McLaren has moved swiftly to react to spreading rumours concerning the future of sporting director Dave Ryan, following suggestions that he was to fall on his sword as a result of Lewis Hamilton's exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix.
Ryan and Hamilton appeared at the original post-race stewards' enquiry to give their side of the story regarding the incident that saw Jarno Trulli pick up a 25-second time penalty for allegedly passing the McLaren while the field was neutralised behind the race's final safety car. The Italian had already ceded third spot by running off the road on the previous lap, but Hamilton appeared to slow to let him retake the position.
The subsequent debate has centred on whether Trulli overtook Hamilton illegally - something the Toyota driver denies - or simply reacted to being allowed to pass. Hamilton apparently told one post-race media interviewed that he had moved over and handed the place back under instruction from his team, but neither he nor Ryan disclosed the same fact to the stewards' hearing.
Only when the interview and McLaren's pit-to-car radio transcripts [see separate story – click here
], came to light was the truth of the matter revealed, leading to the stewards to determine that Ryan and Hamilton has been 'deliberately misleading', stripping the Briton of any place in the official results, and reinstating Trulli to third place [see separate story – click here
The FIA has not stopped there either, suggesting that, while Hamilton will be allowed to contest this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, further sanctions could follow.
When Ryan did not appear in his usual position in the McLaren pit during free practice in Malaysia, team CEO Martin Whitmarsh confirmed that the veteran engineer would play no further part in the weekend's activities, having been 'suspended from his position as sporting director' but admitted that it had been a tough decision to take.
"In my 20-odd years working for McLaren, I doubt if I've met a more dedicated individual than Davey," he pointed out, "He's been an integral part of McLaren since 1974 and has played a crucial role in the team's many world championship successes since that time.
“However, his role in the events of last Sunday, particularly his dealings with the FIA stewards, has caused serious repercussions for the team, for which we apologise. Therefore, I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this.”
Whitmarsh will undoubtedly face further questions in Friday afternoon's official FIA press conference at Sepang, although whether he chooses to reveal any further details remains to be seen.