The threat against Lewis Hamilton of further sanctions for having 'deliberately misled' the FIA has receded after Formula 1's governing body accepted his apology and recognised that the reigning world champion had been 'put in an impossible position' by his team – but McLaren-Mercedes may not get off so lightly.
Having been disqualified from third place in the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last weekend, Hamilton made an emotional and public apology in Sepang yesterday, admitting that 'as a human being and as a man it's right for me to stand in front of you and put my hands up', and repeatedly stressing 'I'm not a liar'.
That came after the British star and long-time McLaren team manager Dave Ryan – who has since been suspended – had been summoned before Albert Park stewards, where both denied that Hamilton had been instructed by the team to let Jarno Trulli back past under the late-race safety car after the Italian had skated off-track, apparently in an effort to earn the Toyota ace a penalty and thereby inherit the final rostrum position. Unfortunately for the Woking-based outfit, those claims were subsequently contradicted by the now public pits-to-car radio transmission.
Having explained that Ryan had told him to 'withhold information' and explaining that he 'felt awkward and uncomfortable' and had been similarly 'misled' [see separate story – click here
], Hamilton has seemingly been pardoned by the FIA.
“We recognise Lewis' efforts to set the record straight,” a spokesman for F1's governing body is quoted as having said by international news agency Reuters
. “It would appear that he was put in an impossible position.”
There was, however, less encouragement for McLaren, which has previous experience of the kind of 'further action' that can be meted out for bringing the top flight into disrepute, after being handed a sporting record $100 million fine and exclusion from the 2007 constructors' world championship over the infamous espionage row two years ago.
“We are now awaiting reports from the FIA observer and stewards before consideration can be given to further investigation of his team's conduct,” the spokesman added. “We cannot rule out the matter being referred to the World Motor Sport Council at this stage.”
Should McLaren indeed be summoned before the WMSC, the possible ramifications extend as far as disqualification from the entire season.