him.  This is allowed under the rules.
  3. McLaren weren’t sure if Lewis should have made the pass under the safety car and so they asked him to let Trulli take 3rd position back.
  4. Hamilton seemed to think the pass was legal but slowed to let Trulli through anyway.
  5. Trulli sees Hamilton slow down and thinks he has a problem so he passes the McLaren.  This is allowed under the rules.
  6. The race ends with Trulli in 3rd and Hamilton in 4th.
  7. During a hearing after the race Lewis Hamilton and his team manager David Ryan are asked whether McLaren told Hamilton to let Trulli through.  They denied this was the case.
  8. Trulli is handed a 25 second penalty for passing under the safety car and so Hamilton is awarded 3rd place.

There were two reasons a second hearing was held in Malaysia.  Firstly, after the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton told reporters that McLaren had in fact told him to let Trulli through and secondly, it seems the stewards did not listen to any of the radio transmissions before making their decision to penalise Trulli.

Here is the recording of the radio transmission between Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren team:

Audio MP3

Here  is the recording of the radio transmission between Jarno Trulli and the Toyota team:

Audio MP3

Here is the interview given by Lewis Hamilton to the Media immediately after the race:

Audio MP3

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh doesn’t think the team did anything wrong:

We, the team, made a mistake.  We did not provide a full account of a radio conversation which we believe was being listened to in any case, and we don’t believe was material to the decisions being made by the stewards. At that time, we did not know that Trulli was right off the circuit and Lewis was asked to give back the place to Trulli. That was a team view, having not seen it, and we thought it was the safest thing to do.

Hamilton did not agree but attempts to get an answer from Race Control failed and the the race ended under the Safety Car. McLaren assumed in the hearing that the stewards were aware of the radio exchanges that had taken place but it seems they were not.

The whole thing has been a huge fuckup and it is ridiculous it has taken the FIA so long to come to a definitive decision on the controversy.  Speaking to German broadcaster RTL, Former World Champion Niki Lauder called it “the biggest joke of all time”.

The stewards made a mistake in Australia and the statement that Hamilton “acted in a manner prejudicial to the conduct of the event by providing evidence deliberately misleading to the Stewards” just sounds like they are trying to weasel out of a complete failure of the sport’s adminstration.

Why couldn’t McLaren get an answer from race control?  Why didn’t the stewards listen to all pertinant evidence before making a decision?  And why has it taken so long for the matter to be decided?

A spokesman for the FIA has stated:

Given the seriousness of this matter, we cannot rule out further action at this stage.

Good grief!  What could the further action be?  Suspension from races or even the rest of the 2009 season?

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